[All posts in this series can be found at The Arab Mind archive.]
Who is an Arab?
I realize I have up until now omitted an important point for the purposes of this discussion. In part I had finessed the topic because of its complexity but the question is important.
In response to the reasonable question, who is an Arab? I would like to offer the functional definition that Raphael Patai settled upon for his study of "The Arab Mind." Patai spends several pages in his tome discussing various ways of thinking about and delineating the "Arab" and he concludes: (pp. 13-14)
Numerous scholars, both Arab and Western, have struggled to answer the question, Who is an Arab? The answers usually include one or more of the following criteria: Arabs are those who speak Arabic, are brought up in Arab culture, live in an Arab country, believe in Muhammad's teachings, cherish the memory of the Arab Empire, are members of any of the Arab nations. A moment's reflection will suffice to show that of all the criteria, only the linguistic one holds good for all Arabs and for almost nobody else but Arabs. ...
... for want of a better definition, we go along with the one [definition] suggested by Jabra I. Jabra, a Baghdati critic, novelist, and poet, to the effect that an Arab is "anyone who speaks Arabic as his own language and consequently feels as an Arab."
In addition, Patai points out that Islam attributes legitimacy as highest among those who can trace their lineage back to the Prophet and his closest family and associates and the legitimacy diminishes as one moves outward in concentric circles from Mecca/Medina, to the larger Arab Middle East to the surrounding Muslim non-Arab lands and ultimately to the edges of Islam where it meets the Dar al Harb.