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Pizza, Pasta, Mafia & Terrorism

5 December 2008
Published in Opinioni
by Luna Brozzi


What are these? Nicknames attributed to me by some of my fellow colleagues. Why? Because I’m half Syrian. I knew that they were joking when they used these nicknames but the fact that these are the words they chose to use because of where I come from meant that subconsciously this was how they saw Syria at a first glance. What is most disturbing is that it came from well-educated students… the power of stereotypes!

One of the various definitions of stereotypes is that it “can instigate prejudice and false assumptions about entire groups of people; stereotypes are sometimes formed by a false association between two variables that are loosely correlated if correlated at all.” Sociologist Charles E. Hurst states that, cialis sale “One reason for stereotypes is the lack of personal, order concrete familiarity that individuals have with persons in other racial or ethnic groups. Lack of familiarity encourages the lumping together of unknown individuals.”

Stereotypes are a generalization, more often than not they are negative, but some truth lies beneath them. When abroad, say that you are Italian, and the first thing people comment is how delicious the food is and then they ask about the Mafia. People are intrigued by it. Pizza and pasta are truly delicious, nobody can compete with Italians. The Mafia does exist in Italy but it’s a small percentage of Italians that belong to it. There has been great commotion in the United States over the representation of Italo-Americans; from The Sopranos to the Godfather they are always represented as mobsters. The mistake is using these single connotations to describe an entire country. They are part of the country, a minority, not true for all parts.

The worst stereotype these days is the one attributed to Arabs. It does not matter whether you are Christian, Muslim, or Atheist, what matters is that you come from an Arab country. You say Arab and the first image that pops up is that of a Terrorist. What is Terrorism? It is believed that “terrorism” dates back to 1795 when it was used to describe the actions of the Jacobin Club in their rule of post-Revolutionary France, the so-called “Reign of Terror”. More than two hundred years later, there still isn’t an international definition for terrorism. Throughout history, terrorism has afflicted different regions, from Europe, to South America, to the USSR, to the Middle East. Terrorism boomed in 9/11, and nobody denies their ferocity. Terrorists and their acts are unforgivable. What is also unforgivable is that terrorists in the Middle East are a minority, extremists, despised by Arabs themselves and yet the general definition of Arabs is that they are terrorists; It truly breaks my heart. The Middle East dates back to ancient times, the earliest civilizations were established in this area around 3500 BC, regarded as the cradle of civilizations, historically a major center of world affairs and where Moses, Jesus and Mohammad built three of the world’s major religions. It is rich with history, religions, culture and today it is known for one thing, Terrorists, Terrorists, Terrorists. Television, newspapers, movies are all to blame. They portray what they want to portray, not necessarily the true features of a country. Visit Iran and you will be perplexed by the difference between what you imagined from the depiction made by the media and what it truly is. Yes there are terrorists, the most famous being Mr. Bin Laden, but do not generalize for there are hard working people in the Middle East, families, children who have the same daily problems as any European family. We all make judgments based on our first impression, it is hard not to, but let us try to avoid making them until after we have accurately collected information. Let us not ruin the image of a people by the doing of a few. Let us not make these few feel triumphant. Let us battle these Terrorists with our minds, with our intelligence, not with ignorance. The Arab people will continue to battle to free themselves from suppression, to free themselves from the negative forces afflicting their true opulence.

I would like to dedicate this article to those who perished in the recent terroristic attacks in Mumbai. Do not forget Mumbai, do not stop visiting the East, let us show the Terrorists that we are unstoppable, that we, a peace-loving people, are stronger!

One Response to “Pizza, Pasta, Mafia & Terrorism”

  1. Rocco says:

    Nice article, Luna.
    The part I liked the most was when you said “Stereotypes are a generalization, more often than not they are negative, but some truth lies beneath them.”
    We all know that not all Italians are mafiosi and not all arabs are terrorists, we all know that we should fight those stereotypes and those generalizations but, to be honest, I think that one of the best ways to fight them is to recognize their truth.
    When I read the New York Times and I see my country characterized as a third world country run by a corrupted clown my first reaction is to write a letter to protest. But maybe the honest thing to do is to reflect and understand why a serious foreign paper sees us in that way and try my best to change Italy, and not only the way in which it is perceived.
    In the same way I think that people in the arab and muslim world should stop complain about how the world sees them and keep doing something about it. Few days ago (always on the NYT) Thomas Friedman had a point. Pakistan is right in saying that it is unjust to blame the all country for a few fanatics that carried on Mumbai attaks but, considering the mass demonstration that took place in that country after the Denish cartoon case, how many pakistanis are ready to take the street to protest the mass murder and show solidarity with the victims?
    Don’t get me wrong, I love the arab world, I know the enormous differences among the people that live there, particularly in your beautiful city of Damascus. But that is precisely why sometimes I’d love to see them stop complaining and start doing something to change the (mostly wrong) way in which the world sees them.