April 20, 2006

Arabic? I don't think so.

I can't get enough of the Paris Mosque. It's simply a European gem few people know of. You take the Metro to station Place Monge and from there it's a short walk. If you ever visit Paris don't miss it. They have Hammams, Turkish baths, and a restaurant worth visiting as well.

The Muslims of Paris interest me a lot. They are mainly of North African descent or from West Africa, and what's striking is how French they are. True, few of them spoke a word English and those who did, truly "zoundid lajk zis". But what's even more interesting is that their Arabic was more or less hard to understand. We couldn't communicate with each other (with few exceptions) at all unless I used my broken French and they their broken English.

What effect this must have on the people of France, and Muslims of France in general. They are more or less linguistically isolated from large parts of the world. I noticed people from the Middle East having trouble understanding the Moroccan or Tunisian Arabic.

Actually there were a lot of funny examples. In Arabic, fish is called samak. But no, the Moroccans wanted to eat hoot, which means whale in classical and mainstream Arabic! They even call small sardines hoot!

One of the girls we met at the Media Seminar I attended kept repeating a word all the time. At first I thought she was just slow on the uptake because she had asked me in Arabic once when my flight was back to Sweden, flight being in Arabic Tayyarah. I told her "7 o'clock".

So during the whole day she kept saying "tayyarah tayyarah" in the most weird times and totally out of place. So I kept telling her "It's 7 o'clock!"

She just looked at me like I was the weird one. "What are you talking about?" she asked me. "My flight of course", I replied. "I didn't ask you about your flight?" she continued. "Yeah you did, you said tayyarah."

Apparently, in Tunisian Arabic, tayyarah means excellent... (something so good that it's high up in the sky like a plane)

We were at a restaurant and a Tunisian guy says he's thirsty. Fair enough, give the guy something. So he asks in Arabic for a dabbousa. In classical and mainstream Arabic dabbousa means needle. After the tayyarah incident, I'm ready for anything. Apparently bottle in Tunisian Arabic is called dabbousa.

Last but not least... let us not forget our fellow Moroccans. In the Middle East, and among Arab Muslims in general, the expression Allah yateek el aafiyeh (May God give you health or goodness) is used a lot, either as a thank you or a well wishing good bye.

Me, I wanted to be polite of course, so I wished Aafiyeh on many of the North African participants at the seminar. In return I only got cold stares of shock.

Apparently, I wished hell fire on all of them...


BuJ said...

lol nice one.. very well-written.. obviousy an intesting trip.. can't wait for the post (if any) about the African-Arabic jokes : )

Samawel said...

hehe, yep... I'm somewhat literate with the North African dialects... But I still have my falls flat on the face..

A while back, I was watching The Battle of Algiers, a friend of mine, a Kuwaiti, was sitting next to me. The Arabic used was Algerian, I could understand most of it. But she couldn't... Kept saying that it was not Arabic. She eventually gave up trying to listen, she stuck to the subtitles.

Anonymous said...

Salam!Finally i 'll get to hear the details about the trip.....You've been hard to find!Well "Allahi ya3teek al3afiya Alsharkiya, wa ghair al maghribiya"
Double N

Shaykhspeara Sha'ira said...

Buj, an interesting trip indeed. If you only knew...lol

Samawel it's true though.. honestly, I am no good at arabic at all so I am probably not the person to compare with but even my friends of arab descent so to speak they just don't get what some North Africans say.

Double N, loll thank you for clarifying what 3afiyeh you are wishing on me.
I know I have been playing hard to get lately ;) but just been very busy, I promise we'll meet up soon.

leïwe said...

I guess it was an interesting trip but it will be much more your next tour in France.
You know, the french is very different inside the country between Paris, Bretagne, Pays-Basque, Provence, Alsace, Lorraine and Pas de Calais.. without to talk in Belgium, Canada, Switzerland, Martinique, Guyanna... lol
I would clarify the 3afiyeh DoubleN wishes on you...the good one!
Even if its surprising you that big difference between arabic from North Africa and Middle-East, there are as well between them respectives area...
You will probably guess I am ARAB french NorthAfrican, so even If I never learned arabic, I can understand the language form middle-east.

nousvousils said...

Dear Shaykhspeara, I hope you've enjoyed your trip in France!
All Arab African will be happy to welcome you and Buj as well at anytime.
Threw the Arab-french blog, we heard Buj can't wait to read posts about how the fench are stupid and Buj can't wait to read jokes regarding African Arabic.

In this case, Dear Buj I will follow your advice accordind to your blog's entry: "The Prophet in today's world".
-"We cannot continue to use age old mentality 1400 years afterwards, but there is nothing wrong with applying age old principles 1400 years later"

Firstly,I have a plenty of African arabic jokes in my basket, it will be a real pleasure to make you laugh.
Secondly,beleive me even stupid people can give you a hand if you need serious help, so don't hesitate to call me if you are In France or europe!
Allah yateek el aafiyeh (good meaning ;)

Shaykhspeara Sha'ira said...

