by Owais Karamat
Outrageous, outrageous, outrageous. Belly dancing, the culture of Arabia. Give me a break, guys. How can belly dancing be part of Arabian culture when women in Arabia have a strong culture of covering themselves? The part of the world where women are not supposed to meet or even be seen by strangers can never have belly dancing as their culture.
On Apr. 25, the Arabian Student Association at UM-St. Louis organized an event called "Arabia Night" featuring a belly dancing performance. The treasurer of ASA called it the "Culture of Arabia." I lived in Oman (an Arab country by all means) for 10 years and I never heard of any belly dancing performances conducted in "prestigious places." Well, I heard of these performances but they were mostly conducted in bars and night clubs which are not considered "prestigious" at least in Oman and its neighboring Arab countries.
Considering the fact that I am not considered Arab I went out and interviewed some Arab students (I was really curious about the fact that this "culture" of belly dancing stayed hidden from me for 10 years). One student named Salha said, "Belly dancing is not Arabian; it is Turkish adopted by Egyptians during the time Turkey colonized Egypt." Egypt does not represent Arabia as a whole. The size of the other Arabian countries leaves it way behind.
I would like to ask some questions of the officials of the ASA. Where were they when their high school teachers were teaching them about the great cultures and glorious history of Arabia? Where were they when their parents were telling them stories of the wonderful traditions of Arabia? And would they really be able to tell their parents and teachers that they represented Arabian traditions by arranging a belly dancing performance? I do not know the answers for the first two questions but I do know the answer for the last one and it's a strong NO. It would be like the American Students Association arranging a striptease night in Oman claiming it to be the culture of America. Well, yes it is very common in America but is it really the way Americans would like to portray their culture in front of others?
Well, the moral of the story is that the ASA did not leave a very good impression in their first performance. As one of the Arabian students said, "If this is the beginning then God knows where they will end." I would strongly suggest to the officials of the ASA that they should not play around with the great Arabian reputation. The ASA should portray to the world what really makes up Arabian culture, not what they want to see in it.