Arabs Have A Lot To Celebrate

There have been some amazing wins for Arabs over the last few weeks - and we have their stories

Small steps in the right direction are a welcome change from big steps in the wrong direction. Photo collage: Hamid Najimeldin

by The Arab Edition Team

Culture 10 June 2019

It’s been a great month for Arabs and Arab representation in the media.

Lebanese Director and actress Nadine Labaki was the Un Certain Regard Jury President of the 72nd edition of the Cannes film festival.

During Cannes, five Arab female directors debuted their films – Maryam Touzani from Morocco, Mounia Meddour from Algeria, Waad al-Kateab from Syria, Nada Riyadh from Egypt and Tunisian-Algerian Hafsia Herzi.

There’s more.

Moroccan director Alaa Eddine Aljem, Algerian director Amin Sidi-Boumedine, Tunisian director Ala Eddine Slim all showed feature films along with Palestinian director Elia Suleiman, who won the Jury Prize at Cannes in 2002.

Also, Palestinian film student Wisam Al Jafari’s short film was selected out of 2,000 submissions for the Cinéfondation section.

Arab fashion designers also dazzled on the red carpet with more than 12 of them dressing many international stars for film premiers and events.

That’s not all from the world of entertainment.

Disney’s live action Aladdin (the original 1992 animated version was controversial for its depiction of negative Arab stereotypes) was released and garnered many positive reviews. So far it’s made $121 million in the international box office. The film stars, Egyptian Canadian Mena Massoud as Aladdin and Moroccan Dutch actor Marwan Kenzari as Jaffar.

While we are on the topic of big blockbuster films, it was also announced that Academy Award Winning actor Rami Malek has joined the cast of the next James Bond film.

And in music, Moroccan rapper Issam has signed the biggest ever music deal for an Arab musician with Universal France. His music video for the single Trap Beldi has racked up over 10 million views on YouTube since it was released six months ago.

And how can we forget the small (but very important) screen…

The trailer for Jinn, Netflix’s first Arabic original drama, was released and so far it depicts authentic representations of contemporary teenage Arabs in an Arab country (with a supernatural spin). Jinn is created and directed by Mir-Jean Bou Chaaya from Lebanon and Amin Matalqa from Jordan.

This comes after the announcement that Netflix will also be creating a second Arabic original, Al Rawabi School for Girls written and directed by writer and actress Tima Shomali from Jordan.

Netflix have also announced their third Arabic original series, Paranormal, to be directed by the award winning Amr Salama from Egypt. Paranormal is based on the incredibly popular novels by the late iconic Egyptian author Ahmed Khaled Tawfik.

That wasn’t the only win for Arab fiction.

History was made when Omani writer Jokha Alharthi became the first Arab to win the Man Booker International prize for her novel Celestial Bodies. The novel, a family saga, follows the story of three sisters in Oman and touches on issues such as slavery, immigration and marriage.

Representation of Arab women in the media has also been more diverse.

Somali-American model Halima Aden was featured in the pages of Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Edition in a burkini – the first model to ever do so.

Two Arab women were named in Time magazine’s ‘10 Generational Leaders in 2019’ list. Egyptian singer and songwriter Dina El Wedidi and Somali-British boxing champion Ramla Ali were both recognized for influencing their communities by following their passions and going against society’s conventions.

And let’s not forget that a few weeks before that, superstar football player Mo Salah was listed as one of Time’s 100 most influential people.

And for good reason.

Mo Salah scored the first goal of the game that won Liverpool the European Champion Clubs’ Cup against Tottenham Hotspur on June 1.

That same week, a study by Stanford University titled Can Exposure to Celebrities Reduce Prejudice? The Effect of Mohamed Salah on Islamophobic Behaviors and Attitude revealed that ever since Mo Salah signed with Liverpool, hate crimes in the city have decreased by 19% and anti-muslim tweet by Liverpool fans have decreased by 50%
with hate crimes in the surrounding area declined by 19%.

That’s what we call the power of positive and more diverse representation in the media.

While we are on the topic of inspirational role models…

Egyptian adventurer, motivational speaker and entrepreneur, Omar Samra, the first Egyptian and youngest Arab to climb Mount Everest was honoured by the Embassy of Nepal when they named him their 2020  Goodwill Ambassador of Nepal.

Some may think of these as minor accomplishments in the bigger scheme of things. However, small steps in the right direction are a welcome change from big steps in the wrong direction.

You can read about all of these stories here at The Arab Edition where we plan to keep covering and sharing the achievements, struggles, wins and stories of Arabs across the world.

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