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Not all Middle Easterners are Muslim, Arab

Nov. 21, 05

Let's play a little word game.

Arab. Muslim. Middle Easterner.

Synonyms, right? Wrong.

Webster's dictionary defines an Arab as "A member of a Semitic people inhabiting Arabia." A Muslim is a follower of the teachings of Islam, and a Middle Easterner is someone who lives in the geographic region.

The idea that the three are synonymous is far too common in the American population. Learning they are not is key to having peace in the region.

While a large part of the Middle East is made of Muslim Arabs, they are not the only group in the area, and even within those communities there are vast cultural, social and religious differences.

There are some countries such as Tunisia, which is in North Africa, that are primarily Muslim and Arab. However, countries like this are not common in the Arabic speaking world.

More typical of the region are countries such as Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Iran. Lebanon, for example, is only 60 percent Muslim, and that group is broken up into large factions of Shi'ite, Sunni, and Druse Muslims. There's also a large Christian group in Lebanon - 39 percent to be exact, according to the CIA World Factbook.

All these groups have a long history of fighting with one another and certainly don't present a unified Lebanon, let alone a part of a larger unified Middle East.

Syria, much like Lebanon, is made up of vastly different groups. Syria is 74 percent Sunni Muslim, 16 percent Alwait, Druse and other minority Muslim sects, and 10 percent Jewish.

Also, nearly one in 10 Syrian citizens is Kurdish or Armenian, not Arab.

You'll find even more diversity in Iraq, where only an estimated 75 percent of the population is Arab. The other 25 percent is made up mostly of Kurds, with small Turkoman and Assyrian sects.

In Iran, the majority of the population is Persian, not Arab. In fact, Iran is only 3 percent Arab.

Then there's Israel, which is most definitely a part of the Middle East, but is a Jewish state.

Even in Saudi Arabia, the literal Mecca of the Middle East, one in 10 citizens is Afro-Asian.

Confused?

Just assuming someone who "looks" Middle Eastern is Arab and Muslim is more than a conceptual problem, it can offend them too.

When I asked Philip Daniel, a senior English major who is an American-born Assyrian, about the frustrations he said: "I think it's really annoying when people just assume I'm Arab and Muslim because of the way I look. Yes, my parents immigrated from Iraq, but I'm Assyrian and Catholic. I wouldn't assume all Caucasians are white Anglo-Saxon Protestants, so I don't think it's asking too much to not have that kind of assumption put on me."

Daniel has a point. Statistically, America isn't much more diverse than most countries in the Middle East. Seventy-six percent of America's citizens are Protestant or Roman Catholic. Also, the U.S. is 82 percent white according to the CIA world fact book. That sounds just about the same as Syria or Lebanon to me.

In America we embrace our religious and ethnic heritages and surely wouldn't want all our ethnic and cultural differences lumped together under one blanket term.

People with ethnic backgrounds based in the Middle East are just as proud of their heritage and culture as those of us in America are.

Not all Americans are Christian Caucasian, and not all Middle Easterners are Muslim Arabs. In both regions people are diverse and proud of the diversity.

The golden rule applies here. Do unto others as you would have done unto yourself.

Maybe applying that to understanding differences is the first step to a greater peace.

Columns reflect the opinion of the author and not necessarily that of the Northern Star staff

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Who are the Christians of Iraq? 

November = Tishrin II

Not all Middle Easterners are Muslim, Arab Nov. 21, 05

The Middle East Needs Lebanese Christians Nov. 21, 05

Academic Conference on Seyfo [genocide] Held in Sweden Nov. 20, 05

Anovel by Abdulsalam Nov. 20, 05 

Harbole": A documentary film Nov. 20, 05

Letter To the Hellenic Parliament  Nov. 20, 05

My Grandmother Heranus  Nov. 19, 05

Books About the Assyrians Nov. 17, 05  

A Moslem discovers the praise of Christian and Jewish scriptures in the Koran  Nov. 17, 05

Iran is behind the Badr Brigade who are accused of jailing and torturing the Sunnies Nov. 17, 05 

