5 Phrases Arabs Must Stop Using

Originally published on Scoop Empire August 10, 2014

No one is perfect. I mean, yeah, we’re pretty damn awesome, but at the end of the day, Arabs are far from perfect. Many of our faults lie in our silly old ideologies. Some of these notions are being cemented by some of the most obscene phrases. I present them below, but I’m not one to present a problem without a solution…


1. Abeed


The Lebanese chocolate formerly known as “Ras El Abed” was rebranded as “Tarboush” in 2010. A local whiskey called “Ras El Abd” is still sold in Egypt.

To me this is probably the most important because it’s 2014 and I still hear this word being used by Arabs in America. “Abeed” means slave, but it is also used as a term to describe black people that has the same connotation as the N word. Whether or not people are aware, it is in fact a derogatory phrase.

Arabs must stop trying to justify the use of the word by arguing “kolna abeed allah”, which means we are all slaves of god. I would never consider myself as a slave of a deity let alone a slave of a society. Using religion to legitimize an idea is ignorance in its purest form.

For this phrase I offer you the word “Soud” or “Asmar” instead, which translates into darker-skinned. If anyone is familiar with racism in a post 9/11 world, it’s Arabs; don’t reciprocate the hate.


2. Menyak

if words could kill

“If Words Could Kill” by Ayad Alkadhi, Iraq

Menyak” is the Arabic version of fag; the word translates into “a man who gets fucked.” Let’s be clear: There are Arabs in the Middle East and in the diaspora who are gay – whether they’re in or out of the closet, they exist. Using derogatory words like menyak are tools that suppress a person’s sense of self.

If there’s a positive umbrella term for LGBTQI folks like “queer” in Arabic, I’m unaware of it, but we need one!


3. Kous Anything

One day my brother texted me demanding I go to the gynecologist immediately. When I asked why, he told me, “I’ve done a lot of stupid shit lately, so I’m worried you might be infertile.” Kous emakkous okhtakkouswhatever female living relative.

I can’t seem to understand what a woman’s vaj has to do with the ridiculous acts of her male relative? The phrase is blatantly misogynistic; there is no denying or justifying the phrase.

As a woman, I’ve always wondered why a woman’s sexual organ was the target of the insult, while a male’s sexual organ is totally disregarded. The alternative to this phrase? Anything, just don’t swear at my home girl, she has nothing to do with the idiotic actions of my brother.


4. Yl3an el Yahud


I’m Palestinian, so I’m not exactly Israel’s #1 fan, but I will be the first to say that this phrase is extremely dangerous. I’ve attended my fair share of pro-Palestinian rallies since I was able to walk. I’ve marched with Rabbis, Israelis, and Jews, all of whom wanted the same thing I do: peace.

Solidarity is a powerful concept that can be accomplished with mutual respect. This respect can only be achieved by first erasing demeaning phrases that belittle a religion. In this case, I think it is key to remember that there is a massive difference between a religion, nationality and right-wing extremism.


5. “Of course they did, they’re (insert Arab nationality)”

It’s why there has always been misery, war and separation in the region. It’s why we were colonized, over and over again. It’s why Western countries have installed tyrants in our lands who brought decades of collective punishment. It’s why we’ve been doomed to dress in black indefinitely.

No one hates Arabs more than Arabs themselves; it will always be the biggest fault in our narrative. It’s despicable that with an array of Arabs with minorities within minorities, we choose to let our diversity divide us. I’m Greek Orthodox; you’re Druze, he’s Armenian and she’s Nubi. They speak Falahi and we speak Medani.

It’s the most beautiful feature of the Middle East, hence why we need to treat our external variances as a blessing. Americans boast over the fact that their nation is a melting pot, and it has served them positively. Not only do we need to be actively more accepting of each other, but we must do so rightfully in order to celebrate our diversity.

Reality is, we’ve been doing this separation thing for so long and it has not been effective, not in the least bit. “The people united, will never be defeated.” Yalla, get to it.


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