Are Arab Muslims - Dialogue with the Islamic World

Often I am asked where I come from, and the second question is almost always, "Is your family religious?" Since I moved to the United States as the daughter of a Lebanese mother and an Iraqi father, I have had to come to terms with the fact that Americans, especially white Americans, express a very strong interest in my religious affiliation, whom you come into conversation with .

And all too often they react shocked, confused or even horrified when I tell them that I, an Arab, am wholeheartedly progressive and worldly and that my ancestors look back on a long, secularist tradition. It is as if my American colleagues, although progressive like me, cannot understand that there is an Arab identity that is not linked to religious affiliations. An Arab woman with no Islamic or religious background is completely beyond her imagination.

At best, I could dismiss this confusion about my non-existent religion as a faux pas. But more and more often I ask myself whether the progressive social forces are simply showing that they have no idea about Arab culture. Many enlightened and progressive people seem to share these attitudes towards perceiving Arabs as a homogeneous mass.

No sense of differentiation

Often no distinction is made between Arabs and Muslims - without any sense of any differentiation or nuance. Both the political left and the right tend to think in black and white patterns. So we non-religious Arabs have to take on a thankless task, namely to defend ourselves against the wrong perceptions in the West and against the sectarian politics in the Arab states. But also against superficial discourses on the subject of Islam, immigration and discrimination.

At this point a coherent and unambiguous definition of the term "secularism" must follow: ThatOxford Living Dictionary defines this term as "the principle of the separation of the state from religious institutions". As an example sentence there is: "He believes that secularism means that no one is discriminated against in the context of religion".

Here I am not talking about secularism so much in relation to the constitution of a state apparatus, but rather using the term to describe a person's value system. In the case of Islam, particularly Islam in the Arab world, the effects of religion extend far beyond state institutions and permeate the daily lives of citizens, whether they are religious or not.