March 13, 2013

"I Knew You Were Moroccan"

There's unwanted attention because of gender. There's unwanted attention because the "pursuant" interprets the pursued's choice of dress as an invitation.  There's sometimes unwanted attention because of race. And the list continues. I have personally experienced all of the above and wanted to add another one to the mix: unwanted attention because of nationality.

When I began this blog with my friend Mona Kareem, it emerged out of a need to address stereotypes within our region, especially towards women. From the Maghreb to the Gulf, the stereotypes generated in these societies have unfortunately led to hate, violence, even state-imposed policies. My awareness of the stereotypes towards Moroccan women only heightened following my increased interaction with Arab men, whether it was for professional, academic, or social reasons. A recent (and very unwanted) experience only further exposed me to these stereotypes.

The experience took place during a recent private and intimate reception, featuring one of the region's most prominent musical minds. My own interest in music stems from over 10 years of playing the viola. This artist had been a musical inspiration following my discovery of his work and I was very keen on listening to him perform. Given the small number at the event, conversing with him was super easy and before I knew it, we were discussing Arabic music over dinner. The conversation began with "I knew you were Moroccan from your first words." I, of course, would realize the implications of his discovery later.