Saturday, June 20, 2009

Funky Arabs!

From the Racialicious Blog, originally published at Muslimah Media Watch.

The new “Funky Arabs” single by Jad Choueiri, the Lebanese singer known for crooning love ballads, has had over 150,000 views on YouTube in one month.

Choueiri spends four and a half minutes singing about how Arabs are not the evil figures typically portrayed in Western media. “We’re not what you see on CNN and the BBC. […] Ain’t no bombers, we’ve got the guts,” starts off the track. So far, so good. But then the main message of the video really unfolds, which, when translated from pop star-speak, can be summarized:

“Arabs aren’t terrorists! We’re just like you, the all-wonderful West. We too have sexy blond girls with silicone boobs dancing in next-to-nothing clothes in smoky nightclubs, gyrating their hips and filing their nails. Our guys are all cut, and walk around wearing bling. We love to smoke, drink, and take drugs. We party all night and we are oh-so-cool.’

A disclaimer at the beginning announces that everyone who participated in the music video is an Arab, just in case you can’t possibly believe that such beauty, sexiness, and botox addiction exists in our countries.

With its over-the-top scenes, such as Choueiri arriving at a nightclub red carpet on a camel, and women injecting themselves with botox in the bathroom, Choueiri’s music video seems to be the poster child for parody. The singer’s handlers insist he is quite serious—inasmuch as pop can be taken seriously.

The idea behind Funky Arabs is to show a different point of view of a segment of the Arabic society,” reads an email from Jad Choueiri’s management to me. “It doesn’t have the pretension to represent the real face of the Arabs like some media has suggested. In a pop song, which is meant to be entertaining and fun, it would be probably inappropriate to display the cultural and social achievements of the Arabs in different fields. So the side that was chosen to be represented is the side that has to do with partying and fashion which is adequate when you are a member of the pop culture community. Although it may sound superficial to some, it is supposed to make us look more appealing to the West by showing that we endorse that type of ‘culture.’ You cannot follow these trends and be a terrorist or a close minded person because they are a representation of a deeper matter, the one of tolerance and openness.

A vigorous discussion is on both at Racialicious and the Muslimah Media Watch which (I believe, rightly) excoriate Jad Choueiri for substituting one extreme negative stereotype (of the overly materialistic, shallow and oversexed Arab) for another (Arabs as religious, militant zealots who are terrorists). The most astute comments centered on how aping the most negative aspects of Western culture puts Arabs in a negative light as much as the Islamic terrorists. It's either a Bomber or a Bimbo.

1 comment:

The Angry Independent said...

Neither extreme is an accurate representation of Arab culture.

Scantily clad women certainly aren't part of mainstream Arab culture.

And cultural norms vary from Country to country. Dubai is probably a little more liberal & progressive (and Western) than Saudi Arabia.

I'm not sure I understand what message the group is trying to convey. I'm not sure if they are being helpful in their effort to rebrand the Arab image, if that's in fact what they are trying to do.

And being Westernized or Americanized shouldn't be the measure of acceptability anyway. The solution for moderate Arabs to change their image & help their cause around the World has nothing to do with proving to Westerners how Americanized or European they are....but it has everything to do with influencing extremists in their own societies to reject violence as a solution for solving their problems...and to moderate their radical positions & become more tolerant.

So this group may have the wrong strategy.