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  1. #1
    Member MizzNaaa's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jane View Post
    So what do American belly dancers do now?

    We love and embrace the music and dance from Egypt and the Muslim Middle East. Most of us try to promote all of the arts of the Arabic world and dispel the image of religious fanatics. After 9/11 things were very bad. Here we are again with the attack on the American embassy that has left four of our citizens dead. This makes me angry and sad.

    Now what?

    Keep telling our students and customers that not everyone “over there” is like that and these are isolated incidents? I do not want to hate monger against Muslims, so what am I supposed to say when everything people are hearing in the news are attacks targeting foreigners, women, Christians, and Jews? I realize every religion and culture has its drawbacks, but this is above and beyond. I don’t think Americans are buying into the “isolated incident” idea anymore.

    What makes it worse for me is that I’m a former military, American woman whose father is Jewish, mother is Christian, and I belly dance. I feel like most Muslims would think I’m the Devil himself. How am I supposed to reconcile who I am with my love of Arabic arts? What do I tell my students? What do I tell myself?
    I knew those questions would pop up, and somehow, I feel like it's my duty to justify them, but how can I without introducing myself properly first. So here goes...

    ````

    I'm an Egyptian, 20 year old artist and graphic design student. I grew up in a sort of typical Egyptian family. And by sort of, I mean we're not the norm here. My dad's a left wing liberal with a bit of Conservative streaks here and there mostly due to the fact that no matter how progressive/liberal we are, we still live in Egypt and must respect the boundaries of the culture and the society. When in Rome...

    I grew up learning to think for myself and depend on no one but me, because as my dad always used to say "There's no one out there who'll help you or stand by you other than you, Rana. We El-Naqqashs have no capital in this world but our own hard work."

    My mom however, is the typical conservative Muslim Egyptian woman who wants to see her daughters get married, so she could boast about being the mother of the bride, wear the veil, be good little Muslim girls and grow up to bring into this world lots of children that she can play with and would call her grandma. Very very typical.

    So you could say, during my unruly childhood, I grew up in a bipolar house where on one end Mama told me I should do this and that, and on the other my Baba told me a completely different set of things, and as such; I consider myself one of the lucky few who had a taste of both ways of life as a typical conservative Egyptian and a progressive liberal Egyptian.

    As I grew up, I went through many stages, I went from praying regularly, wearing the veil and fasting every Ramadan, to the other end of the spectrum where I stopped believing in the power of organized religion and being a social liberal, believing in personal freedom and a whole lot of other things you probably heard before.

    During that process I've seen quite a lot of faces to our society that I don't think you would able to see without being a direct part of the society.

    As a society, Egyptians are bipolar. They're also very diverse. They contradict themselves, and most of all they don't know any better. And I'm not just talking about the conservative majority or the progressive minority or any other faction in our society, I mean the society as a whole.

    We've lived, for the past 40 years, in deep rooted corruption in every aspect of our lives. Our government, the past one (that is still ruling, cause not much has changed, trust me) ruled us like a mafia, except they were worse. Under their rule, they inflicted on the society many diseases that would ensure resistance would be futile cause people wouldn't know any better. There is no education, and when I say that, I literally mean it. There is no economy, there are no chances for young grads no matter how important their degrees are; Med school grads work as salespersons because they can't find jobs, there is no money.

    We are living in the gutter, and we've passed the rock bottom by miles.

    Yes, that's how bad it is for us.

    It's not only bad on that front, but it's also bad for us on an international front. Our ex-government supported the interest of the western world religiously, to make sure that they have the backing they need against us Egyptians. Our military is not here to protect Egypt's borders, it's here to protect that government and its interests and of course foreign interests.

    On another front we have Saudi Arabia whose monarchs spent outlandish amounts of money to spread their wahabi culture through promoting 'islamic education for free' and offering services like 'islamic banks' and 'islamic hospitals' and 'islamic centers for activities for adults and children'...etc., services that should already be available to people through governmental means in return to the crazy taxes we pay. As well as offering work opportunities for Egyptians in the gulf and in saudi in return to good amounts of money that said Egyptians would never have been able to earn otherwise.

