The misrepresentation of Arab cultures in mainstream media comes as no surprise anymore. Oftentimes, Arabs are "perceived in the form of billionaires, bombers, belly dancers, and boisterous bargainers," as late Lebanese-American writer Jack Shaheen once said.
In a bid to challenge the stereotypes, a group of people from the Middle East got together to create a seven-minute music video, all part of YouTube's Creators for Change initiative.
The global initiative focuses on highlighting YouTube content creators who spark productive conversations and impact their followers positively. And well, Palestinian travel vlogger Haifa Beseisso (also known as Fly With Haifa) is definitely among them. That's not all, she produced the epic video, too.
As an ambassador for YouTube's initiative, Beseisso received "promotional support" to aid the creation of an impactful project.
"I decided to use that funding we were given to tour the Middle East and make a musical!" Beseisso told StepFeed.
"It was always my childhood dream to show the truth of the Middle East. What I see in the movies has always upset me and I don't believe is true to who we are," she added.
Influencers from different parts of the Arab world including Egypt, Morocco, Lebanon, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia joined Beseisso's vision, ultimately making the video - which took four months to produce - a reality.
"We were all rapping together"
The video starts off with Beseisso holding a videotape titled "Stereotype World," reflecting the song's title.
The videotape is then inserted, starting with a short scene in which a man can be seen sitting on a carpet followed by an appearance of other men as bombers. The scene sheds light on the misrepresentation of Arabs through an oriental lens as well as the association of the culture with "terrorists."
Another scene in the video aims to challenge the perception that women in the Middle East do not have a voice.
"I am the man, and this is my woman," the man says.
"I always walk behind and stay low," the woman replies.
The scene aims to shed light on the fact that Western media never fails to portray Arab women as victims and oppressed beings.
"We live inside castles ... and always ride camels ... even on our way to school"
The video goes on to challenge those stereotypes by depicting the reality of things in the region
"It's about time that we speak up for ourselves... I think I need the mic," Beseisso says as a turn of events takes ground.
"Pass the microphone, let me speak up and vent. The Middle East girls came down to represent ... so yalla yalla yalla let's put an end to all stereotypes inshallah," the song lyrics say.
In an epic musical style format
"Welcome y'all to the Middle East, I invite you all to walk with me, cuz I want to show you a side of us that you might not know yet," the song lyrics say.
The influencers then begin a tour of various countries of the region including Egypt, Morocco, and the United Arab Emirates.