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Houston Breakthrough, July 1980 - August 1980
Pages 20 and 21
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Houston Breakthrough, July 1980 - August 1980 - Pages 20 and 21. July 1980 - August 1980. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. University of Houston Digital Library. Web. December 25, 2014. http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/286/show/275.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

(July 1980 - August 1980). Houston Breakthrough, July 1980 - August 1980 - Pages 20 and 21. Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. Retrieved from http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/286/show/275

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

Houston Breakthrough, July 1980 - August 1980 - Pages 20 and 21, July 1980 - August 1980, Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters, Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries, accessed December 25, 2014, http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/286/show/275.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

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Title Houston Breakthrough, July 1980 - August 1980
Publisher Breakthrough Publishing Co.
Date July 1980 - August 1980
Subject.Topical (LCSH)
  • Women
  • Texas
  • Periodicals
  • Feminism--United States--Periodicals
Subject.Geographic (TGN)
  • Houston, Texas
Genre (AAT)
  • periodicals
Language English
Physical Description 33 page periodical
Type (DCMI)
  • Text
  • Image
Format (IMT)
  • image/jpeg
Original Item Location HQ1101 .B74
Original Item URL http://library.uh.edu/record=b2332724~S11
Digital Collection Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters
Digital Collection URL http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist
Repository Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries
Repository URL http://info.lib.uh.edu/about/campus-libraries-collections/special-collections
Use and Reproduction Educational use only, no other permissions given. Copyright to this resource is held by the content creator, author, artist or other entity, and is provided here for educational purposes only. It may not be reproduced or distributed in any format without written permission of the copyright owner. For more information please see UH Digital Library Fair Use policy on the UH Digital Library About page.
File name index.cpd
Item Description
Title Pages 20 and 21
File name femin_201109_562ar.jpg
Transcript i <<: .■:■.■■■:■■.■////. ■'■:■■■■■ v.v,-« <Z^»$%m PATTERN OF PREJUDICE Western history paints stereotypical portrait of Arabs and Islam Wfy BY SHERYL AMEEN- When Channel 8 cancelled the Houston showing of Death of a Princess, Sheryl Ameen felt that the ensuing debate over First Amendment rights overshadowed the real issue—that of stereotypical treatment of Arabs and Islam throughout history. From her perspective as an Arab-American and an art historian, Ameen examines this phenomenon. In the controversial docudrama, Death of a Princess, an Arab friend encourages Christopher Ryder to penetrate the "private center" of the Arab world. Ryder failed in his attempt, as others have failed before, perpetuating and reinforcing a centuries-old stereotype of the Arab and Islam. Amid cries of First Amendment violations, the initial objections to ethnic defamation were somehow lost. Mutual respect between nations with different backgrounds is a prerequisite for world coexistence. Western history shows a continuing pattern of prejudice toward the Arab world. There are three time periods richest in western perceptions of the Arab and Islam. The first is that age after the appearance of Islam in Europe and prior to its expulsion from Spain. The second starts with the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte and French and English colonial expansionism. The third is the period after World War I when vast amounts of petroleum were discovered in the Middle East. Within two hundred years of the death of Mohammed (June 8, 632) the armies of Islam gained an empire from the Indus and Oxus Rivers in the East to the Pyranees in the West. The rapidity and success of these conquests struck fear in the hearts of Europeans who saw the Arab advance checked only by the Franks under Charles Martel at the Battle of 20 Poitiers in 732. The Arabs remained in Sicily until 1091 and in Spain until 1492. Those who had once been under Arab rule represent visually their former overlords in a restrained manner by concentrating on the cultural contributions of Islam. Depictions in northern Europe were rarely the result of immediate experiences, but were based, rather, on tales of travellers and warriors. The Church exaggerated these fables and used distortions and mockery to discredit the legitimacy of Islam. Islam was portrayed as the antithesis of Christianity and Mohammed as its Antichrist. Medieval European values included a code of chivalry in which the Christian knight dedicated his life to the cult of the Virgin Mary. However, all the while a higher ideal was being promoted, the Crusaders were committing untold atrocities in the Holy Land. Accusations of sexual licentiousness were used to bring Mohammed and his coreligionists into disrepute. In the West, Mohammed was supposed to have permitted unrestrained carnality to his followers. This was a perversion of the Moslem acceptance of plurality of