    I call it 'islamic' because while I am NOT a muslim, as I said before, I don't believe in organized religion - no disrespect meant to any religion what so ever though- I grew up in a muslim family, so I know that religion more than any other religion and wahabi ways in saudi are NOT muslim.

    They've been working to integrate the culture into the society for the past decade or so, so the country would dominate the region instead of Egypt; a country that is known as a leader among the area and one of the most important strategic areas in the Middle East.

    So you have a citizen; starved, poor beyond measure, living in a slum of a country, used and abused (BIG TIME) by the government. Said citizen can't even dream because there are no chances for anything, the biggest dream he/she has is to put food in the table and live comfortably enough. Then you have people who tell them that if they travel to said country, they'd get lots of money, and that they should be more like said country, because it's allah who brought so much money and comfort into said country.

    So Egyptians go, travel, stay for a decade or two in the gulf then return to their families with enough money to live happily, with heads full of Saudi culture/ways and pockets full of saudi money and no education or knowledge to sift through said culture or ways to know what is real and what is an absolute load of garbage.

    Now, religious fanaticism + ignorance = disaster

    but, religious fanaticism + ignorance + governmental excitation of such fanaticism = mega sh*t storm disaster.

    Yes, our governments use ignorance and fanaticism to entice the people into focusing on things as minor and crazy and unimportant as a movie insulting Muhammad, rather than focus on the fact that the government is ripping us off and we should do something about it. That has been the way since before the Muslim brotherhood took over, it's Mubarak's signature way of ruling, along with torture, murder, terror, killing innocent citizens with or without reason, emergency law...etc.

    And so, you have incidents like this happening all over the middle east, especially in Egypt.

    Protests happening in Egypt over the movie weren't 'massive'. They weren't even 'big' they were just...literally a group of young people who had nothing else to do but cause trouble. I'm not excusing them, but they literally are a bunch of kids with no education, no money, no prospects...they literally don't know any better. They also have a lot of anger and frustration, and this is the only way they managed to find to justify said anger and frustration. Most importantly you'd rarely find people here who supported that kind of BS here in my country, but media thrives on controversy, so yeah.

    I am NOT making excuses for what happened, there is no excuse for what happened in Libya, but I'm trying to paint a bigger picture for you to see why/how things are the way they are specifically in Egypt and in countries of the middle east generally.

    When you look at it, as a society, Egypt is full of societal diseases, prejudices, problems of every kind, and nobody wants to help us; not our government, not foreign governments, not even powerful people here cause they have interest in keeping things as they are. It means they stay in power, and they still have their money and they're in no danger of having their situation change.

    I want to tell you that things will change, that it is bound to get better; but the frustration and hurt you feel is something i feel 1000x more. I live in my country feeling like an outcast for the way I think, what I believe in, for being a woman...and I want to leave.

    All I can say things are bad, very very very bad, and they're bound to get worse with the people in power remaining the same way, but they have to get better at some point. It's just not going to happen any time soon. After all, you can't fix what was being corrupted for 40 years in a year or two or ten. You definitely can't fix it with the people who caused it still in power.
    Last edited by MizzNaaa; 10-23-2012 at 01:32 PM.

  2. #2
    Super Moderator Mosaic's Avatar
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    MizzNaaa, your post is definitely food for thought. I believe that no one can truly understand a culture/country unless they live there for some length of time ( & even then one may not fully understand). I am sorry you are so stifled & hope that some day you'll find a way to follow your dream of living elsewhere, if you do get the chance to live elsewhere, choose your country wisely All countries have problems in some form or other. We all hoped a new government would improve things for everyone in Egypt & knew it would be a slow process to unravel what had gone before, but if nothing has changed that is really sad and the government is wasting a golden opportunity. One can live & hope that someone or many someones (politicians) will wake up and begin to bring new order for the benefit of the people and country as governments are elected to do what is right & good for the people.

    Your Dad sounds like an interesting man and being from a family with both conservative & liberal views has obviously made you who you are today.

