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Who Are The Arabs?

Philip the Arab • John of Damascus • Al-Kindi • Al-Khansa Faisal I of Iraq•
Gamal Abdel Nasser • Asmahan • May Ziade

Arabs are descendants of the Semitic race.  The original Arabs lived in the Arabian Peninsula, either as town-dwellers or as nomad bedouins.  Brave and enterprising by nature, waves of these determined, resilient people migrated beyond the confines of the Peninsula and settled a vast area stretching from the Nile to the Tigris and Euphrates basin.  When, in the seventh century, the Arab Empire began to grow in size and strength, other peoples of these newly-conquered lands became gradually “Arabized, bringing their own unique backgrounds, cultures, and identities into the Arab mesh-work.

Today, the Arabs form a multi-religious nation where individuals of different creeds and sects live side by side in harmony.  Not all Arabs are Muslims and not all Muslims are Arabs.  An Arab can be a member of any religious dogma or sect thereof.  Just as the Arab people are free to profess whatever faith they may wish, the term Arab should be free of any conflation with, and/or limitation to, the Islamic denomination alone.

The best definition of an Arab is: one who, considering him/herself a member of the Arab Nation, shares a common a common heritage, language, and culture with the people of that nation.

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The Arab World is the cradle of the great monotheistic religions and the birthplace of many ancient civilizations– among them the Egyptians, Sumerians, Babylonians, Canaanites, and Phoenicians.  Hence, the Arabs are very proud of their illustrious histories and their extremely rich cultural heritage.

The Arab World has come under the direct or indirect influence of many peoples, including the Persians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, European Crusaders, Ottomans and, more recently, the British, French and Italians.  Over the course of these various interactions, the Arab peoples have responded not by integrating at the cost of their own identity, but by selecting the best aspects of each contact for incorporation into their own beautiful, distinctive cultural kaleidoscope.

For instance, over the years, the Arabs have acted as preservers of the ancient Greek and Hellenistic cultures and original contributors in the fields of Mathematics, science and philosophy.  From the seventh to the twelfth centuries A.D., Arab supremacy in cultural and scientific fields was undisputed and unrivaled in the rest of the world.

Arab scientists made unparalleled discoveries in fields that span from medicine and pharmacology, to astronomy, chemistry, and optics.  Arab theorists and scholars translated philosophical tracts from Greek, developing and enriching the texts through the addition of their own unique, insightful thoughts, reflections, and comments.  Arab geographers and historians traveled across distant lands, illustrating maps of new territories and offering rich, unprecedented descriptions of new peoples.

The Arab nation is an indispensable part of the world nation; it is a vital component, and nothing less than an essential,  foundational base.  Arabs may be but one sect of society, with one specific manner of speech, one heritage, and one culture, but to assume the seclusion of those attributes from the greater human fabric is to lose sight of the complete work’s full magnificence.

The Arab people are certainly an ancient one, but they are contemporary as well.    The core Arab identity has changed very little since the Arab peoples’ humble beginnings, and the characteristic  adventurism, ingenuity, and ability to endure, have remained constant throughout their history.  Thus, the Arab World is still a reservoir of immense skill and potential, and everyday finds better, increasingly innovative ways to apply and utilize each.  Today, Arabs are increasingly assuming the natural role assigned to them as the link between West, East, North, and South; they are taking great initiative in setting new standards for modern art, literature, and film; and, above all else, they are once again unveiling their true identity as one of the great, integral peoples of our global society.



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