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Arabs/Muslims and Skin Color

I have a bit of a psychological problem from Arabs because they don’t accept me because of my skin colour. Yes, Arabs can be very racist. They think being dark and not so skinny is bad. I thought I was alone, and I was just making up excuses for my self to justify the messed up Arab ideology. However, I got a Facebook PM this morning from an Arab girl who noticed it as well, and wanted to share her view point about this serious matter.

diversity

She wrote the following,

I grew up in an Arab country within a relatively religious Muslim/Arab community. There were a few European/Non Muslim families there, maybe out of 100 there were 10, at the time, (this is during the 90s/early 2000s, until I moved to a more mixed community). Ever since I was very young, maybe about 8/9 years old, I received many, many compliments, mostly from the women in my family, extended family, and family friends, on how ”fair” and ”European looking” I was, which was considered very beautiful and good, especially for a girl. Anyways, I never thought about any of this too much because I was too busy studying and involved with my own interests. I only noticed this when I got a bit older and started studying religions on my own. I was actually removed from Islamic studies in school because my teacher kept telling me strange things, and it gave me nightmares, but that’s another story. So, I realize now that I’m in university that while I’m a decent human being, in terms of being the ”perfect Muslim girl” I’m not really representative, as in, I don’t wear the hejab, I dress quite liberally (within reason from the western perspective but liberally from the Islamic perspective), I’m quite anti-establishment so I question things a lot too. Also, I’m not naive at all, nor do I want to be, I research everything and study a lot.

I have really good girlfriends that I’ve known since I was really young that I’ve stayed in touch with. I have a lot of girlfriends that are Muslims, and they’re perfect from the Islamic perspective, they pray 5 times a day, they fast, they wear the hejab, they believe and have faith 150% in their religion, they have been taking Islamic studies since they were 5, some of them have even been to hajj, and they are really nice girls in general. Now when I was younger and living in my neighborhood I noticed that the ”white girls” and Arab girls that had western features or were mixed, got most the attention and special treatment from both Arab and Muslim men and women. I thought this was just because the guys were young and stupid and didn’t know any better. Now that I’m older though, I still notice that my girlfriends that are slimmer, more western looking, even if they aren’t the perfect Muslims, get much more attention, even more marriage proposals than the 100% practicing Muslim girls that maybe don’t look like models and can’t pass for western looking at all.

I know I’m going to get so much flack for this, and many girls and boys will be up in arms and say that I’m wrong and these Muslim and Arab guys I’m talking about haven’t been brought up properly, or they aren’t proper Muslims. Okay, these guys that I’m talking about, lived in Muslim communities, their mothers and fathers are both practicing Muslims, and they went to schools where they took Islamic studies their whole life. They lived in an Arab Muslim country; they didn’t grow up in London or New York. I also know the situation is completely different for boys. What I’m saying is that most the Muslim boys I’ve met, still place physical appearance quite high on their list of priorities when it comes to a partner. That’s not bad in itself, everyone wants their partner to be good looking, it just means Muslims aren’t that different when it comes to relationships/marriage.

What do you think? She wants to hear your opinions.

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  • [...] Arabs/Muslims and Skin Color Posted by admin on September 14, 2009 random I have a bit of a psychological problem from Arabs because they don’t accept me because of my skin colour. Yes, Arabs can be very racist. They think being dark and not so skinny is bad. I… [...]

  • How fascinating Mona.But,I thought that the Muslim mothers usually picket the women that they liked for their sons.You mean they put stringency to the appearance of their sons’ wives and do not care so much about their character? :sad:

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  • @Krystal
    Yep! You got it!

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  • [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by palestinian. palestinian said: Rebellious Arab Girl: Arabs/Muslims and Skin Color: I have a bit of a psychological problem from Arabs because t.. http://bit.ly/1rC1a8 [...]

  • There is no doubt that physical appearance is something to look at when choosing a partner. What I dont agree with is that people put it as a first priority. I’ve seen girls who were very good looking, but they were as dry as a toast, their personality was the worse. For me it’s inner beauty that counts, so if I was to mary someone who is average looking, I would see her as the most beautiful person in the world. Also I would take a religious girl over any type of girl in a blink of an eye, because for me religion comes first.

