SPOTLIGHT ON STEREOTYPES

Lebanese – Danish Night

In Partnership with the Danish Center for Culture and Development & the Danish Embassy in Beirut

@ The Hangar (UMAM D&R)

April 14, 2009

It would be preposterous to conclude that the Lebanese-Danish event, Spotlight on Stereotypes, took place out of the blue. As always with such events, a great deal of close coordination, back-and-forth planning and careful assessment of the subject occurred long before the event began. Moreover, the exchange was fortuitous. While the world (in)famous Danish cartoon flap did not take center stage that evening, it’s safe to say that it was certainly somewhere in the back of the minds of everyone who attended.

In association with the Danish Center for Culture and Development, UMAM D&R hosted Spotlight on Stereotypes. The focus of this event was to speak openly about and acknowledge the stereotypes assigned to Danish-Arabs. The presentation was intended to impart a better understanding of how such stereotypes are portrayed in the media and what people can do to overcome them.

The program included presentations by a host of renowned individuals including His Excellency Jan Top Christensen, Denmark’s ambassador to Beirut; Omar Marzouk, the famous Danish-Egyptian stand-up comedian known for his ability to balance humor with sensitive issues; Denmark’s George Larsen and Lebanon’s Ahmad Ghossein, co-directors of the documentary film An Arab Comes to Town; and journalists Adam Hannestad from Denmark’s Politiken and Hassan Daoud from Lebanon’s Al-Mustaqbal. Moderated by Lokman Slim, the event was followed by music provided by DJ Salam Naffah.

Spotlight on Stereotypes addressed the contemporary Danish-Arab experience in which Arab immigrants face the difficulties and tense circumstances associated with their integration into society. This sheds even greater light on the tricky issue of “identity,” which is one that remains inescapable, either for Arab immigrants or the Danish people themselves. Clearly, the persistent appearance of these stereotypes in the media serves only to perpetuate the negative image held by “mainstream” Danes of their Arab descendent counterparts—and vice versa. To help break this cycle, journalists Hannestad and Daoud leveraged their media expertise to deconstruct an actual media portrayal of the Danish-Arab stereotype. Through the clips presented by Georg Larsen and Ahmad Ghossein from An Arab Comes to Town, the event also helped illustrate the struggle faced by Copenhagen’s Arab immigrants to maintain their identity while enduring the discrimination that accompanies the Danish society’s desire for complete integration.

The program offered the audience a very real portrayal of immigrants’ desire to overcome the discriminatory stereotypes of Danish-Arabs as well as the ongoing challenges associated with expressing their Arab identity. Ultimately, Spotlight on Stereotypes provided a comfortable and lighthearted atmosphere that facilitated an earnest dialogue about the difficulty of eradicating stereotypes and discrimination.