Friday, October 09, 2009



By Alone

This morning, I was watching a short six-minute video of the Rawdat El Zuhur, an elementary school in Jerusalem, doing dances on a website by ANERA (American Near East Refugee Aid), an organization that promotes people-to-people exchanges and development in Palestine and Israel.

As I watched and listened to the Rawdat El Zuhur school children, I was reminded of my days of teaching in Kuwait (2004-2008) and the UAE (1999-2000).

I recalled that in some of the schools in the Middle East dances and programs were planned and prepared annually by most faculty and students every single term. These dances and story telling programs revealed a lot about the history of the country and its peoples. I enjoyed watching the practices.

Alas, when it came the date of the scheduled open production (for parents and family or friends), the administrators of the school invariably had to tell all those students and teachers who had worked so hard, “The board of directors has canceled the program.”

This occurred because in many school communities—both private and public—political conservatives who often (1) knew little about dancing and singing and (2) ignored the role of singing and dancing in their own misguided definition of Islam were winning local elections and putting pressures on school administrations.

Luckily, this black-out on song and dance did not occur at all schools equally. Some schools continued to refuse self-censorship in the Arab world.

On the other hand, this cultural self-censorship, in fact, occurred semester-after-semester at a large percentage of schools across Kuwait.

Not only did this blanket anti-traditionalism affect Arab children, but it also affected non-Arab children in some of these same schools. For example, if westerners wanted to share about Christmas in song and dance or if Indians/Pakistanis wanted to share of there culture, that was a no-go, too in many schools.

I pray that this tendency to squelch tradition ceases in Kuwait and in neighboring Arab lands where misguided hate against singing and dancing lead to unnecessary culture wars among adults and loss of rich culture and tradition among the youth of these Arab lands.



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