    Hopefully I will get to go back to Egypt again I loved every minute of time I spent there just 4 short weeks, everyone was kind and we had a wonderful time. I stayed a week with a family in Alex and saw a lot more that I would have on some sort of tour, Even in Cairo we had several opportunities to visit with Egyptian families & we did the touristy things as well of course including a Nile cruise to Aswan, but as foreigners we get to mainly see what is set up for the tourist (we were lucky we managed to delve a tiny bit beneath the tourist surface) & it was those bits of Egypt I truly fell in love with. Thank you for sharing a little of your life with us.
    ~Mosaic
    Dance is like glitter, it not only colours your life, it makes you sparkle, you find it everywhere and in everything and it's near impossible to get rid of. (unknown)


  3. #3
    V.I.P. Yame's Avatar
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    "As a society, Egyptians are bipolar. They're also very diverse. They contradict themselves, and most of all they don't know any better. And I'm not just talking about the conservative majority or the progressive minority or any other faction in our society, I mean the society as a whole."

    This is true. But please note that every society is bipolar. As much as cultural trends exist, societies are made up of individuals and individuals vary in opinions, practices, traditions, etc. We can not, and should not expect any society to act like a homogeneous blob and we should not hold an entire population accountable for the actions of a few.

    We have to make generalizations and simplify things sometimes. But oversimplification can be dangerous.

    I didn't understand the original thread you quoted. I don't understand why us non-Middle Eastern belly dancers should have to apologize for something that extremists did. I don't understand why Middle Eastern belly dancers should have to apologize. I don't understand why any regular Egyptian should have to apologize or explain.

    But I appreciate your efforts to do that.

  4. #4
    Moderator Shanazel's Avatar
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    Thank you for the post, Rana.
    "Well, now that we have seen each other," said the unicorn " if you'll believe in me, I'll believe in you."

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    AFK Moderator ~Diana~'s Avatar
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    Thanks for giving us that perspective! I know the media can be quit biased in reporting and sometimes I read something and just shake my head at peoples actions and the way media report it. I find not enough people really put their own thought into what they are reading in the media anymore.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    1. Beginning dancer. Knows nothing.
    2. Intermediate dancer. Knows everything. Too good to dance with beginners.
    3. Hotshot dancer. Too good to dance with anyone.
    4. Advanced dancer. Dances everything. Especially with beginners
    .
    ~ Attributed to Dick Crum, a folk dance teacher ~

  6. #6
    Senior Member Sophia Maria's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yame View Post
    I didn't understand the original thread you quoted. I don't understand why us non-Middle Eastern belly dancers should have to apologize for something that extremists did. I don't understand why Middle Eastern belly dancers should have to apologize. I don't understand why any regular Egyptian should have to apologize or explain.

    But I appreciate your efforts to do that.
    Exactly. When people talk to me about bellydance and Middle Eastern culture, I frequently get questions of that nature. Questions like, if bellydance is sensual and somewhat scandalous, how does it work in a conservative society? Or they contrast the joy and music of the dance culture with terrorists, 9/11, or extremist factions.

    And of course I answer politely and carefully, but in my head I'm like, "What do want me to say? You can't explain a country in one word! Cultures and peoples will always have contradictions and both sides to every story; one should never just pick one side of the story as totally representative of the country." We have issues with extremist factions in the US, too. We have political corruption, distrust of the government, social issues, gender issues, sexuality issues here too. They are represented in different degrees in every country, but they are always there.

    I remember when I was growing up in the wake of 9/11...It was very scary for me as I was only 8 years old and saw violence for the first time in a very real place that I had been too. After the attacks, it seemed like on one side I heard people say that 9/11 represented what Muslims felt about the West, period. There was something perverse or broken in the culture / religion. And then, after the fact, when some Americans tried to understand the Middle East better, I heard people saying nothing but positive things about the Middle East, how Islam was only a religion of peace. I just threw up my hands and said, "you know what? I'm not going to believe either of you!"

