As we all continue to process the horrible attacks on Beirut, Paris, Iraq and Nigeria, many politicians on both sides of the aisle are calling for us to reconsider taking any more refugees from war-torn Syria. Some are even suggesting we send back the ones that are already here. Presidential candidate, Donald Trump has gone as far as saying that Muslims in the U.S. should have to register into a central database and possibly have “special identification”.
Now, I see where this is going…I get where Mr. Trump is coming from and, just in case he wins, by Jingo, I want to help! As a graphic designer, marketer and one of the “good” Arabs/Muslims, I want to offer three things:
- Clear and recognizable design concepts for the new marks we will be wearing under Mr. Trump’s benevolent rule
- A collection of colors and designs to start to handle the complexities of the populations we are dealing with and to provide clarity, a key if you will, for “regular” U.S. citizens to know who and what they are dealing with in a single glance
- A way for Muslims to quickly say “Hey, I am Muslim and it is cool if you are watching me–I get it”. A way for Non-Muslims from the “Middle East” to say, “I know I look a lot like a Muslim, but I am not. You can still watch me, but really, I promise, I am definitely not Muslim”. And finally, a way for other brown people with names that don’t easily roll off the American tongue, to say “Really, WTF– not even close. Please read a fucking book!”. You know, but politely and with a colorful, “voluntarily” worn badge
A couple of Notes:
1) You will notice I used circles. I thought the use of triangles would be just a little too unpleasant and might actually force us to face the gravity and historical context of what is being proposed.
2) This is only a small sampling of the complexity and diversity of the Arab and Muslim World, but it is meant to be a start. I will let our fearless leaders continue this work for which I am only a humble and patriotic servant…
Let’s start with Muslims in general, shall we?
Muslims: This one is pretty self-explanatory crescent moon…star…green–most of us have seen this in some form or another. Now, I thought long and hard about whether I should make separate ones for Sunni and Shia (and the multitude of sub-sects), but in the end, I figured it would be confusing to the average American. Plus, a Muslim is a Muslim, right? I like this one, because I think it will set off the color of my eyes well:)
Now, more Muslims, but with a twist
Turks: Once the center of one of the largest Islamic empires, the Turks now bridge two worlds in many ways (Europe and the Middle East). The Turkish language is distinct from Arabic. According to the CIA factbook, 99.8% of Turks are Muslims. Though it should be noted that there are definitely minorities in the country that are Christian and even Jewish. The Turks are generally considered to be friends to the West, but you can’t be too careful…
Circassians/Chechnyan’s: Ethnic minorities in the Middle East originally from the Caucus Mountains–don’t let their White (ish) complexion fool you. Behind the funny hats, accordions and beautiful cultural dance, they are still Muslims. That said, they are well known for being exceptionally loyal to the countries in which they reside. You can find most of the ones in the U.S. in my hometown of Paterson, NJ.
Kurds: Yes, mostly Muslim, but ethnically and culturally quite different from their neighbors, they have certainly been persecuted over the years and are largely viewed as strong allies in our “war on terror”, but once they get here, we should probably keep an eye on them just the same, right Mr. Trump?
Amazighs (aka Berbers): This refers the indigenous inhabitants of North Africa prior to Arab conquest. They have a distinct language that belongs to the Afro-asiatic family, though most speak Arabic as well–just don’t call them Arabs! They fall into this group because they are mostly Muslims, but there was a significant Jewish population in North Africa until the 1960’s, there are also some Christians as well. Still, worth monitoring them all–don’t you think?
Atheists Muslims: These are folks that were born to Muslim families, but don’t believe in God. Still, they are probably communists or socialists or something, so we should definitely watch them.
Arab Christians: I know that some of the Republican candidates (Jeb Bush for example) said they would be happy to take Syrian Christian refugees that passed a religious test, but I wonder if they realize the word “God” in Arabic is “Allah”–even for Christians. Since so many of these politicians are concerned about worshippers of Allah, I thought it prudent to include them in these designations. This symbol is the Aramaic word for God, the language spoken by Jesus himself, pronounced “Allaha” (a little too close for comfort, right?). Plus, this is really for their own protection–after all, they wouldn’t want to be mistaken as Muslims…
Assyrians: Not to be confused with Syrians. They live mostly in Iraq, but can be found throughout the region and now have a significant diaspora. They typically speak Aramaic as their first language and Arabic second. They are almost exclusively Christian. Again, please, try to resist the urge of calling them Arabs. You might recognize them from the news stories where Daesh (aka ISIS) was destroying their cultural artifacts and historical sites.
Armenians: These are Christians who were literally persecuted for their faith (some scholars put the number of victims of the Armenian Genocide at 1.5 million); some have lived in the Middle East for millennia and you will find many that speak Arabic and have come to the U.S. over the years to escape various periods of persecution. Pro Tip: Look for ‘ian” or “yan” at the end of their surname (e.g. Kardashian)–it’s always a dead giveaway. Well, that and their new badge of course…
The Other Others
Sikhs: Though not Muslims or Arabs at all, they have often taken the brunt of Islamaphobic backlash since 9/11, because of the mistaken assumption that Muslims wear turbans (Thanks Walt Disney). This badge should clear things up, right?
Hindus: Again, same as above. It seems that those that are so certain that their ideals and way of life are the correct ones have never actually taken the time to learn about any others…oh well, badge ‘em!
Druze: They are definitely Arabic speaking and definitely not Muslims. They self-identify as Unitarians; their faith is monotheistic, incorporating elements from several different traditions including Christianity and Hinduism. Like the Circassians, they too are very loyal to the countries they call home–they also rock some interesting headwear. Syria, has the largest population by far (nearly 800,000 in 2011), so there is a good chance they could be among those seeking refuge right now.
And then there is this…
There is one group that might be trickier than the rest. The Arab world historically has always had a Jewish population. There is a significant Syrian Jewish population living in Brooklyn for instance. It is hard to say how to deal with them. After all, I mean they aren’t Muslims, but they speak Arabic, eat hummus–they probably dance debka at their weddings. It really shows what a slippery slope this can be…I’ll leave this one in the capable hands of Mr. Trump and his inner circle…he-hem…I mean trusted advisors…I am sure that his innate American Exceptionalism will give him the right answers!
I hope this helps get us started down the road of sorting people according to their place in our country. The Muslims are a good start, but as you can see there is so much more to the story when talking about the region. Even this little primer is only the tip of the iceberg. But, I am sure our politicians in their infinite wisdom will continue to build on these designations. Though, it might get confusing, maybe they should consider some sort of a numerical system? I’ll just leave that to them…