    I find Arabian beauty better than European…Black hair, big black eyes and long eyelashes, nothing beats that atleast in my opinion.

    Salams

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  • My wife is Indian, and she had the exact same experience. Except she is extra dark (servant class). She was told she would not get good husband, etc. Now she is w/ a very fair dude. :)

    I find it so strange to see such self-hate going on. White people do it a bit, too. It’s OK for many white people to hate white people, which, to me, is twisted. I like everyone. Still dealing w/ my own upbringing, but I don’t act racist in a _conscious_ way. Still, upbringing is hard to get over.

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  • You, Mona, you opened my eyes to something i did not even know exist. There is a preference to lighter girls? I thought all arabs were of the white race, like jews, italians and spanish, and colour really didnt matter.

    Do you have any idea why arabs want to be whiter? Most white people want a tan like Arabs have, they even risk skin cancer for it :P

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  • It is true that everyone has a preconcieved image of who the person of their dreams are.. Some people search far and wide for someone that looks, acts, or is that person.. Some people put those ideas aside and fall for the person thats right there and right then. Just because “muslim men (and their respected mothers, sisters, grandmothers)” go to see “muslim girls” that have certain features doesn’t make physical appearance so high on their priority the issue, its because its human nature. We arent different when it comes to relationships, i don’t look at is as a cultural issue. So I ask the question if a girl wants a guy who has a certain set of feature, yet a man comes to visit who doesnt have those features, she can say no, right? It happens all the time actually. See we set the status quo for ourselves, girls in highschool all talk saying they want mr tall, dark, and handsome.. Guys do it as well, they want the pretty blonde. So yeah men can be blamed for wanting the pretty girl, its not that bad of an accusation if you really look at it. Women can be blamed as well, I know guys who struggled finding wives simply because they don’t hold college degrees. Regardless of what we want, we need to accept that this is naseeb. Everyone will get their naseeb.

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  • @maarten
    Everyone wants something they don’t have. For example, I have curly hair, but I like to straighten it all the time. It is my preference, but it really not a negative or positive thing. Just hair. However, with skin colour, Arabs and even Asians go to the extreme of using cream products to lighten their complexion. It’s true, Arabs are of the white race. However, the middle east has various tones of whitenss. From fair to tan or dark tan.

    It is all preference in the end, but why this preference of fairness became the ultimate and only one in the entire culture? What changed, and what led to this?

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  • Honestly I deal with that too, but not to an extent, just you know sometimes it gets brought up. Now my dad is what you call a dark arab, but its cuz he’s part (his father is more or less than quarter arab, and his mother is arab) and my mother well she’s from Somalia. So I pretty much qualify as a yemeni (the darker ones) Im more or less a mix of the skin colour of the second darkest and third darkest hand in the picture in the post. & I get so much flack from my dads side, because im expected to marry an arab. “oh your soo dark, who’s going to marry you go marry from your mothers side” Mona you complain about not knowing arabic, I cant speak a word of arabic literally, i know maybe a few things, and will understand 2 % of what you say, and you should hear the shit i get from that. Im pretty sure they refer to me as “al himar aswad” but oh well what can I do. My bestfriend who is palestinian, she’s a sweetheart she tells me she loves my skin colour and she wouldnt mind being my colour when we both know she’d rather shave off her eyebrows She says there is “hope” for me, one day ill marry my “arabain prince” pssht. she’s considered a “dark” arab and like you said mona not soo skinny and always gets shit from her lebanese friends because of that. Honestly I find that soooo stupid, because compared to me she is sooo light ! Plus she’s so beautiful mashallah i love her eyes, but they dont even look at that. Yes I agree physical aspects are waaaaaaaay more important than the religion or the personality. I think parents should give up on marrying their daughters off. Let everybody else choose. But in this case Old habits will NEVER die hard.

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  • Hmmm In the 17th century being white and chubby was the beauty ideal, and now it its tanned and slim.

    This had to do with the fact that if you didnt have to work on the land, you could sit in the shades, and thus being lighter that the common people. Being chubby meant that one could buy a lot of food.

