Porter Magazine recently featured Egyptian-Moroccan model Imaan Hammam on the cover of its Winter Escape issue ... but it wasn't all positive news.
In the opening paragraph introducing Hammam, writer Marisa Meltzer highlights the 21-year-old model's Muslim and Arab heritage ... only to reinforce a stereotype the Western world has so desperately wanted to make a reality for some time now.
The magazine says Hammam speaks Arabic and goes on to describe the language as one that facilitates conversations with Uber drivers, a statement the magazine seems to have gotten from Hammam herself.
Hammam "speaks fluent Arabic, a language she finds useful when chatting with Uber drivers," the magazine writes.
First of all, with all due respect to all trades, not least of all drivers, but not all Uber drivers speak Arabic. Second, not all Arabic speakers are Uber drivers. Third, Arabic is a language spoken by over 300 million individuals around the world ... yet Porter Magazine decided to publish a statement that limits the language to a stereotype that further perpetuates the idea that minority groups can only ever make it into an industry or two.
Because orientalism sells?
FYI, Arabic is a language that has heavily influenced a number of foreign words used today
When the Moors, Muslims of Arab and Berber descent in North Africa, ruled the Iberian Peninsula from 711 to 1492 AD, they heavily influenced the Spanish language.
Over time, the Arabic language influenced the local Latin dialect which eventually evolved into modern-day Spanish. Some scholars estimate that around 4,000 Spanish words have been influenced by Arabic.
That effect led to the adoption of several Arabic words that would later seep into other European languages including French.
Subsequently, during the Norman Conquest, Arabic terms were also introduced to the English language, turning them into international words that are still being used to this day.
Some examples of these words include alcohol, coffee, and lemon.
Arabic literature has made an impact on individuals, groups and entire societies
Setting aside the works of legendary Arab writers, brought to us by the likes of Abu Nawas and Nizar Qabbani, there are still a number of modern and successful Arab writers today who choose to write in their native language.
Writers such as Egyptian Ahmed Mourad, Tunisian Shukri Mabkhout, Lebanese Rabee Jaber and Joumana Haddad are just a few who have added to the long list of contributions made to Arabic literature over time.
The Arabic language is one that relies heavily on expression, particularly pertaining to love.
In fact, in Arabic, there are 14 degrees of love -- from al-hawa (attraction) to al-hoyam (madness).
Maybe Porter Magazine could see beyond the stereotypes of Arabic speakers ... and actually grow to love the language for what it's exceptionally known for.