A Letter To My Children: I'm Sorry About Your Arabic Last Name

I know you love your roots, but you need to be aware of a few things.
07/12/2017 11:21 am ET Updated Jul 12, 2017
My babies Demi, Dury, and Zade love their roots.
Karim Shamsi-Basha
My babies Demi, Dury, and Zade love their roots.

Dear Zade, Dury, and Demi: 

I am writing you this letter and hoping you receive it healthy and happy, despite the world seemingly falling apart. I know you love your roots, but you need to be aware of a few things. Consider this my formal apology about your last name. Many will ask you where you are originally from. I hope it is not shameful for your roots to be Syrian.

If you will live with this Arabic last name, and you need to be prepared for prejudice and racism.

I was brought up to be proud of being Arab, proud of being from Syria, one of the leading countries in the Middle East. But these days with the war festering for the past seven years, being proud has become arduous at best. Several reasons for this status include the fact the word “Islam” is always tied to the word “terrorism.” Another is the fact that every few months an Arab will do something stupid and kill innocent people.

You will live with this Arabic last name, and you need to be prepared for prejudice and racism. I have been asked if I was a terrorist several times in the past couple of decades. You need to prepared with a respectable answer, but most important keep your cool.

“What makes you ask that?” is a good answer. Also a simple, “I am not,” works wonders. I used to get upset at the question, but now I just laugh it off. I hope you do as well.

You may ask why I was given this Arabic name. You know what? There are many things you can be proud of being a descendant of Arabs.

Arabs were leaders in this world during different enlightenment periods, especially from the seventh to the 13th centuries. The spread of Islam initially brought this region together. Later it was the Arabic language, culture, and trade. To be an Arab brought together Muslims, Christians, and Jews. It unified Arabians, Africans, Berbers, Egyptians, Phoenicians, Canaanites, and many others. You should be aware off their contribution to world civilization. Perhaps the greatest Arabic gift to the world is the phonetic alphabet, but other accomplishments include:

1- Mathematics:

The Arab sifr, or zero, and Arabic numeral, provided solutions to complicated mathematical problems. Arabs invented algebra, as was certified by Leonardo di Vinci in his writings.

2- Astronomy:

Needing to precisely chart the times of sunrise and sunsets for prayer, they ended up compiling charts that would prove useful later when Al-Biruni suggested the earth rotated around its axis, a fact discovered by Galelio six centuries later.

3- Medicine:

Arabs improved upon the healing arts of ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt. Al-Razi was the leading scientist on contagion, and Ibn Sina, the famous scientist and philosopher was the greatest writer on medicine in the Middle Ages. His Canon was required reading throughout Europe until the seventeenth century. A Syrian, ibn al-Nafis, discovered the basics of pulmonary circulation.

4- Architecture:

Arabs borrowed the horse shoe from the Romans and developed it in their own style. Mosques from Damascus to Cairo are a great testament, and the famous Islamic minaret was inspired by the Greek lighthouse. Arab styles, designs, calligraphy, and color can be seen in structures like the Lion Court of the Alhambra Palace in Granada, the great Mosque of Cordoba, and other medieval buildings in Europe.

5- Navigation and geography:

The earliest geographical charts in the world were developed by the Canaanites who also discovered the Atlantic Ocean. In the twelfth century, a brilliant geographer Al-Idris, completed a world atlas with seventy maps, many areas uncharted till this time.

6- Agriculture:

Arab contribution to food production is enormous. They were able to graft a single vine to carry grapes of different colors, and their vineyards were responsible for the future wine industry in Europe.

7- Languages:

Calligraphy became an art form after the Koran was told to Muhammed in Arabic. The language itself is rich with its poetry and drama. Translations from the Greek and Romans, and works of Aristotle, Plato, Hippocrates, and Galen were among the earliest publications.

8- Music:

The harp, lyre, zither, drum, tambourine, flute, oboe, and reed instruments are today an exact replica of the ones used by Arabs. The guitar and mandolin are sisters to the earlier Oud.

9- Philosophy:

Early Arab philosophers attempted to find answers to questions about God, existence, and the universe. The early philosopher al-Kindi, contributed to the work of Plato and Aristotle.

The million-dollar question remains: If Arabs did all that and more, why do they have so many problems today?

After the Arab Spring in 2011, it will take a few years for the Arab world to recognize the legitimacy of democracy. Another reason is the lack of separation between religion and government. When dying for God becomes a good thing, nothing good will come out of that. Extreme nationalism also separates the Arab world into 20, tiny countries vying for limited power and fighting with their neighbors.

Here is an idea: The Untied States of Arabia. What if the Arab world united and combined resources? A lofty dream? What would that be like?

Zade, Dury, and Demi: Be proud of what is positive and bright about the Arab world and ignore the snide comments. Always remember: Love is powerful. Send much needed love and positive energy into this world.

I love you more than love is possible,

Dad

For more visit Arabinalabama.com

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