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Arab Culture

In: English and Literature

Submitted By Borschti
Words 1544
Pages 7
Arabic language

First, it is important to define what actually makes an Arab. The answer is quite simple – The Arabic language! An Arab is a member of a linguistic group—and therefore, the Arab World can best be defined as the region in which people predominantly speak Arabic. Yet throughout what would be considered the Arab World, tens of thousands of people speak languages other than Arabic, ranging from the numerous dialects of Berber on the African coast of the Mediterranean to Kurdish and Armenian in southwest Asia, and so on.
Arabic is a Semitic language and the sixth most common language in the world. It is a language of religious importance since it is the holy language of the world's approximately 1 billion followers of Islam. It is used as a first language by approximately 200 million people and as a second language by about 246 million speakers. It does also belong to the six official languages of the United Nations.

It is characterized by diglossia, a linguistic situation in which two varieties of the same language have a functional distribution, with the spoken variety used in informal and intimate contexts and the written variety, the Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), acquired through literacy and used in written and formal discourse. For those wanting to do business in Arabic-speaking markets, the Modern Standard Arabic is important, because it is common to all the countries in the Arab world, and is used in newspapers, magazines, books, and government documents.
The Modern Standard Arabic is derived from the language of the Koran (known as Classical Arabic). It is very old, dating from the late 600's when the Quran was written down. No one speaks Classical Arabic as a native, nor is it used for conversation. It is learned primarily for reciting and reading the Quran.
The spoken or colloquial language is used in daily interactions, but in a situation calling for greater formality, Modern Standard Arabic is usually used. Standard Arabic is more or less the same throughout the Arab World, while there are wide differences between the various colloquial dialects.
The most-spoken variety would likely be Egyptian Arabic, with more than 50,000,000 native speakers.

Main features of Modern Standard Arabic writing:
• Words are written from right to left.
• Letters are always joined together in Arabic writing (both written and typed)

Due to the influence of Islam, the Arabic alphabet is one of the most widespread writing systems in the world that has a great influence on other languages, especially in vocabulary. Arabic influence is seen in Romance languages, particularly Spanish, Portuguese, and Sicilian, owing to both the proximity of European and Arab civilizations and 700 years of Muslim/Moorish rule in some parts of the Iberian peninsula.

The political systems in the various Arab states differ markedly. The governments range from absolute monarchies (Saudi Arabia) to constitutional monarchies (Jordan) to military dictatorships (Yemen) and from one-party democracies (Syria) to nascent actual representative governments (Lebanon).

Role of the family

The traditional Arab family constitutes an economic and social unit because all members cooperate to ensure its continuation and improve its standing in the community.
Even today, Arab society is built around the extended family system. Individuals feel a strong affiliation with all of their relatives – uncles, aunts and cousins – not just with their immediate family. The degree to which all blood relationships are encompassed by a family unit varies among families but most Arabs have over a hundred “fairly close” relatives.
Social loyalty is of great importance in Arab culture. While self-reliance, individuality, and responsibility are taught by American parents to their children, family loyalty is the greatest lesson taught in Arab families. Arab culture teaches that the needs of the group are more important than the needs of one person. Family loyalty and obligations take precedence over loyalty to friends or demands of a job. Members of a family are expected to support each other, including giving financial assistance if necessary or concerning disputes with outsiders. Family affiliation provides security and assures one that he or she will never be entirely without resources, emotional or material. Only the most foolhardy person would risk being censured or disowned by the family.
Family honor is is one of the highest values in Arab countries. The reputation, the success or failure of an individual member becomes that of the family as a whole. Every member of the family may be held responsible for the acts of every other member. If the honor is tarnished, Arabs feel shame and lose face. The sexual misbehavior of a girl, for example, reflects not only upon herself but upon her father, her brother, and her family as a whole.
The "crime of honor," which sometimes still occurs in tightly knit communities, is an attempt to restore the family's honor and place in the community by killing a sister or daughter who has been detected in sexual misconduct.

Role of the women

Women in the Arab world, have throughout history experienced discrimination and have been subject to restrictions of their freedoms and rights. Some of these practices are based on religious beliefs, but many of the limitations are cultural and emanate from tradition rather than religion.
In the past twenty years personal status laws have been revised to increase the legal rights of women in most Arab countries, either by supplementing or reinterpreting traditional Islamic law.
The degree to which women have been integrated into the workforce, politics and circulate freely in public varies widely among the Arab countries and is largely determined by the will of these countries’ leaderships. In Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt for example, educated women are very active at all levels of society. Furthermore, wearing the veil is not mandatory.
In Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the Arabian Gulf States, few women have jobs outside the home; those who do work do work only in all-female environments such as school and banks for women. Especially in the traditional country Saudi Arabia, women are required to wear the long black abaya, they have separate entrances for men and women and women are prohibited to drive. Furthermore, women interact freely only with other women and close male relatives.
Saudi Arabian females do not necessarily see themselves as repressed. Many think of themselves as protected and are frequently shocked at the crimes such as rape and physical beatings that their western female counterparts suffer
Many Arab countries allow women to vote in national elections. The last country, who granted women the right to vote, was Kuweit in 2005.But Arab women are still under-represented in parliaments in Arab states, although they are gaining more equal representation as Arab states liberalise their political systems.

Concerning the economic role, men are still the dominant gender. Men have full responsibility to support their families with the food and supplies they need and therefore they have to work and, subsequently, they have to get education to keep up with contemporary developments, while women have to take care of the house and children. But even though males head the family, women have enormous influence inside their own homes. Women do not defer to their husbands in private as they do in public. Arab women have a good deal of power in decision making. They usually have the decisive voice in matters relating to household expenditures, the upbringing and education of children and sometimes the arrangements of marriages. Most women do have their own money and Islamic religious law states clearly that they retain sole control over their money and inheritance after their marriage.


Perhaps the most common Arab characteristic is adherence to the Islamic faith. Muslim Arabs comprize about 93 percent of the Arab population and belong to several different sects including Shia and Sunni, which is the largest.
But many people outside of the Arab World do not see its religious diversity. Nearly 14 million Arabs are Christian. Large Arabic Christian populations exist in Lebanon, Syria, and Sudan, representing sizable percentages of the overall population. Although the percentage of the total population is smaller due to its greater overall population, the largest Arabic Christian community is in Egypt, center of the 6 million strong Coptic Church.
Additionally, ancient communities of Jews live in Morocco, where they are well integrated into society. Less well accepted communities of Jews also form a sizeable minority in Syria and Egypt.
Still, the overwhelming majority of Arabs follow Islam as their religion. It is important to note that while Islam is the predominant religion in much of the Arab World, Islam is much more widespread than the Arab World. Indeed, of the five nations with the largest Moslem populations—Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, and Turkey—none is Arab. This is not to deny that the Arab World is very important to Moslems worldwide. Arabic is the language of the Koran. Mecca, the holiest city of Islam, is in Saudi Arabia, and the Haj—or pilgrimage to Mecca—is one of the five pillars of Islam required of Moslems.
Islam, in many of the Arab countries, pervades all aspects of life making no distinction between the secular and the religious. Islam is as much a lifestyle as a religion in this respect.…...

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