    Now being tanned means that you have money for a sunny vacation and being slim means that you can afford healty foods?

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  • Very relevant article!! There have been several reports recently that I have seen on NPR and the BBC in regards to this and products aimed towards skin whitening:

    BBC World Have your Say: http://worldhaveyoursay.wordpress.com/2009/09/10/do-you-think-this-advert-is-racist/

    BBC 1Extra: http://www.bbc.co.uk/1xtra/tx/skin_lighten.shtml

    NPR – Skin Whitening: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=106419771

    Also, about 3 years ago or so, there was also campaign (mostly through pop singers it seemed) in Lebanon that was trying to get people to not be so ‘hard’ on people with darker skin; specially those with black skin/Africans.

    I’m from California, so tan was always a good thing, but I have seen the in most societies worldwide how color makes a difference in first impressions. Most of these societies do also say how the whiter the skin is, the wealthier the girl/family is because they don’t have to be outside doing labour. It’s an interesting argument that seems so old-fashioned, but still used by many.

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  • Oh, so I don’t think it’s really tied to a particular religion and/or society, but is something that ALL societies and religions have used and still use to define people within their society in a very basic way :)
    Thankfully, we have many other people that don’t let this bother them and get around those people… I mean, would you actually want to be around/marry people who held this belief? When my family (in-law mostly) says stuff like this, I can respond in a rather straight-faced manner… like, “ok, does that ACTUALLY matter?” or try to get them explain (lol – that one is fun) or something like that.

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  • @maarten

    You are partly right, I saw a TV show a few days back and it dealt with how European (whites) went to tanning Salons and Indians went for skin whitening treatments. I suppose we all crave what we don’t have

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  • I agree that it’s natural to want what you don’t have, but I think that when it comes to skin color, only it’s more than that. I believe it’s a vestige of colonialism to value white skin.

    Liberal white people get very uncomfortable about this b/c we think that our ancestors may have been involved, and we don’t wish to be the cause of other’s self-hate and misery.

    Although tanning is nice for white people, many non-white people fear the effects of the sun as making them look too dark. This is a shame, IMHO.

    If only things were as simple as wanting a change from one highly valued color to another like curly vs. straight hair. Then again, you get into konking, and there’s another sad can of worms.

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  • My family is exactly the same, but I see it as a trivial thing. My grandmother (may Allah bless her soul) is white married to my grandfather who is almost black (afro-Arab like) (may Allah bless both their souls) was very picky. She gave birth to two black children and two white children (my dad and his older sister) she gave the white children better treatment and always mistreated the black children because they resembled their father’s ‘ugly’ features. Hence, they grew up with a colour complex. My mother on the other hand is full white (Arab of Turkish origin) and her family looks down on my father’s family mainly because blacks are viewed as ‘the slave class’. My brother is born white and I’m olive with a slight really fair Asian sort of tan. So I’m the odd one out in the family, but to some Arabs I’m viewed as white, and to the really fair Arabs (mainly Syrians and Lebanese) I’m viewed as slightly coloured. Whereas my cousins who are dark tanned hate their colour and wish they were white. They hate their skin colour and if they have one white parent they will ask why they married a black or dark tanned Arab. I have one cousin with blue eyes, very light brown hair and very fair skin who is treated better than me, she strikes no resemblance to her parents and she received more gifts and blessings on her birth from her grandparents. I was always viewed differently, so I learnt not pay attention to such things. As my aunt who is white married to a dark Arab says “Al-lawan alabyath may ta3um khobiz” which means “White skin colour is not going to feed you or education will give you more respect than skin colour”. So this implies again, beauty is only skin deep.

    I conclude some Arabs have an inferiority complex to Caucasians. The more they look caucasian the more ‘superior’ they are. When in in fact such shallow ideologies over look the fact that beauty is only skin deep and ages with time. Personality, knowledge and a good character are of more significance when it comes to choosing a life-partner.

