December 8, 2011

"How to Write about the Middle East"

Please read this article on "How to Write about the Middle East" based on the article "How to Write about Africa." It's fantastic.

Or you can just check out the notes I gathered from it.

For the Cover:
Always use the word ‘Sand’ or ‘Darkness’ or ‘Whispers’ in your title. 
If you must include an Arab, make sure you get one in a veil or burning an American or Israeli flag. 
Under no circumstances should you have a picture of a well-adjusted Arab on the cover of your book. Suicide belts, an AK 47, a mosque, the desert: use these.

Beginning Intro: 
treat the Middle East as if it were one country
make sure that you mention that Turkey, Iran, Pakistan or Afghanistan are not Arab countries, but then continue to refer to them as if they were.
Make sure you show how Arabs are completely different from the West, and do things no other humans do. 

Your Arab characters may include young fundamentalist men, highly sexualized yet oppressed females, and devout Muslims. Or corrupt leaders, poor Bedouins, rich sheikhs, and harem prostitutes you have slept with. 
The Modern Arab is a fat man who steals and works in the visa office, refusing to give work permits to qualified Westerners who really care about ‘Arabia’. Or he is an Oxford-educated intellectual turned serial-killing Islamist in an Armani suit. He is a cannibal who likes non-alcoholic Cristal champagne, and his mother is a rich and veiled woman who runs a harem.
you must always include The Hysterical Mother, who can’t speak any English and wanders the refugee camp slapping herself and screaming and cursing at the West. Her children are young fundamentalists, and she is shown weeping for fear that her sons will turn out to be suicide bombers. She must look utterly helpless, and snot must run down her nose. 
be sure to include a warm and beautiful veiled woman who has a shy laugh and who is concerned for her country. These characters should buzz around your main hero, making him or her look good. Your hero can teach them, bathe them, feed them; he or she carries lots of babies and has seen Death
Bad Western characters may include the Bush administration, Western expats who molest women, employees of the World Bank, Tony Blair.

Taboo subjects: ordinary domestic scenes, love between Arabs (unless honor killing is involved), references to Arabs having fun, references to Arabs not hating the West, mention of school-going children who have no intention of blowing themselves up. 
Make no mention of Christian Arabs, Jewish Arabs, black Arabs, or blonde Arabs. All Arabs are Muslim, and all Arabs are dark (but not too dark).
If you are a man, take it upon yourself to save the beautiful veiled woman from her oppressive society. 
If you are a woman, treat Arabia as a man who is oppressive, traditional, and yet strangely kind and caring.
Make sure to impress upon your readers how Arabia was nothing before oil, and will be nothing again when oil runs out. Don’t mention education or technology (mobiles will destroy the sense of endless rolling desert). 
Every Arab must be described in national dress, with the phrase: “flowing white robes” or “immaculate white robes”. 
Describe, in detail, the call to prayer (athan, loud, haunting, conservative, bombed) or smelly, dirty markets. There is always someone who is spitting phlegm. Also, sex is very important, so go into detail about the differences in the ways Arabs have and think about sex. And naked bodies. 
Small, winding alleys and bazaars are critical—Arabia is the Land of Mystery and Exoticisim.

Always end your book or movie with the athan resonating through an abandoned market place during sunset, calling everyone to prayer.

Oh how I love being from the Arab Street :)

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