Arab American Playwrights

The NY Times has a piece by Dinitia Smith on Arab American playwrights, which cites the work of many artists in the field, including Betty Shamieh, Nathalie Handal, Yussef El-Guindi, and others. The only thing I don’t understand is why one of the interviewees had to go and say something like this:

Mr. Khoury of Silk Road said that conservatism within Muslim culture may be one reason for the scarcity of Arab-American playwrights. Representations of the human form are frowned on, he said: women dancing, or performing in front of men is considered reprehensible.

That’s funny, because “Muslim culture” (whatever the hell that means) has also managed to produce playwrights like Tayeb Saddiki, Tawfiq Al-Hakim, Assia Djebbar, Slimane Benaissa, Ahmed Ghazali, Kateb Yacine, Tahar Ben Jelloun, among many others, so that can hardly be the reason why there aren’t that many Arab playwrights here in America. And as for the representation of the human form, you’d have to strike down the entire Egyptian film industry and the bazillion movies it puts out every year for Khoury’s contention to make any sense, so that’s not the reason either. Couldn’t the reason be, oh I don’t know, a little less complicated? Maybe that first- or second-generation Arab-Americans, like many other minorities here, value the professions (doctor, lawyer, etc.) over art?

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