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  • That is so true. I remember growing up amongst my mom’s friends and their compliments about brides-to-be and how, “mashallah” she’s so fair skinned. Or them saying something like “hilwa, lakin samraa” She’s pretty but she’s dark skinned. Or how when one of my friends was looking to get married and when the guy saw her he said he had nothing against her, and wished her all the best, but basically rejected her because she was too dark for him. I don’t understand where this mind-set comes from. It’s fucking ridiculous that among Arabs what they look for is a light skinned girl to marry. Even amongst countries like Sudan where the majority of people are dark skinned, they always prefer the ones that are a little bit lighter…it always confuses me when Muslim Arabs look at this, and our religion teaches only acceptance of others, no matter their race or color, but to only look at their deen first. Grrrr!!!

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  • Also, to Incandescent Chimera, very well written!! That’s all it is, really: an inferiority complex.

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  • Why is Arab clumped with Muslim? And why are people using White and Black? Last time I checked we are all just different shades of brown. Some are cream others are caramel and then you have dark chocolate. Asians are earthy, Native Americans tend to be Mahogany. Africans are the color of rich fertile Earth. The people of the Middle East, Arabs, Persians, Jews, Kurdz, etc are a mixture of all.

    Really people! Do I have to link a song from the Disney’s Pocahontas!?

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  • BlackBarook :Why is Arab clumped with Muslim? And why are people using White and Black? Last time I checked we are all just different shades of brown. Some are cream others are caramel and then you have dark chocolate. Asians are earthy, Native Americans tend to be Mahogany. Africans are the color of rich fertile Earth. The people of the Middle East, Arabs, Persians, Jews, Kurdz, etc are a mixture of all.
    Really people! Do I have to link a song from the Disney’s Pocahontas!?

    hahahahah, omg, that made me laugh so hard. Its so true though!! I think I would be a combination of “burlywood” “sandy brown” or “golden rod”…according to the color schemes on this website I found: http://oreilly.com/catalog/wdnut/excerpt/color_names.html

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  • @Mona

    I guess the answer is because of the history we have with the European whites. Either the Italians, spanish, french or the english ruled us(ARabs and indians)…..they were fairer than us. SO we look up to them and try to associate ourselves with them because they were the rulers.

    It’s a good idea not to praise a child for his/her skin colour, hair or height. The seeds of arrogance are implanted when this kids are praised for “qualities” that they had nothing to do with.

    A person who gets distracted by skin colour gives out the smell of rotting faith inside him/her. To put it in simple words, religion and racism doesn’t go hand in hand. You have to let go of one to make space for the other.

    Kudos to her(what’s her name?) that she has brought up the issue. Well, its not much of an excuse that somebody has been brought up in an environment of racism he/she has to be a racist too. If the person is an adult, can think and take decisions….any racist attitude is all his/her fault.

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  • oh really? Hmm thats intresting.
    Personally, I never met any arabs who actually prefer white or fair skin, or any color for the matter. Arnt darker girls -tanned- somor, considered to be the most beutiful??? since they represent the arabian beauty. Oh and dont forget there are TONS of songs and poems glorifying and admiring the “somor” in particular.

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  • “I have a bit of a psychological problem from Arabs because they don’t accept me because of my skin colour. Yes, Arabs can be very racist. They think being dark and not so skinny is bad.”

    I don’t like how you point out Arabs because Latinos and even Asians think like this. Why do you think Asians drive with gloves on or walk around on sunny days with umbrellas? In many cultures (I’d even go as far as saying in “most” cultures), pale skin is preferred.

    This has nothing to do with religion (although Muslims should know better…also, everyone should stop mixing up culture and religion. the two are DISTINCT), but more with culture. Many people want/hype up what they don’t have. For example, Americans and Europeans. Haven’t you ever heard, “Wow, that’s SO European!”…as if Europeans are God. In the same way, white skin is placed on a pedestal. It’s just a matter of preference and a matter of culture–it’s not only Arabs who aren’t “accepting” you for your skin color…what are Asians’ and Latinos’ reactions?

    I’m a “light Arab” but get very dark in summer–I get the same treatment from Arabs during the whole year. Sure, some people point out my skin color “Oh I thought you were HALF Arab”, but it’s just what people think. Old generation will eventually die out. Don’t make it a big deal.

    good post–good discussions.

