>Recap on Racism and The Khawaga Complex

>By definition, if you are discriminated against because of your race: that’s racism.
Does it happen in Egypt?
Just read one of the replies to my first post  about racism , a reply by a foreigner living in Egypt,  and you will get the picture.

What I find striking is the fact that we agree that there is prejudice, yet we disagree on who the Egyptians discriminate against. People from the Far East? Yep. Black? Definitely…

But when it comes to Europeans and ‘white’ North Americans I beg to differ. Being white IS considered superior in Egypt. The locals here think themselves inferior to the white ‘master’. Being blonde can get you a job as a teacher–even if you make spelling mistakes writing in your own native tongue. While a highly qualified African-American college graduate gets repeated rejections!

The ‘khawaga complex’ (khawaga: is a term slightly similar to ‘agnaby .ie. foreigner’ but carries a positive connotation, and is usually reserved for whites) is an inferiority complex, no doubt about that. Does that make the Khawaga happy?  Definitely not. I am not suggesting that; I understand that no one wants to be labeled, and treated on the basis of their skin color.
And this is really the essence of a tolerant, modern society. A society that does not discriminate on the basis of gender, religion, race, or color.
But we are a long way from that whether in Egypt, or in the even-less-tolerant Arab world!


7 thoughts on “>Recap on Racism and The Khawaga Complex

  1. >Hi FEM4EverI am Telma, I'm from Portugal.Was great to find your BLOG/thoughts. I identify myself with most of the things you wrote.Keep with the good work. 🙂

  2. >Hi Amira,Regarding the khawaga complex, it is really annoying that I get treated with less respect than (white) foreigners in my own country. Just look at the treatment Egyptians get in hotels in Sharm and Hurghada or at any tourist site. It's disgusting and I hate it. There are a couple of hotels in Sharm and Hurghada I am not visiting again because of the treatment. However, I always attributed this to the fact that foreigners pay more money (no excuse either).About the discrimination, I don't think I have seen the blatant racism you are talking about. Maybe because I haven't entered the work field yet, but I don't recall ever seeing or hearing of outright work/school race discrimination in Egypt. I read the NY Times article you linked. I wouldn't think it's racism per se that makes border police shoot the migrants. I think they just have a shoot to stop policy (which is of course unacceptable) and would do it to anyone. Those trying to cross the border just happen to be black. I would say the whole world practices racism to some extent.And I would say other forms of discrimination exist in Egypt, like against women or homosexuals or atheists or Christians in some cases or Jews if there are any left in Egypt. Not too sure about race though.Some journalists like to say that the government practices racism against black people but I don't think that's accurate because most of the Egyptian people are 2nd class citizens in their own country anyway, and are not receiving any better treatment anyhow.I think what you are describing as racism is more of some sort of not-so-funny humor on the part of Egyptians. Like when they refer to blacks or Sudanese as "chocolate" (I think that was a song in a Mohamed Heneidi movie).If they knew it was so offensive, I think they'd stop it. Especially if you condemn it through a religious viewpoint. Tell people that Bilal ibn Rabah, one of the Prophet's companions, was black. That kind of thing.I think I've written too much, so I'll stop now :)Keep blogging 🙂

  3. >Not too long at all. I welcome mentaly stimualting exchange. The public transport incident is recounted by an eye witness here http://www.monaeltahawy.com/blog/?p=93I agree 100% that the religious approach is worth a try. I've explained to our cleaning Lady that it is against islamic teachings to discriminate against people/ make fun of people because of their color. I backed that up with a few Hadith and Coranic verses, and she was mesmerized. She wondered why nobody told her that before!!!!!! I wish Imams in mosques would care about vital issues like tolerance instead of the issues that they keep repeating every Friday prayer: modesty, Hijab, the importance of 'obeying' your husband etc,,,,Keep posting Comments 😀

  4. >As an American who lived in Cairo for two years, I understand what you are talking about and I agree with you completely. As my Egyptian friend said to me, "Egypt is the only country in the world where foreigners are treated much better than the local citizens." I'm sure there are other countries where this is also true, but it is unfortunate.I do have a question on the word Khawaga. From what I understand the word is originally Persian, and rather than having a more positive connotation than agnabi, I was under the impression it was used more like Latin Americans use the word gringo, somewhat derogatory most of the time, but also used in some more positive contexts (عقدة خواجة) for example.

  5. >I have been looking up the term "Khawaga" ferrociosly ever since I read your comment. The persian influence has been suggested, but the evidence is not conclusive. Anyhow, Egyptians definitely do NOT use Khawaga the same way latin Americans use gringo–at least not nowadays anyway. It is a term used to accentuate the superiority (they would never use it if the foreign-looking person is not purely caucasian).,,,, It is never used in a derogatory context, whereas "agnabi" , not Egyptian might be used to indicate that person as an 'outsider'.

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