    I feel like this is similar to the discussion about the dancer who was assaulted in Egypt (at least my reaction is the same). Evil and good is very present in any culture/country/religion. For me the argument is unwinnable.

  7. #7
    Moderator Farasha Hanem's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yame View Post
    "As a society, Egyptians are bipolar. They're also very diverse. They contradict themselves, and most of all they don't know any better. And I'm not just talking about the conservative majority or the progressive minority or any other faction in our society, I mean the society as a whole."

    This is true. But please note that every society is bipolar. As much as cultural trends exist, societies are made up of individuals and individuals vary in opinions, practices, traditions, etc. We can not, and should not expect any society to act like a homogeneous blob and we should not hold an entire population accountable for the actions of a few.

    We have to make generalizations and simplify things sometimes. But oversimplification can be dangerous.

    I didn't understand the original thread you quoted. I don't understand why us non-Middle Eastern belly dancers should have to apologize for something that extremists did. I don't understand why Middle Eastern belly dancers should have to apologize. I don't understand why any regular Egyptian should have to apologize or explain.

    But I appreciate your efforts to do that.
    Do you mean MizzNaaa's quote from Jane? It's from this thread:

    http://bellydanceforums.net/middle-e...-troubled.html

    MizzNaaa, thank you for this thread, and for sharing your world from your perspective, and I'm so very sorry for your circumstances. Please know that you now have many friends here on the forum, and that you are loved and valued here, and not because you're sweet enough to help with songs or anything like that, but simply because you're you, and that makes you special. If you ever need anyone to talk to, you can pm any of us, day or night.

    When my husband and I first heard the news story, we had the feeling all along that the entire population of Egypt was in no way to blame. And although I don't condone the attack on the Embassy, I want to say that the kids who made that film in my country most certainly should not have made it in the first place. Some people from my country run around with a sense of entitlement, saying they have "freedom of speech," but just because we here have the right to say what we want (and freedom of "artistic expression" ) does not make it right when that "freedom" hurts or disrespects someone else.

    Many cyber hugs to you, MizzNaaa.
    Last edited by Farasha Hanem; 10-25-2012 at 06:11 AM.

  8. #8
    Member MizzNaaa's Avatar
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    Thanks everybody. That means a lot to me.

    @Farasha, cyber hugs to you too!

    See, I'm also a believer of free speech, and I saw clips of that movie, they never bothered me (it could be because I'm not a follower, I can't say how I'd feel if that was my religion being insulted). And I have to say people's reactions here are extreme, but what I tried to do here in this thread was shed a little bit of light on where that extremism is coming from. People have nothing else to hold onto but this, and ignorance amplifies those extremist behaviors.

    So no, I don't condone the reaction from the extremist minority or the non extremist majority; not the small scale protests and attempts to break in the embassies in Egypt or the horrific incident at the embassy in Libya. And while I think the movie was just petty and childish to be honest, and wasn't even funny; I don't think anybody should be censored. I do agree though that people should have the common sense not to be disrespectful to others, but common sense isn't so common.

    Alas, it's not how people see things here.

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    V.I.P. Aziyade's Avatar
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    MizzNaa, AMAZING post. Really.

    What's a little freakishly frightening is that I can see certain aspects you describe happening in the US. The sale of fear and outrage to distract people from what is really happening; the poverty tied with lack of education (which in our case is certainly helped out by talk radio and the extremist media); big money coming in to "sell us" on their idea of culture.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Erik's Avatar
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    Egypt President Mohamed Morsi Seizes New Powers, Called 'Pharaoh'

    The already-powerful President of Egypt has recently made himself even more powerful. Personally, I would like to believe that he is restoring Egypt to greatness as a nation that can hold its own with Israel, Libya, and other Middle Eastern nations, but many Egyptians are protesting him; calling him a pharaoh and a dictator. I don't know what to think about it yet, although I would have preferred a return to Nasser-style socialism than a theocracy of any kind.

    And yet, there is some good news. If belly dancing is ever outlawed in Egypt, there are many countries around the world where it will thrive.

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