Leïwe and nousvousils welcome!!! :)

I can't wait to go back to see more of France. I really had a great time. The group of french muslims that showed us around were extremely kind and hospitable and we managed to talk and make conversation despite the language barriers. After all, where there is a will, there is a way.

If one thing, I definately got an appetite for learning more french after this trip. I am not expecting the french to speak english in france, just like I didn't expect the syrians to know english when I moved there to learn arabic.

Languages are fascinating and if it weren't for these funny differences we have, life would be so boring don't you think?

And I am sure you are not stupid. Thank you for the well wishes :)

Arabized said...

hahahaa im sorry i couldnt help but crack up laughing at that last bit.

After 5 years living in the UAE, i can understand most of the north african dialects. It takes some time, and you have to be exposed to it,and really pay attention.

i shall pay that masjid a visit one day.

Amorelicious said...

Shaykhspeara, I've just been to Paris in the summer - and yes, the French do have their own charming ways of seduction ;)

The Tunisian/Moroccon Arabic is a category of Arabic I will never comprehend :) I tell you, it's absolutely wicked when you hear it! :)

I was in the Salam in the City exhibition by Peter Sanders and Mohammed Ali. I loved Sanders' works, especially one poignant picture of a group of Chinese kids reciting the Quran :) Mohammed Ali had some funky, graffity-style Islamic art - also very refreshing to the typical works of art we are inclined to produce ;)

Hope to catch up with you soon :)

sky said...

Welcome back SS! Glad you liked Paris, I fell in love with it the minute I set foot in it!

To this day, I still cannot understand North Africans when they speak Arabic, despite me listening to a lot of North African music. I need the speech to be slowed down, and then I can pick up a few words here in there.

I love that Arabs can all call themselves Arabs yet be so diverse.

BuJ said...

oooh.. nous-vous! tres bien!

i suspect most of what you have written has been lost in translation! Hence I think you are a little more upbeat than your writing shows, but anyway.. it's quite worrying to see you quoting my blog so eloquently.. bravo...

maybe it's good to give a bit of background about me.. i am an arab who has lived in the UK for many years.. and it has opened my eyes a bit and changed me.. but two things give me a slightly negative idea of the french which obviously shows when i write:

1- how can a country ban people from expressing their faith freely (banning hijab) when their motto is Liberté - Egalité - Fraternité?

2- the brits really hate the french, and i guess it has rubbed a bit on me... hehe

having said that i'm proud that the muslims in france feel much more french than those in britain feel british.. and also france is a great country and i hope to visit it again soon.. even with its stupid and smart people.. it has its own charm.. but i'm sure you belong to the smart group.. as you have demonstrated in your comment :)

Shaykhspeara Sha'ira said...

Biz, lauging is good :) ahla wo sahla

Amore, bienvenue!!! I think it's your first time here! :)
French and seduction ey? I'll leave you to elaborate more on that one hehe

Peter Sanders is coming to sweden in june inshallah. Can't wait!

Sky, I agree with you. There is not one way to be arab, or one correct way to speak... diversity is a blessing.

Buj...a lot on your mind. Indeed the french Gov is stupid for banning the hijab and religious symbols bas ya3ni the whole french people don't necesserily fall under the same category...which I am sure you did not mean...so no harm done either way. Let us all smile and eat cheese...

Umar said...

:P haha at the last part.

through some of my experiences, i find it amazing though, that even if there's a barrier of languages and one cant understand a word the other is speaking, still there is a strong sense of unity and brother(or sister)hood because of Islam.

Tainted Female said...

Wishing I could speak ONE Arabic dialect.... let alone understand more than that...


Good to have you back!

sky said...

Just to clarify, the French never banned wearing the hijab in public, but just in schools.

I know it's a very sensitive topic, but the reason they did that is because their education system (as well as their government) is laic (secular).

Also, they never only banned the hijab, but also other forms of religious expression (crosses, kippas etc..)

I guess religious symbols were causing too many problems in their schools, and while I completely understand what the hijab means and represents to muslim women, maybe it's not such a bad thing.

Sometimes (and I really stress on 'sometimes'), blending in might be a better option. Religion should definitely never be the cause of any problems, but that's a utopian ideal. Until people learn how to respect each other's faiths, maybe secularim is the way to go.

I'm also one to always vouch for religious discretion. Religion is highly personal and I think it needs to remain that way.

sky said...

And Umar, why is it that you say "there is a strong sense of unity and brother(or sister)hood because of Islam."

Why can't that unity be felt merely because we are all Arabs?
Why marginalise non-Muslim Arabs?
Arabs are Arabs. Muslim or non-Muslim. Another utopian ideal, but this is how we should be united. Not divide in the face of religion.

BuJ said...

Sky.. totally agree with you about the hijab, i just wanted to write bullet points.. but as you said, they banned hijab in schools.. however if you were to be really specific they banned it only in public schools and buildings.. so it's ok in a private school.. but they also banned the jewish skull cap, yet allowed the cross (which is absurd) yet banned really big crosses.

imagine the ramifications for muslim women working in the public sector. this is serious discrimination, on par with probably only Israel...

this is disgusting.. if you want to ban religious symbols then be fair and consistent, especially in a country where state and religion are officially separate.

that's what pisses me off with the french (government).

and in a democratic country, the government is elected by the people.