Democracy, the Kurdish Style.  Nov. 17, 05

Talabani Promises Pope Equality and Respect for All Religions Nov.16, 05

Assyrian Wedding Comes to Australian TV Nov. 15, 05

In Jordan, Chaldean Catholics help Iraqis Nov. 15. 05

Are you a Christian in the Middle East?  Nov. 14, 05

The Assyrian General Conference Election Platform for Iraq Nov. 12, 05

Old hotel may become home for Hurricane Katrina victims Nov. 12, 05

Iraqi leader affirms Christians' rights Nov. 11, 11, 05

Egypt's Christian-Muslim divide 11, 11, 05

Assyrian Family Attacked in Tikrit Nov. 11, 05

Ancinet Assyrian Style Citadel in Los Angeles Nov. 11, 05

Priests say Iraqi Christians now victims of extortion Nov. 08, 05

Iraq; International Religious Freedom Report 2005 Nov. 08, 05

Chaldean Synod to focus on Iraq and Liturgy Nov. 08, 05

Assyrian Killed in Kirkuk's Car Bombing Nov. 05, 05

Funeral of Grace Mgr. J. Y. Cicek Nov. 05, 05 

Witnesses Describe Ballot Fraud in Nineveh Nov. 04, 05

Chaldean synod should tackle Christian migration and evangelicals' proselytism,  11. 04, 05 

Unexpected Death of His Eminence Mor Julius Yeshu Çiçek Shocks Assyrians & the Syrian Orthodox Church Nov. 03, 05  

Three Christian schoolgirls beheaded in Indonesia Nov. 03, 05

On the trail of stolen Iraqi art Nov. 03, 05

Lost in the Sunni Triangle Leaders of Baghdad church presumed dead.  Nov. 03, 05

Who is Killing the Iraqi's and the Americans?   Nov. 02, 05

What Next in Iraq?  Nov. 02, 05

An American's View of Iraq's Assyrians  Nov. 01, 05

October = Tishrin I

New Coalitions Emerge for Parliamentary Elections in Iraq10, 31, 05

Should the U.S. Withdraw? Let the Iraqi People Decide 10, 31, 05

Those Who Voted Against Constitution Are Terrorists: Iraqi President 10, 30, 05

An Assyrian Engineer Killed by the Kurds in Kirkuk 10, 30, 05

Kurds Reclaiming Prized Territory In Northern Iraq 10, 30, 05

Dwyer: Most Iraqis want a constitution - and want U.S. troops to leave 10, 30, 05

The oldest lense 10, 28, 05

Westminster Hall debate on Iraqi Kurdistan  i.e. northern Iraq 10, 25, 05

Iraq constitution approved  10, 25, 05 

Assyrian and Babylonian medicine was surprisingly advanced 10, 24, 05 

What's in a Name? 10, 12, 05 

Draft constitution denies equal rights, say Iraq's Christians  10, 22, 05

Rejection of Iraqi Referendum Possible as Nineveh Vote Fraud Reviewed 10, 21, 05 

Rosie Malek-Yonan's Schedule of The Crimson Field Book Tour 10, 20, 05

TURKEY DECRIES the Assyro-Chaldean MONUMENT IN FRANCE 10, 20, 05

Vote Figures for Crucial Ninveh Province Don't Add Up 10, 19, 05

Iraq Constitution: Bad news for Christians  10, 19. 05

Assyrian students unite 10, 19, 05

Iraq bishops ready to seek help from Pope  10, 19, 05

Charter vote resonates with Valley Iraqis Likely passage gives many hope 10. 18. 05  

Dividing the Chaldeans from the Assyrians by the Iraqi Constitution  10, 18, 05

A monument in France dedicated to the Remembrance of Assyro-Chaldean massacres by the Ottoman Turks. 10, 17, 05

Swing state' of Nineveh may be moving in favour of constitution 10, 15, 05 

Iraq votes for the Constitution and for its future 10, 14, 05

Forgotten victims - Iraqi Christians who speak the language of Jesus  10, 14, 05

Mgr Sako: people in Kirkuk have not read the constitution but will vote  10,13, 05