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  • @Sarah
    I am going to point out Arabs because I am an Arab. This article is about Arab’s mentality. I know I can generalize it to various other cultures, but I am an Arab. I speak based on one and what I know. I am not going to talk beyond that and cause problems. If someone who is not Arab wants to share their story, then let them be. I am not stopping them.

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  • Also you guys, you have to understand that we pointed out Arabs and Muslims in once sentence, because we are pointing them out for this mentality of thinking about skin colour. So pretty much, we boiled it down to that group of people. That’s all.

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  • Okay, but the group “Muslims” is inclusive of a great number of people…are you saying they are unaccepting of darker skin color as well?

    I understand your blog focuses on Arab issues but what I’m saying is that it’s not solely an Arab issue–it’s a world issue. If it wasn’t a world issue, enslavement of blacks wouldn’t have existed all over the world.

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  • @Sarah
    I did not point out Muslims in the article. This article was written by someone else. I wrote the part in the beginning pointing out Arabs. I am not going to speak on behalf over a billion Muslims. The article strictly talked about Arab/Muslim issues. So an Arab-Muslim problem that is often seen in this glorious society of mine. Ok? Do I have to slice and dice to explain this issue. I know the problems that I discuss, like 95% of them can be based on non-Arabs as well. Everyone has similar or even exact problems, but I am speaking on behalf of me being an Arab and understanding Arab’s mentality. So stop putting every single race and culture into this argument. Stick to Arab-Muslims please!

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  • @Abdullah
    “Either the Italians, spanish, french or the english ruled us(ARabs and indians)…..they were fairer than us.”

    Were fairer than us?!!! Who promised to give your holy land to the Jews after world war 2? Who separated all Muslim lands? Bro I’m not even going to bother with you….it appears to me that your knowledge is quite limited about history of the European colonisation in Muslim lands. I strongly encourage you to read about it.

    Who got the Europeans out of the dark ages? Where did the europeans go to get educated? Do you even know any of those answers? It would be a shame if you dont. Here I’m bro, a live example I dont look up to Europeans, but rather I look up to the history of my ancestors who have helped making the Europeans what they are today.
    Watch this documentary, maybe you’ll learn a thing or two and I hope after that you’ll change your mind on who was more fair to who.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pT5_3nSS5BY&feature=PlayList&p=0AC4DEDBF20C5623&index=0&playnext=1

    Salam

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  • @Mohamed

    I’m pretty sure Abdullah was refering, when he said “fairer”, to the color of skin; not “fair” in terms of justice. Correct me if I’m wrong, Abdullah..

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  • @Shay
    Non-sense,
    Muslims back then did not care about color of skin. Their goal was to spread Islam. Based on history, there is no way that Muslims were more racist than Europeans when it came to color of skin….even today. Did you read about the Egyptian woman in Germany. She got stabbed in the court 6 or more times by a German guy…..no way europe is not racist.

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  • @ Mohamed

    I’m not talking about racism. i’m merely pointing out the fact that you took what Abdullah wrote out of context. He was refering to the word “fair” in one way, while you understood it another..

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  • color of skin refers to racism as well

    @Shay

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  • @ Mohamed

    wow, you are not even listening to what I’m saying. Never mind, its annoying to pointlessly argue with someone who’s not even reading your comments. :|

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  • I suppose you could say that Arabs during the Colonial era were colour blind. They overlooked beauty and married based on what is in one’s heart. Their desires as Mohamed said were “To spread Islam” so colour was overlooked. I suppose things have changed because of different perceptions of how beauty should be defined. Aljamal zayil… Everlasting beauty is within the heart. I’ve met so many elderly women who were once models and participants in beauty pageants… when you look at them now you can never imagine how they once were.

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  • @mohamed

    Mohamed. The context of “Fairer” in that sentence means lighter skin tone. Please take a moment to read and comprehend before shooting off like that. Because every time you act like a troll you make all of us look like trolls.

    8D

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  • @Shay
    Maybe I mess understood and you did not write clearly. Here’s what you wrote:”I’m pretty sure Abdullah was refering, when he said “fairer”, to the color of skin; not “fair” in terms of justice.”

    Please explain what you meant by that.
    I would apreciate if you did not call me anonying, I didn’t disrespect you.

