When I first started writing this article, I was planning to write about how the Arab-American narrative is skewed because it is usually presented by non-Arabs. I had every intention of highlighting this fact to convince the readers of the need for Arabs to own their narrative. Half way into the article, I remembered the criticism I faced when I launched my first crowdfunding campaign in 2014.
Some members of the LGBTQ community refused to assist in promoting the book because I was not one of them. They believed I was trying to benefit from their struggle and shunned me and my novel. The Muslim, and Arab groups followed the same suit—something I expected—because I chose to write about a gay character.
As a result, for this article, I Instead decided to write about some facts that may help you, the reader, understand my predicament. In recent history, in the entertainment industry, Arabs and Muslims are portrayed as either the terrorists or the oil rich fat man from the Gulf region.
There was a reality TV show on a few years ago based in Michigan about the Muslim community there, All American Muslims. It showcased the characters’ lives and their diversity, which proved to be not much different than your average American as apple pie person or family.
Despite the normalcy (or maybe because of the normalcy of it) people bashed it so much that its major sponsor, Lowes, was forced to stop sponsoring the show and the show ended. Yet, television shows and movies portraying Arabs and Muslims as blood thirsty terrorists and greedy oilmen with 20 wives are top rated.
Another enormous problem is how Arab films and literature discuss homosexuality; some do it blatantly, and others are more covert. However, one fact is consistent, the homosexual character ends up either dead, imprisoned, repents, or goes through conversion therapy. It is an ending that most Arab viewers and/or readers find justified for such blasphemous characters.
As an Arab-American who grew tired of defending himself and the community at large from the constant accusations, verbal and nonverbal and how our community deals with common issues that affect so many, I set out to find a solution to the problem. I gave social activism a shot; I gave the political approach a shot. I even tried to be passive about it. Alas, nothing seemed to work.
It is not a secret that there is growing tension in the world and most of it stems from the terrorist groups who have Muslim and/or Arab origins. And it is my belief that a war on terror won’t solve a thing, it certainly won’t stop the problem. It is also my belief that laws which blindly ban certain groups won’t fix the unrest either.
However, it is also my personal belief that arts and literature are the cure to the problem; they are the cure to many problems within the community and throughout the whole country, if not the world. Literature and arts tell the stories, which are not told in a news story. They highlight unsung heroes.
We can no longer be adversaries, and we are not; we are simply humans attempting to learn about one another to reach a resolution.
Art and literature educates and binds us together.
I wrote a novel that is pro-Arab, pro-Islam, and pro-love and acceptance. The Arab-American and Muslim-American communities are plagued with problems that are not openly discussed; they are social taboos such as homosexuality and genetic disorders to name a few. And those are things that I openly cover the novel.
Moreover, I wanted the novel to discuss issues within the community itself, and while it focuses on the Arab and Muslim communities, these are the same issues that affect many other ethnic communities as well.
Osama, the protagonist, represents a generation that witnessed wars, international acts of terrors, the biggest refugee crisis, a financial meltdown, globalization, freer sexuality and the internet. He experiences most of these things first hand along with the struggle of finding his true self and his place in a world that is constantly changing; the rollercoaster of life.
It is also an attempt to make sense of the world around me while stripping away all labels that divide us as humans, and digging deep into the core of the human soul to shed light on our commonalities. And on a personal level, it’s something I wish to share with my own kids one day to hold me accountable if they ever decide to choose a path different than mine. I want them to know it is ok to do so.
Osama’s Jihad is the first of many projects under the Pita Bread American umbrella, which will hopefully include my own work and the work of other artists and writers to tell the Arab-American story.
For more information, please visit the campaign page: http://kck.st/2ptvId0