Jordan: Beyond Stereotypes

Last Thursday, I attended an event organised by the Danish Embassy in Jordan and hosted at Al-Hussein Cultural Centre in Amman. The event creatively tackled the issue of stereotypes between Denmark and the Arab world. It featured a variety of activities such as a stand-up comedy gig by Danish-Egyptian comedian Omar Marzouk, who showed the audience clips from a Danish puppet film about Muslims, and an Egyptian film called The Danish Experiment. The event also featured Danish director Georg Larsen and Lebanese film maker Ahmad Ghosien, who showed clips from their film “an Arab come to Town“, which sheds the light on the lives of Arab immigrants in neighbourhoods of Copenhagen, and talked about their experience producing it. The event then concluded with a panel discussion that featured the Danish Ambassador to Jordan H.E. Thomas F. Lund-Sørensen, blogger Mariam Abu- Adas from 7iberdotCom, Larsen and Ghosien, journalist Adam Hannestad from the Danish newspaper Politiken, and Marzouk. The panelists engaged in a question and answer session with the audience, and the issues raised ranged between how to get past stereotypes and the future of the relationship between Denmark and the Arab and Muslim worlds.

Courtesy of 7iberdotCom

Courtesy of 7iberdotCom

Ambassador Lund-Sørensen announced the event on 7iberdotCom:

Beyond Stereotypes – as the event is called – will put spotlight on stereotypes.

I suppose most of us would like to be looked upon as individuals and not as belonging to one big bulk or group of individuals that can be put into a box defined by one culture, one nationality, one linguistic group and/or one religion. I also suppose that most of us have tried at one point or the other to be stereotyped into one of these boxes and felt that we did not belong there at all – although we did share some similarities with the others in that same box?

In many ways we are lucky. Globalisation, satellite TV and the internet has given us opportunities that the majority of the generation before us had not even imagined would be possible. Opportunities not only to watch – but also an opportunity to interact.

These media are very powerful tools when it comes to creating stereotypes, transmitting them – or breaking them down. On Thursday 16th we are inviting you to meet a stand-up comedian, a journalist, a blogger, two filmmakers and an actor who will put spotlight on media and stereotypes. I hope that you will join us in a constructive reflection and debate over perceived stereotypes and how the media can help breaking down stereotypes – not building them up. To get the debate going I challenge you to start blogging about your thoughts right here and now and then we will follow up on the 16th.

Following the event, the Ambassador wrote some thoughts about the evening on his personal blog:

Thank you very much for your participation in the “Beyond Stereotype” event last night. It got nicely crowded and a little bit to warm in the theatre. The feedback I got in the lounge afterwards was very positive.

I didn’t get the possibility to comment on a sceptical remark from the audience about the lack of Danish negative stereotypes on the net. I do not claim scientific value to my research but I actually didn’t manage to find some really negative Danish stereotypes through Wiki or Google (only in English). Maybe it is because we are just a very small population of 5.5 million (like Jordan) or simply not interesting enough as an ethnic group. Even searching for Scandinavian negative stereotypes didn’t yield much. Didn’t look for specific Jordanian stereotypes – but I guess it will be difficult as well. These three links were the best I could find for Danish stereotypes.

What are Danes like?    Yahoo Answers     Yahoo Answers 2

Where can you watch the full version of “An Arab comes to Town”? I was told that it will be released on DVD soon – in the meantime the Embassy together with the Royal Film Commission are planning an open-air screening at the Film Commission late May early June – probably in connection with a workshop with the participation of the Directors Georg Larsen and Ahmad Ghosien. We will announce the screening in the same way as we did with the “Beyond Stereotype” – through the Royal Film Commission and

He also encouraged Jordanians to continue discussing the topic on different forums:

The discussion can continue – either on this site, on or on some of the other bloggers site as on Roba’s which have drawn a large number of comments (some aggressive) on Arab stereotyping. Unfortunately I didn’t notice this until today

On the same day of the event, blogger Roba Al-Assi, posted a video clip of a song by Lebanese Pop singer Jad Shwery, in which he tackles stereotypes about Arabs in his own way:

Roba wrote:

This song is the funniest […] ever.
Really funny. Wonder if it manages to break stereotypes anywhere.
I love the disclaimer in the beginning “Every individual that has participated in the following video is an Arab.” Wow.

The post spurred an interesting debate about how one should or should not tackle these stereotypes. Here are a few of the comments that were left on the post:

April 16, 2009 @ 2:15 pm

Ummmm…. interesting? (and you know what I mean when I say interesting, Roba)
So in his (sad) attempt to remove labels off Arabs, this dude has actually used every stereotype in the book and applied them to Arabs?!
So the west will accept us more when they see that we do botox and drugs?
And if being an Arab is such a big deal, then why isn’t he singing this in Arabic?
It’s so sad it’s hilarious!

April 16, 2009 @ 3:27 pm

Bloody rocks! love it…. he made a point that dude…. i know quite few who live like that :) …. as the Americans say “Good Job!”… now need to wait for the arab – metallica =)
Cheers for sharin…

April 16, 2009 @ 7:06 pm

Cute! But how come the Iranians do not resort to having TV orgies to prove their worth to the world? This video is another proof of westernized Arabs retardation. Instead of making our point through democracy and science and technology and culture, we show the world we we can get naked on camera. We have a totally screwed up priorities. NO wonder Arab youth seem to look up more and more to Iran. and that scares […] Arab regimes. Don’t get me wrong, I am not against this video, but separate from the other tracks, it proves we are not just a bunch of fanatics, but the rest are simply sleazy when we are not running around yelling Allahu Akbar [God is Great]. I really miss substance and moderation, something we seem to be awfully lacking.

April 16, 2009 @ 5:13 pm

it’s not going to breal the popular sterotype that whoever is named JAd Shwairi is mentally retarded.
But the clip is well-made, and will be well-received

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