Terrorism strikes all Iraqis, says Patriarch 10, 13, 05

Assyriska a national football team without a country  10, 12, 05

Referendum: 'Yes' in Kurdistan and Southern cities and 'No' in Kirkuk, al Anbar and Diala 10, 12, 05

Chaos depriving Towns from Voting - The Minorities Fear the Domination of Islamic Parties10, 12, 05 

Bas-reliefs of winged goddesses discovered in western Iran 10, 12, 05

Immigration of Iraqi Chaldeans Abroad Passes through Jordan 10, 12, 05

Baghdadis tell their stories  10, 12, 05

Assyrialogist Henry Saggs Dies at 84 10, 10, 05

Letter by Ms. Jacqueline Zomaya The Assyrian representative to the Iraqi National Assembly 10, 10, 05

The Kurds are "cleansing" their domain ­ and provoking a civil war in Iraq  10, 09, 05

Nestorian label "imposed unjustly upon the Assyrians"  10, 08, 05

Iran's Assyrian MP-Felicitation to the Supreme Leader  10, 8, 05

Syriac Manuscripts from the Vatican Library: Volume 1 10, 08, 05

Sunnis Threaten Referendum Boycott if Rules Not Changed  10, 05, 05

Helping the Iraqi refugees in Jordan  10, 04, 05

Final Draft of Iraqi Constitution  10, 03, 05

Two More Assyrian Children Orphaned  10, 02, 05

Discoveries of the Assyrian antiquities in Syria 10, 01, 05 

Sectarian Strife tears apart Baghdad's Neighborhoods 10, 01, 05

September = Eilool

POLITICS-IRAQ: Kurd's Voting Shenanigans Cloud Key Province 9, 28, 05 

Church in Iraq Helps Rebuild New Orleans Parish; U.S. Relief Agency Bridges Partnership 9, 28, 05

The Armenian Genocide And The Assyrian Factor 9, 28, 05

Interview with the Writer and the Historian Rosie Malek-Younan 9, 28, 05

Assyrian Cultural Festival in Ceres CA. 9, 27, 05

Swedish Radio's Decision to End Turkish Language Broadcasts 9, 27, 05

Assyrian Refugees Face Harsh Discrimination in Greece 9, 26, 05

A cry of help by the Assyrians 9, 26, 05

samples of songs by various Eastern and Western Assyiran singers. 9, 24, 05

USAID: Iraq Reconstruction and Humanitarian Relief  9, 24, 05

4 Assyrians Killed in Assassination Attempt on Former Iraq Assyrian Minister  9, 23, 05 

Seminar in Stokholm About Seyfo ( world war one massacres)  9, 22, 05

Iraq chaos threatens ancient faith 9, 22, 05 

The Crimson Field Previews 9, 17, 05  

Treatment of Horses" by the Assyrian scientist of the 13th century Faraj  9, 21, 05 

