As tensions between police and people of color escalate, and as hostility against Arabs and Muslims in the United States rises again (all the events referenced below are from only the previous twelve months), a handy pocket guide for Arab Americans, offering the do’s and don’t’s—or really just the don’t’s—to staying safe is clearly necessary. This guide is inspired by the United Arab Emirates’ official advisory, which bravely told its citizens to avoid donning traditional dress while traveling abroad. Consequently, this handy pocket guide should not to be kept in the pocket of a thobe, since a thobe should not be worn in America.
A Handy Pocket Guide of Ten Things Not to Do in Public if You’re Arab in America!
1. Do not speak Arabic!
Yes, it’s your language and one of the world’s great linguistic treasures. Yes, it can be confused with advanced mathematical symbols. And, yes, attempts to learn it have lowered the GPAs of many American undergraduates. But seeing, or worse, hearing the Arabic language will scare some people. And let’s face it, their safety is more important than yours.
2. Do not wear traditional Arab clothes!
Everyone knows that wearing a hijab is “passive terrorism” (thank you, US Department of Defense!), so it’s only natural that kanduras, dishdashas, and jilbabs will also frighten some people. And let’s face it, their safety is more important than yours.
3. Do not eat Arabic food!
Who doesn’t love baklawa? But transporting the syrupy, delicious treat usually requires a box, and, as everyone also knows, Arabs carrying boxes induces panic in some people, whose safety is more important than yours.
4. Do not be under five years-of-age (if you are a Syrian refugee orphan)!
Chris Christie is scared of this child and, let’s face it, Chris Christie’s safety is more important than yours. And the child’s, too.
5. Do not request to switch seats on an airplane!
If you ask for anything on a flight, prepare to be treated worse than Alec Baldwin playing “Words With Friends” on American Airlines. Remember, other passengers’ peace of mind is more important than yours.
6. Our Best advice: Do not fly (there’s a good chance you’re on the no-fly list anyway)!
As the US government itself says, “concrete facts are not necessary” to get on the no-fly list, and it has taken years for some people to be able finally to fly. For Arabs, walking is often faster.
7. Do not go to a mosque!
It took President Obama until February 2016 to visit his first U.S. mosque, and you can’t wait a few weeks, or maybe years? Besides, let’s face it, mosques make some people nervous, and their nerves are more important than yours.
8. Do not build clocks!
You think it will turn out as well for you as it did for Ahmed Mohamed? Better not take the chance.
9. Do not look like a Sikh (who many still assume are Arab, by which they mean Muslim because they still don’t know the difference between an Arab and a Muslim—and a Sikh)!
Beards, turbans, brown skin. You see the confusion, right? It’s asking a lot for the muddle-headed to see the difference. Help them out a little and shave.
10. Do not remind fellow Americans that Arabs are American and have been part of the United States for well over a century (and that Muslims have been here for much longer still)!
No one likes a pedant.