Friday, January 7, 2011

Please Stop Calling them "Christian Arabs"!

I respect Lebanese journalist Michael Young a great deal, and I find his analyses profoundly clever, responsible, poised, and wise; and that's, all the time, every time. Indeed, I have yet to re-read any of Young's past work that wasn't spot on the day he wrote it, and that isn't still spot on today. But then he comes to us with a tightly argued piece like this one, and proceeds to demolish it entirely with his bromidic use of the inaccurate, and ultimately misleading term "Arab Christian."

What is an Arab-Christian, I ask, Mr. Young? and what is it that makes, say, a Copt, an Assyrian, or a Maronite an Arab in your eyes? There is much that ails the sad lands of the Middle East; but I argue that linguistic wizardry and deception, and semantic negationism--in addition to the Arab nationalist silly need to "Arabize" anything that comes into contact with the Arabic language--are some of the Middle East's major ills. Words have specific functions and specific meanings! I fail to see how a Copt or a Maronite "user of the Arabic language", who doesn't necessarily see herself as an "Arab", I fail to see why she can't be referred to as a "user of Arabic"?

Swiss, Belgian, or Luxembourger "users of French" are referred to as Francophone Swiss, Belgians, or Luxembourgers; yet unrepentant obsolete Arabists (and their epigones in the media and the academy) somehow still feel the urge to pigeon-hole Maronites, Copts, Assyrians, and other members of proud and ancient Near Eastern national churches, as "Christian Arabs". What is a "Christian Arab"?

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