47. Why do some Arab women wear garments that cover their faces or heads?
This is a religious practice, not a cultural practice. It is rooted in Islamic teachings about hijab, or modesty. While some say that veiling denigrates women, some women say that it liberates them. Covering is not universally observed by Muslim women and varies by region and class. Some Arab governments have, at times, banned or required veiling. In American families, a mother or daughter may cover her head while the other does not.

48. What garments might a woman wear to practice hijab?
One interpretation is that everything should be covered except hands, face and feet. Long clothing and a scarf would accomplish this and the head scarf might be called a hijab or chador. The long, robelike garment is called an abayah, jilbab, or chador. In Iraq and Saudi Arabia especially, a woman may wear a cloak that covers her head. Beneath a robe, a woman may be wearing a traditional dress, casual clothes or a business suit. The veil, in particular, has been made controversial by governments, gender politics and religious biases. Most Muslim women in the United States do not wear veils.

49. Some Arab men wear a checked garment on their heads. What is that?
It is called a kafiyyeh and it is traditional, not religious. Wearing the kafiyyeh is similar to an African American wearing traditional African attire, or an Indian wearing a sari. The kafiyyeh shows identity and pride in one's culture.

50. Why do some Arab women dress in black?
Remember that black is a popular color in contemporary American fashion and may not have any special significance. When it does, it may be a sign of mourning. Black, when worn in mourning, may be worn for a few days to many years.

51. What is an appropriate way to greet an Arab American?
This is not difficult or tricky. Remember that most Arab Americans grew up here and do not require special greetings. Be yourself, and let them be themselves. If they are practicing Muslims or recent immigrants, watch for cues. A smile, a nod and a word of greeting are appropriate in most situations. Some Muslims feel it is inappropriate for unrelated men and women to shake hands. Wait until the other person extends his or her hand before you extend your own.

52. What are the customs for paying compliments?
Again, be yourself and be observant. In most cases, there is no reason to behave differently than you would with anyone else. For some recent immigrants, be a little more reserved. Complimenting a possession may be misunderstood and the person, out of generosity and hospitality, may feel compelled to offer you the object. There can be a lot of difference between one person and another, even a parent and child, so don't assume one way is always best.

53. What about gift-giving?
The giving of token gifts is a polite practice in many cultures and American businesses. A gift, then, can put journalistic integrity and cultural sensitivity into conflict. You will have to balance your journalistic ethics against the risk of offending someone by refusing a gift. Consider your ethics policy, the giver's intention, the effects of acceptance or denial, as well as the value of the gift. You may need to consult with your supervisor or explain yourself to the giver.

54. What is Middle-Eastern food like?
Tasty! It is varied, but has some staples. Wheat is used in bread, pastries, salads and main dishes. Rice is often cooked with vegetables, lamb, chicken or beef. Lamb and mutton are more common than other meats. Arab recipes use many beans and vegetables, including eggplant, zucchini, cauliflower, spinach, onions, parsley and chickpeas.

55. What is that pipe I sometimes see people smoking?
It is a water pipe that filters and cools tobacco smoke, which often is flavored with apple, honey, strawberry, mint, mango or apricot. Such pipes are used in several parts of the world and are not an exclusively Arab apparatus. They are known by several names, including sheesha, hookah and argilah, or argeelah.

 


Contents :: Overview :: Origins :: Language :: Demographics :: Family :: Customs

Religion :: Politics :: Terminology :: Stereotypes :: Coverage :: Resources :: Credits

 



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