wives and Mohammed's promise to the faithful, of purified wives in heaven. A 15th century fresco in the church of San Petronio in Bologna, shows Mohammed with Julian the Apostate and Nicolas, the founder of the Nicolatian heresy. Nicolas is identified with Nicolas of Antioch who taught that the gratification of sensual passion led to spiritual calm. Hence, the fresco associates him with Mohammed. In a manuscript entitled Mirouer Historiale Abregie, dated before 1492, Mohammed is depicted reclining in a bed, dressed in luxurious oriental finery and surrounded by his four barebreasted wives. The artist alludes to sensuality at every opportunity. The lush vegetation, the selection of a bed rather that a throne for Mohammed, and inclusion of the then current French fashion of exposing female sexuality create an ambience of self-indulgence. Islam's association with physical love neatly contrasts with the spiritual love supposedly cherished by medieval Christians. Napoleon's invasion of Egypt in 1798, again made the mysterious East an object of scrutiny. Egypt was to be the beachhead for western civilization in the Islamic Orient. Imperialism, with the accom- . panying attributes of dehumanization and exploitation, had begun. The Romanticism nurtured by these events gave rise to a genre of painting known as Orientalism. These paintings filled a need for the picturesque and exotic and symbolized the East as a place where sensual pleasures were easily satisfied. Governments chose Orientalist paintings to hang in national museums and commissioned large canvases to commemorate colonial victories. Imagery varied, but probably the most vivid theme common to the greatest artists of the age was that of the harem. Delacroix, Ingres, Gerome, and Renoir portrayed women who languish in poses designed to titillate. Passive beauties, enveloped in opulence, lived conditional to the whims of their masters. Most of these artists never saw a harem, and as a general rule, the artists made their observations of Arab women from a distance. Their impressions were based on second-hand information of suspicious source and on environmental pre-conditioning. These naive portrayals persisted in the cinema with such memorable films as The Sheik with Rudolf Valentino. After World War II Western companies developed a petroleum industry in the Arab World. In 1960, after two successive arbitrary price cuts by major petroleum ■■■■'■•#••;. ■:■■ ■■■■:-■/■■:■■:■■■ ^^£vfa^ '//,/, , '£-$fle ■, '-.'*/„ ■'''"/, m . „. .::<:-v:>->x>*x-x:; ■'.& Above: Odalisque with her Slave; Jean-Auguste-Dominiqu e Ingres, 1858. Right: Mohammed from Mirouer Historiale Abregie, dated before 1492. companies, without consulting the countries concerned, the governments of Saudi Arabia and Venezuela issued a declaration recommending that the petroleum exporting nations pursue a common policy in order to protect their rightful interests. In September of that year, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries was founded. The Arabs had begun to assert their independence after 500 years of foreign domination. The impact of OPEC was clearly felt here when, in the aftermath of the War of 1973, the Arab petroleum producing nations, angered over President Nixon's decision to provide Israel with military aid of over $2 billion, imposed a total embargo against the United States. After the oil embargo, media portrayal of the Arab changed from the innocuous racism carried over from the 19th century into an unrelenting attack on the Arab character and culture. The element of fear had been reintroduced. Western hege- HOUSTON BREAKTHROUGH mony was being threatened. Its response was a distorted image of the Arab. Now television and film pour out pictures of Arab men as malevolent sheiks and Arab women as lascivious belly dancers. No other ethnic group has been so consistently portrayed in unflattering terms in recent years. The Arab is always the bad guy. Death of a Princess is the sum total of all that has preceded it. Since it controls the world's largest known petroleum reserves and has maintained the most conservative orthodox Islamic traditions, Saudi Arabia is a logical target. Its strangeness can be easily assailed. Princesses in the Saudi royal family are described as "predators" who relieve their boredom with the "most intricate sex lives." Women are seen cruising the desert in their automobiles to find men for illicit affairs. that portrayal is diametrically opposite to what the Saudis hold dearest, the sanctity of the family unit, with the JULY/AUGUST woman as its dominant component. Both were denigrated in Death of a Princess. The average viewer, unfamiliar with Saudi fact, cannot sift through the damaging fiction. It colors all our perceptions. The Arabs are unworthy of our respect and consideration because they are uncivilized, morally guilty. The mistaken judgement dictates our political policy. Why should we have to change our attitudes about the Arabs? Because we have a community of interest with them—that is, we need each other. But the time is fatet approaching when we will need them a lot more than they need us. When that happens, we will have to rely on friendship to sustain good relations. A more responsible media would certainly help facilitate the transition. Sheryl Ameen's exhibit, Costumes of the Arab World, is on display at the Smithsonian's Renwick Gallery, Washington DC, through July. Iir'ii !i V/ * . / ▼*■ ;• k* * *^* m«m