No…this is not a riddle or some lame joke but actually a serious question and does not only apply to Arabs but to every other nationality, ethnicity, culture or race out there. The question is what is it that defines you in that awkward box that you tick on a census or equal opportunities form?
Al-Jazz has been running a series of articles surrounding Arab Unity and one of these was What makes an Arab?
Sati al Husri seemed to think that:
Every individual who belongs to the Arab countries and speaks Arabic is an Arab. He is so, regardless of the name of the country whose citizenship he officially holds. He is so, regardless of the religion he professes or the sect he belongs to. He is so,regardless of his ancestry, lineage or the roots of the family to which he belongs to. He is an Arab.
That seems to be a very cut and dry explanation for what it is to be something and seems to lay everything at the door of langauge. But what about those living abroad who don’t speak their original language or indeed those living in the Arab world who haven’t mastered the language properly?
In the Al-Jazz article one of the contrubutors gives an anwer which certainly expands the question beyond its ordinary boundaries
Khaled Bahaaeldin, 37, surgeon – Egyptian
“I believe that Arab identity is the product of a historical interaction among people sharing a geographically unpartitioned area.
This interaction comprises theological, cultural, linguistic and political components, each of which takes precedence in a particular historical era. But I have to stress that the ‘intra-actions’ between Arabs have never been due to a singular component.
Indeed, the Arab inhabitants of the Middle East, despite the obvious chauvinisms, could claim communality with each other.”
I believe that the root of this identity lies also in values, religion, habits, attitudes etc. Also a certain unconditional love for a place that seems a little crazy at the best of times.