Shaykhspeara Sha'ira said...

Blending in might be a better option sometimes, I agree...but let us stress the word OPTION... the word in itself entails a choice. If one bans, one is not given an option and thus it is an enforcement not a choice.

This attitude is something that does not fall in favour of the liberté egalité France was built on, not to mention the religious freedom of expression rights every citizen in countries that sign under the UN declarations of Human Rights fall under.

The supposed problems caused by religious symbols (although that statement is absurd since the symbols themselves are not a reason for problems, more so the mentality of certain individuals), will not be eliminated through banning and enforcing a "neutral" sense of being. There is no such thing as a school free from religion or ymbols. Wearing rasta fari braids can be connected to rastafarianism which is following the "god" Jaa, which in itself is a religious symbol.

There is nothing democratic about banning, and infact leans more towards the religious absolutism we see in Saudi and Iran.

Freedom of choice should always be the key in any democracy...be it secular or non secular.

Shaykhspeara Sha'ira said...

Furthermore, if one feels religion is highly personal and should remain that way, that is not a problem. But once again, that is a personal choice every man or woman has to make for her or himself, not to be an imposed ideal on others who might not feel the same?

If we talk in the terms of should, has to, must be, then we are using the same jargon that is used in saudi and other places we passionately criticize.

To force women to wear hijab in let's say Saudi can be done using the exact same arguments that have been used in France... "They should blend in".

Regarding the whole brotherhood under religion factor...It is naturally best to concider oneself a brotherhood in humanity... so as not to exclude people based on religion, although I am sure that is not what Umar meant.

farrukh: copywriter & journalist said...

Hi Shaykha,

First of all, very good travel write-up. Emirates Evening Post is inviting such stuff - look up Thursday's issue. Maybe you could your travel stories published there.

On to the discussion - I liked the perspective 'sky' put forward on the French viewpoint, and umar's comment too, although I am not into the Arabism thing too much, but more into humanity, ummatan wahidan, etc.

Here's my take: Saudi forces women to wear hijab. France forces them to take it off. Who lets the women decide what she wants to wear? Neither.

Sad that people don't realise that the veil is not just a 'symbol' but a part of a Muslim woman's dress, her clothing with which she covers herself. Forcing her to take it off or give up education is not really an integrative or enlightened policy, but repressive and insulting to a woman's right to wear what she feels fit.

Governments should not decide what people should be wearing, I think, whether their excuse for such a policy is religion or the lack of it.


HumanBeforeJewish said...

welcome back, shaykh. as a religious person, i think it's the coolest thing to travel the world and meet people of the same religion, because the core religion is the same but everything else is so different - dialect, culture, etc... it's interesting for me to see how environment and location play a vital role in how religion is interpreted and adapted.

Shaykhspeara Sha'ira said...

Farrukh, I don't live in the Emirates...I suppose that is a factor? Or maybe not?
Thanks for the tip though :)

The whole point with this discussion on the banning of the religious symbols is to highlight just that: That in either case, Saudi or Secular, the freedom of choice is non existent and thus they are two equally sharp edges of the same controlling sword. If one agrees to the French model one looses the right to criticize the Saudi model. One hides behind supposed religion, the other behind the term "secularism".

Shaykhspeara Sha'ira said...

HBJ, thank you :) I know what you mean, it is fascinating and very inspiring to meet people from ones own faith in different parts of the world. The diversity in how religion is lived and expressed and yet the unifying factors that can be found highlight the applicability of the religion itself, being timeless regardless of where in the world you are. I also find it inspiring to visit and meet people of other faiths and see how they practice them around the world. The jews in sweden are not like those you find in the Bastille area of Paris where you will find the more Orthodox kind and amazing Kosher restaurants to eat in.

Still, religion aside, language has always been an important uniting factor, and one that often stretches beyond religion.

Umar said...

sky - im not arab.

opinionatedinjerzee said...

finally nice to see beautiful architect like that!!

BuJ said...

what? who? where's the architect?

Shaykhspeara Sha'ira said...

Buj, architecture...

Anonymous said...

Hehe, well see it from the bright side, u are now more or less familiar with some maroccan and tunisian expressions so the first thing u'll say next time arriving in Paris by flight is: "Oh the trip was tayyarah!". Baraka Allah fiki for giving me a smile rest of the day with u'r wonderful blogs! /Soona ;)

sky said...

I should have figured umar..:)

Then let me stick to what SS said wisely: "Regarding the whole brotherhood under religion factor...It is naturally best to concider oneself a brotherhood in humanity... so as not to exclude people based on religion, although I am sure that is not what Umar meant."

It's really an extension of what I meant in the first place.

Shaykhspeara Sha'ira said...

Anonymous, Welcome! Lol yeah I sure am more familiar. Thank you for your kind words. :)

BuJ said...

let's propose SS to the post of UN Sec. General... when Kofi Annan finishes his term.

any supporters?

would probably be the first woman to take up the post.. and probably more interesting than Butros Butros Ghali.. but also probably much more tempramental hehe

Anonymous said...

Keep up the good work » »

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