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  • Oh I remember a poem that seems to fit this:

    “Beauty is but skin deep,
    Ugly lies the bone,
    Beauty dies and fades away,
    But ugly holds its own.”

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  • @ Mohamed
    lol- wow, that was quite a turn in coversation! But, we can see that ‘fair was NOT used to mean ‘just’ as per the original misunderstanding. Thank you though for bringing up such relevant history because it is not as fully acknowledged in the West as it should be. I think that is mostly due to a lack of Arabic works translated into other languages… (if we can’t quote it, it can’t get into our history books)
    I’m sure that you can also see how the reference to ‘fair’ skin was brought up in the imperialist notions and while I don’t aprove, I see the ‘preference’ to lighter skin or ‘Western looks’ ALL THE TIME on behalf of the behavior of my family, friends and random people on the streets in the Middle East (in general). I am glad that you have a good idea and sense to feel pride in yourself and don’t fall into the ‘trap’ of judging those darker or lighter than you.
    Salam

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  • @BlackBarook
    He specifically said: “ruled us(ARabs and indians)…..they were fairer than us.” HE MENTIONED RULED US

    I do understand what I read body…do you?

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  • mohamed :@Shay Maybe I mess understood and you did not write clearly. Here’s what you wrote:”I’m pretty sure Abdullah was refering, when he said “fairer”, to the color of skin; not “fair” in terms of justice.”
    Please explain what you meant by that.I would apreciate if you did not call me anonying, I didn’t disrespect you.

    lol, sorry. It just seemed as though no matter what I kept trying to say to you, you were not listening or even reading my posts. I think BlackBaroook phrased it well, though. Thank you for that. =D

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  • @ Mohamed
    “Either the Italians, spanish, french or the english ruled us(ARabs and indians)…..they were fairer than us. SO we look up to them and try to associate ourselves with them because they were the rulers”

    Again, Mohamed,you are taking things out of context: what Abdullah meant was that because they were the rulers, and they were light-skinned, their subjects looked up to them, thus unsubconciously influencing them to want to be like their rulers (i.e. look like them). Monkey see, monkey do, basically.

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  • You guys. Instead of justifying or trying to understand what @Abdullah said, let’s wait till he comes back in a few hours, since he in a different time zone, and explain what he meant. No need to argue.

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  • Shay :

    mohamed :@Shay Maybe I mess understood and you did not write clearly. Here’s what you wrote:”I’m pretty sure Abdullah was refering, when he said “fairer”, to the color of skin; not “fair” in terms of justice.”Please explain what you meant by that.I would apreciate if you did not call me anonying, I didn’t disrespect you.

    lol, sorry. It just seemed as though no matter what I kept trying to say to you, you were not listening or even reading my posts. I think BlackBaroook phrased it well, though. Thank you for that. =D

    Ok lets just say that abdullah was saying the Europeans were fairer on color of skin….Are you honestly convinced that Europeans are not racist if not a thousand times more racist than arabs?
    I did exactly understand what you meant, it just that you were not clear with your writing.
    Salam

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  • @Shay
    of a light hue; not dark: fair skin. (dictionary.com)

    looool!!! I get it!!! but still dont call me annoying…

    regardless atch the documentary

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  • @ mohamed

    No one, but you, is arguing whether Europeans are more racist than Arabs..you are missing the point. The whole article was about Arabs/Muslims issues, as Mona pointed out, waaaay up there. Also, please don’t pretend like you understood what I meant all along, you’re insulting my intelligence.

    Salam

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  • @ Mohamed

    Geez, why couldn’t you have looked that up earlier. lol. Now I feel like a complete dick for my last post. ;)

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  • You guys, @mohamed @Shay, please end this little quarrel and stick to the main point of this article. Arabs Arabs Arabs. I don’t care about Europeans and racism. I live in Canada, and I lived in USA. I know what racism means. However, seeing it in my own culture is not a good thing. Especially amongst the group of Arab-Muslims who should know better.

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  • @Shay
    :grin: misunderstading….english is not my first language

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  • @Mona
    agreed

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  • @ Mohamed

    lol, its all good. Sorry if I offended you. :P

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