50 years on, stereotypes of Arab world still linger

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50 years on, stereotypes of Arab world still linger

Fifty years ago, an opinion poll found that 98 percent of the British population knew little or nothing about the Arab world. This was a prime concern for the newly created Council for Arab-British Understanding (CAABU).
Today, as the YouGov poll commissioned by Arab News and CAABU highlights, that figure stands at 81 percent. A 17-percentage-point improvement is something, but still shows a worryingly high level of acknowledged ignorance and lack of understanding. It is something mirrored across Europe and North America.
This knowledge gap is something that should cause decision makers, opinion formers and educators in Britain, the rest of the West and indeed the Arab world to wake up and consider solutions to address the problem.
It is not just that those polled stated they know little or nothing about the Arab world. The evidence stacks up elsewhere. An incredible 72 percent of UK respondents said Iran is in the Arab world and — perhaps even more surprising — 48 percent also said Afghanistan is an Arab country. Turkey is seen as the third most-preferred destination to visit in the “Arab world,” despite not, of course, being part of the region.
This bears out what we at CAABU have experienced in talking to pupils at British schools, where some aged 16 and 17 were confused between the Arab world and India, even China.
Geography is not the only weakness. Only 1 percent of respondents associate Arab culture with Christianity, while just 2 percent see Arab society as being “civilized.” The two are related. The findings highlight the prevalent belief that the Arab world is separate with no linkage to the West, as if Christianity originated in Rome, and that somehow European culture — which owes so much to other cultures, including Arab — is superior.

Categories: Arab World, Arabic

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