This semester, the University of Oklahoma was lucky enough to host a powerful display called “A is for Arab.” It was erected in the Bizzell Memorial Library, on its lower level 1. The exhibit featured five main panels, boasting titles like “D is for Desert,” “H is for Harem,” and “V is for Villain.” The images aimed to expose Arab stereotypes that are common in the United States, ranging from the notion that all Arabs live in the desert and ride camels to the idea that Arab women are either covered from head-to-toe or belong to a harem. Specifically, the exhibit drew on examples from comics and old movies; however, more modern material, such as Disney’s Aladdin, was also included for furthering negative stereotypes.
Although, the display offered a glimmer of hope amongst the sea of misconceptions. The exhibit also highlights positive developments in the field of Arab representation in the above mediums. One of these is a comic called “The 99” (التسعة وتسعون), which features superheroes with powers and abilities based on the 99 attributes of Allah. Importantly, the comic depicts its characters as well-rounded, fully-realized individuals; unlike many other portrayals of Arabs in comics. The exhibit also has a panel detailing the exposure of Arab stereotypes, including short descriptions of influential books (“Guilty: Hollywood’s Verdict on Arabs after 9/11”) and documentaries (“Reel Bad Arabs”). Overall, it was an incredibly powerful and important exhibit, and it displayed a lot of vital issues that are typically overlooked today.