Being a Middle Easterner during current world events begs you to be schizophrenic.

Torn between the questions of identity: to whom, to what and where do I belong to? Tradition & religion: is this halal or haram? Is it virtuous or shameful? Also, the magnetically charming pull of being a ‘Global Youth’ in a ‘Global Village’ – which the aura of the first two questions cast with the judgmental label of ‘A Consumerist Materialist’.

The current war on Gaza is just one of many tribulations of schizophrenia for Middle Eastern youth. For this time, it coincides with the FIFA World Cup, where teams including Germany, Italy, France, Spain, and Latin America engage the multitudes of loyal young Arab supporters, enticing their emotions to a level that reaches fanaticism amongst some. Under the aforementioned questions, guilt spreads among the team supporters for watching the matches. Ironically, supporting Algeria against their beloved German team eases this.

As Gazans are being slaughtered, half-time match break conversations are infused with: “So, what’s new on Facebook about Gaza?” Or, with: “Did you see how far the rockets of the resistance are reaching this time?” Social Media campaigns and debates erupt from arguments for and against topics like boycotting the FIFA World Cup and replace watching the matches with prolonged ‘Taraweeh’ prayers at the mosque. Some Imams have modified its time to fit between the World Cup match schedules to attract worshippers, even before the war started as the least effort in support of our brethren in Gaza.

I cannot see a better schizophrenia inducing or manifesting environment.

During the 2010 FIFA World Cup, a German friend of mine was visiting Jordan. He was stunned at how many young Jordanians stood up at the entrance of the German team, singing the German national anthem (in German), along with him and the team members. Another crowd did the same for the Spanish team, all in the middle of Amman. His face showed unspoken bewilderment. Another friend who was accompanying us was more vocal and commented: “I wonder if the German kings who fought tooth and nail against the Ottomans and the Arabs over the centuries would have ever dreamed of such a moment.” This situation and many others such as what’s going on nowadays helped me understand that the problem is not in cheering for a football team or in being a fan of this or that, but the problem lies deep within. An identity crisis of immeasurable depth is shaking our youth, inflicting schizophrenic behaviour within them in the face of the regional crises in Gaza, Syria, Iraq, etc.

World Cup and World War2

As Social Media (the battlefield of our helpless Middle Eastern youth) is filled with boycott campaigns and black-and-white judgmental attitude between friends, bloggers, independent journalists and public figures, the half-time chats ease the weight of guilt one may feel while watching the matches. They cannot help but sit and consider questions such as:

How do we bring back our Arab and Muslim identity to a level that allows a street demonstration for Gaza to involve more than one hundred protestors, while the big World Cup screens that have been erected in every Café in Amman attract thousands to cheer for non-regional teams?

Why are our youth finding more comfort in a ten-minute half-time chat about Gaza than in a Taraweeh prayer at the mosque dedicated to our brethren as the least means to support them?

And finally, “where is the balance between living a so-called normal life under the global human ideals and the Muslim/Arab ideals in committing oneself to the ongoing struggles and the amount of active supportive work it demands?

We can all point fingers in blame towards governments, imperialists, preachers and scholars uncontrolled over-zealous youth, but until we manage to address the root problem of identity, this schizophrenic manifestation would create a ripple effect that may rattle our communities with more problems and weakness. For that, the aforementioned entities are responsible – some more than others, to bringing back a strong identity that creates a firm sense of identity among the youth, allowing them to actively engage in confronting the challenges of the region as well as being a part of the global youth that works towards a decent livelihood.

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