Gay, Arab, American: Singer-Songwriter Dave Hall Is Proud of His Arab Heritage. You Know, the Tradition That Includes Inventions like Algebra, Sherbet-And Kathy Najimy

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Recently a friend and I compared childhoods as we ate in an Arab restaurant. "Dave," she asked, "remember when we were just regular Americans?" I laughed a little at the question but took it seriously, because after entire lives spent as ordinary citizens, my friend and I, both Arab-Americans, were experiencing how it feels to be "other." And it wasn't feeling good.

I've dealt with stereotypes before. Arab-Americans are used to tired Hollywood images the enslaver of virgins, the ardent lover (maybe I can live with that one), and lately, the terrorist. But before, when we encountered such caricatures, we could roll our eyes and keep eating our popcorn. At school, after learning the European view of the Crusades, we could go home and get the correct version. We never felt our very place in the world was in question.

Now it's all questions. Like: How do you feel about suicide bombing? Is terrorism part of your culture? How do you feel about violence against gays in the Middle East? What about Islam? When confronted with such questions one can either lament American ignorance or roll up one's sleeves and pitch in. Let me do the latter and attempt to answer those questions. Then I'll pose a few of my own.

Regarding suicide bombing and terrorism: There is nothing essentially Arab about terrorism, nor are Arabs the only perpetrators of terrorist acts. Just as we shouldn't lump all Irish people together based on the actions of the IRA or equate all Germans with Nazis, we mustn't assume all Arabs support terror or even understand it.

I feel the same about violence against gays in the Middle East as I do about antigay violence in Wyoming--terrible. But let's define terms. The Middle East is made up of many countries, not all of which are Arab. Under the Taliban regime in non-Arab Afghanistan, severe punishments were meted out to gays. And in non-Arab Iran, a nation that recognizes gender identity disorder and performs many sex reassignments each year, people have nevertheless been punished for homosexual acts. …