A New Satellite T.V. Program From San Jose 9, 20, 05

English translation of the ancient Mesopotamian tablets  9, 20, 05

First Nestorian [Church of the East] search engine goes online 9, 19, 05

Download Assyrian songs.by ReeMon 9, 18, 05 

Letter from the 'Save the Assyrian Campaign'. 9, 16, 05 

Growing Opposition to Dividing the Assyrians 9, 16, 05

Books by Assyrian writers 9, 15, 05

English cardinal warns of Iraqi constitution  9, 14, 05

Brutality Against Christians in Iraq Continues 9, 13, 05

John Kanno for Congress  9, 12, 05

Reply to Culomnist Ken Rudin   9, 12, 05

Assyrians: Wine-producing season starts in Midyat 9, 11, 05

Iraqi Christians cautious about new constitution 9, 11, 05

Assyrian Human Rights Documentation Project Launched in Canada 9, 6, 05

Fire Consumes Over 500 Assyrian Shops in Baghdad Suburb 9, 6, 05 

Education in Armenia for Assyrians and other Minorities 9, 6, 05

Capital of Musasir gov't in northwest Iran Discovered  9, 5, 05

The Assyrian Democratic Organization Rejects Iraq's Constitution 9, 4, 05

The Ordeal of the Christians in Arab countries 9, 3, 05

August = Tubbakh

"Arab Christians"? Not in My View  8, 31, 05

Emotional Funeral for Assyrian Murdered By Kurds in Iraq 8, 31, 05 

Risking it all for a song 8, 31, 05

Iraq's draft constitution and the ChaldoAssyrians 8, 30, 05

Kurdish Reprisal Attacks Against Assyrian Christians in Iraq  8, 27, 05

For Basra's Christians, Hussein era the good old days 8, 28, 05

Assyrian Restuarant in Chicago Reminds Iraqis of Home 8, 28. 05

Assyrians in Northern Iraq terrorized by the Kurdish Mlitia 8, 27, 05

Iraq's Proposed constitution could lead to fragmented state. 8, 27, 05

Conflicts between Kurds and the Shabak 8, 26, 05

New Iraq constitution may throw women's rights into Stone Age  8, 26, 05

Assyrians of Telesqof demonstrate against being divided in the Constitution 8, 25. 05

Assyrian Demonstrators Voice their Concern about the New Iraqi Constitution 8, 24, 05

A letter from the Rep.of Shabak in the National Assermbly  8, 24, 05

New Iraq constitution must protect Christians 8, 22, 05 

The text of the latest Proposed Iraq Constitution  8, 22, 05

Outside View: Who lost Iraq?  8, 22, 05

Iraq's Religious Minorities Concerned About Islamic Constitution 8, 22, 05  

Iraq TV's 'Cops' breaks new ground  8, 21, 05  

Young Catholics Gather in Baghdad  8, 20 05

Iraqis Squeezed Out By Kurdish Expansion, Muslim-Centric Constitution 8, 20, 05

A Memoradum from the Christians of Iraq to the Drafters of the Constitution. 8, 20, 05

Shafting Nineveh: The Fate of Iraqi Christians 8, 20, 05

Plea for Assyrian Christians and Iraqi minorities 8, 18, 05

Undemocratic aspects of the new Iraqi constitution draft 8, 17, 05

Iraqis vent rage on call-in TV after bombs kill 43 8, 17, 05

Iraq's Non-Muslims' Constitution Fears  8, 17, 05

Kurdish Gunmen Open Fire on Demonstrators in North Iraq 8, 16, 05

Their suffering continues 8, 14, 05

IRAQ: Focus on constitutional concerns 8, 14, 05

Photos form homeland  8, 14, 05

Despite Turmoil, Christians Place Faith in New Iraq 8, 13, 05 

Iraqi-American Translators: The Untold Story 8, 12, 05

Life in Ankawa 8, 12, 05

Why Torah's Hebrew script was Changed to the square Assyrian script 8, 11, 05

Assyrian Restaurant in Chicago  8, 10, 05

Speech at the Commonwealth Club of California By Fred Aprim 8, 10, 05

KURDS TAKE A HARD-LINE STANCE ON IRAQI CONSTITUTION  8, 10, 05

72nd Assyrian American National Convention   8, 09, 05

Unresolved Iraqi Constitutional Points  8, 09, 05

Information wanted for Upcoming Documentary about Iraqi women 8, 09, 05

Assyrian Objection to the Nationality Law 8, 06, 05

Iraqi Christians Remember Church Bombings One Year Later 8, 05 05

Looted history  8, 05, 05 

Book Release: Rosie Malek-Yonan's "The Crimson Field" 8, 05, 05 

Iraq Must Avoid a Rollback of Rights 8, 04, 05 

Nina Shea: Rule of law, rule of Islam  8, 4, 05

Iraqis in U.S. Won't Vote on Constitution 8, 03, 05

Bush's Global War on Christians 8, 01, 05

An Open Letter to Patriarch Mar Ignatius Zakka I  8, 01, 05 

Democracy could struggle in Islamic Iraq  7, 30, 05

Assyrian Granny Shimmes's Contribution to Rendezvous of Civilizations 7, 29, 05

House amends funding bill to help Iraqi Christians 7, 29, 05

Iraq draft constitution fails to protect religious, human rights, USCIRF says  7, 29, 05

 

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