4 Arabic Novels That Discuss Bigotry in the Middle East

By Salma Khattab

The issue of racism and bigotry has been deeply explored inside many Arabic novels. This is because the Arab world is full of different ethnicities, religions, and races. A number of other reasons created high levels of prejudice, discrimination, and xenophobia across many Arab societies. Let’s take a look at five Arabic novels that delve deeper into these issues.

Saaq Al-Bamboo (The Bamboo Stalk)

A novel written by Saoud Al Sanousy that talked about the idea of racism inside Arab houses. The main characters were living in a very well-known rich Kuwaiti house. The only man of the family, Rashid, was married secretly to the one of the Filipino maids working in the house, when she suddenly became pregnant. However, the matriarch, Ghanima, soon discovered the secret and became incensed. She started to continuously revile the maid and her son and she kicked them out of the house. She was also afraid of the other Kuwaiti families finding out because of the shame it would bring. He remained “the maid’s son” and was not accepted by the family because of his Filipino look.

Kaif Tardaa Mn Al Zaabaa Don An Ta’odak (How to Suckle from a Lupus Without Biting You)

Racism is explored differently here. There was a building that represented a few different nationalities: one from Iran, another from Algeria, a Muslim man from Bengali, and some others from Italy. They were all hating each other and didn’t love the idea of them sharing the same property. In that same building, a man was killed and each character speculates over who is the most likely murdered.

Ana we Haiim (Me and Haiim)

A novel by Habib Sayah that explores bigotry between the different races in Algeria during French colonial rule. The two main characters, Arslan Hanifi and Haiim Benmimoun, are Algerians of different social classes who share their journey together, however, the French desribe them as “indigenous vs civilized”.

Taht Saaqf Wahed (Under One Ceiling)

Classism is a particular type of discrimination that is found in many parts of the Arab world. In this novel, the writer tries to show racism and discrimination among family members even in small things. A woman rejects the idea of getting married because she loves her job. After time, she gets the chance to work outside, but under one condition, if she gets married. She seeks to marry anyone as soon as possible and so begins her search for a man. She meets a mechanic in a small workshop and decides that he is the one as he needs money for his family. However, her mother disagrees and rejects her daughter’s choice because of his job and social status.

WE SAID THIS: Know any other Arabic novels that explore themes of discrimination? Let us know in the comments.