“Freedom” in the Arab world

Freedom of self-expression is not a “public right” in the Arab world. The “free” stands in opposition to the “bound” or the “enslaved” — it refers, that is, to freedom from domination. In Yemen and Oman, this freedom is expressed by wearing a dagger (or in more recent times, as I witnessed in the vicinity of Sada in northern Yemen, by carrying a machine gun). The native Baluch and the Jews, who are “tied” to patron tribes in Yemen, do not wear the dagger, nor do they carry arms. The late Imam Mussa al-Sadr stressed at the onset of the Lebanese war: “Arms are the jewelry of free men.”

“Open secrets: Discussable but not publishable,” in “An Invitation to Laughter: A Lebanese Anthropologist in the Arab World,” by Fuad Khuri, 2007

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