Why do many Turks hate Arabs

The Arabs in the minefield of the racism discussion: discrimination against black people has a long tradition

Like the #MeToo movement, “Black Lives Matter” is more embarrassing than stirring to Arab societies. Arabs are not only victims, but also perpetrators.

When the storm of indignation that the sadistic assassination of George Floyd caused worldwide reached the Arab world, it was a gentle breeze. There were a few requests to speak on social networks, a few street demonstrations, and then it was over.

That is astonishing and outraged many. Because the Arabs know from painful experience what servitude and racism are. They suffered unspeakable things from the Crusaders, whose thirst for blood was in no way behind that of today's Islamic State. They endured the hardships of the Ottoman Empire, they had to watch how the victorious powers of the First World War absorbed the legacy of the Turks, and most of them experience Western politics to this day as a disgrace and the cause of their permanent economic crisis. Couldn't we have expected a little more solidarity with blacks?

Shared sorrow

The starting position seemed good. There are common enemies. Many Arabs see Western capitalism as the engine of imperialist oppression, many black activists say that without slavery, American capitalism could never have come into being. Depending on their needs, blacks have been mocked, belittled or demonized in the western media, while Arabs see themselves distorted into caricatures by the Hollywood film industry (“True Lies”).

The first Trump travel restrictions in 2017 mostly hit Arabs. White women who live with Arabs are just as ostracized in the West as women who have relationships with blacks. Black students do worse than East Asians, Indians and whites, Arabs as well. Arabs and blacks alike are less likely to reach top positions and earn less in the West. "Your fight is my fight," it said on posters held up by demonstrators in Tunisia.

Sworn brothers, side by side? But on the contrary. The relationship between Arabs and Sub-Saharan Africans is one of the most difficult of all, with a terrible, leaden history. At most Somali, with their racist delusions of superiority copied from the Arabs, can be as hated as the Arabs in East Africa. For almost a thousand years every Arab south of the Sahara was a slave hunter, millions of blacks were abducted from the Great Lakes region, the upper reaches of the Congo, from southern Ethiopia and Sudan to the coast of the Indian Ocean and north into the Nile Valley, and then to Arabs and Turks to be sold.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, control of the slave trade went to the colonialists, and the Arabs were still involved. In countries like Saudi Arabia and Mauritania, slavery persisted until the 1960s. In Mauritania, almost a fifth of the people still live de facto enslaved. Sub-Saharan migrants are captured, sold and forced to work in Libya.

From Algeria to Yemen, the term "Abid" ("slave") is used for black people. Afro-Arabs, dark-skinned Arabs of sub-Saharan origin, see themselves severely discriminated against. And in numerous Gulf states as well as in Lebanon, the Kafala system forces the guest workers into a de facto lawlessness that borders on slavery.

Laugh at funny people

In addition to tangible repression, there is discrimination. Blacks are third class people. TV viewers from Marrakech to Muscat laugh at painted Arabs who mimic blacks and give them mostly funny to idiot character traits. Blackfacing is common in the Arab media and many do not seem to be aware of the disparagement in it. Various great Arab shows wanted to show solidarity with the “Black Lives Matter” movement. They blackened their faces, put the pictures on the web and adorned their postings with Koran suras that sing about love for people and equality. They were properly ruffled in social networks, but were not very insightful.

Moroccan soap opera star Mariam Hussein announced that she hated it when “everything was psychologized”. “It's only an issue in America. We Arabs know no racism. "

It is a remarkable feat of displacement - and a typical one. The need to get to know the darker side of one's own story is low. Governments do nothing about it; on the contrary, they tinker with national myths. Why this fear of looking into the horror cabinet of your own history?

On the one hand, because unpleasant things could be brought to light: the fact that after the “Golden Age”, the heyday of Islam from the middle of the 8th to the middle of the 13th century, the Arab-Islamic culture only went downhill. The fact that the cultivation of the ancient scientific heritage and religious Islamic scholarship was largely the work of the Persians - when Arabic, as the language of the officially untranslatable Koran, places the Arabs towering above non-Arabic Muslims. And finally the fact that all major Arab political projects have failed: Pan-Arabism as well as pan-Islamism, Arab socialism, the step into modernity, the annihilation of Israel.

The beloved victim narrative

On the other hand, because it hurt to say goodbye to the Arab victim narrative. No matter whether on the street, in the government palace or at the university: sooner or later, almost every conversation mutates into a complaint about the depravity of the western world, the Americans, the Jews, the financial oligarchy and the Iranians. You feel misunderstood, exploited, battered. The mistakes of one's own leadership, however, are overlooked.

The others are dictatorial, corrupt and cruel. Even the rich Saudi insist on their victim status: the evil Iranians surround them and want their palaces, their oil and their lives. Isn't that clear to see in Yemen, where the Houthi are raging?

The advantages of this strategy are obvious. Being a victim helps. Victims stir Westerners who recognize their guilt and donate to pay off it. The victim status validates the argument, impregnates it against criticism and regulates the debate. Blacks, as victims of structural servitude, could not be racists at all, according to the Nation of Islam Louis Farrakhans in the 1970s.

Offenders, on the other hand, have a hard time. Offenders should be ashamed, not have a say. If the “TAZ” managing director Aline Lüllmann wishes the “White Privilege People” should be silent when structural discrimination is discussed, then that means exactly this: Shut up. That is not illuminating. But comfortable.

If the Arabs seriously came out as perpetrators, they forfeited these advantages. But they gain credibility. Germany has shown what relentless reappraisal brings. Despots like Sisi, the Egyptian president, and Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince, ensure that this does not happen. They present themselves as modernizers and benefactors. But it is precisely this creepy antiquated, condescending “goodness” towards slaves, women, peoples that the activists of “Black Lives Matter” and #MeToo want to put an end to. They don't want an act of grace. You want rights.

Passive west

The West has mostly responded in a friendly manner to #MeToo and “Black Lives Matter”. Newspapers that were once called "conservative" report with great sympathy. Laws and attitudes are being reviewed, institutions are being reorganized. Even Donald Trump felt compelled to say a few sympathetic words and decree a police form. The basic postulates of the movements - equality of rights, equality of opportunity, protection from attacks - no one questions a few arch reactionaries.

All of this is beautiful and uplifting. But at the same time it has, once again, pushed the West into the credibility trap. Does what applies to us also apply to others? For Arabs? For the people in the distant lands that were once called the “Third World”? Not really. The West would have a point of contact. The Arab “Black Lives Matter” activists are well known: It is the same people who overthrew Mubarak, Ben Ali and Ghadhafi in 2011 and who launched “Arabellion 2.0” last year in Algiers and Beirut. They are young, cheeky, urban, polyglot and cosmopolitan. The Corona crisis has hit them, the local elites are fighting them, and the reactionary trolls in the West ridicule them as agents paid for by the Americans. They needed help, the West could provide it.

But the West does nothing. Instead, he courted types like Sisis and Mohammed, sells them weapons, extracts natural gas for them and praises them as brave comrades in the fight against the Iranians. Experts call this realpolitik, shake their head alarmingly and say that there is nothing to be done about it. The world still needs a few more hashtag revolutions.