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All Muslims Are Arab

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“Look what they wrote. They think we’re Arab. When did Persian become Arab?”
Shereen (reading graffiti on her store wall after the store is vandalized), Crash

Because most well-known examples of fictional Muslim characters and settings in mainstream media tend to be from the Middle East, there is an assumption that Muslims are all Arabs or speak Arabic as their main language. This is despite the fact that the largest Muslim population in the world is in Indonesia, which is located in Southeast Asia, and many Muslims come from all over Asianote  or North Africa and do not consider themselves Arabs. Even within the Middle East exist a multitude of ethnic groups who practice Islam and speak a variety of different languages, such as Kurdish, Pashto and Persian, which belong to a totally different language family from Arabicnote .

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Complicating this issue is that scholars of Islam are expected to learn Classical Arabic in order to understand the Quran, since there are no official translations into other languages due to the belief that some of the meaning would be lost in translation; therefore Muslims who take their faith seriously often do understand Arabic in some form, even if it is not their main tongue.

Compare Latino Is Brown, All Jews Are Ashkenazi.

Note that this trope is not about the simple presence of Arab Muslims in a work, but rather about the implicit or explicit assumption that all Muslims are of Arab descent (e.g. by having Muslim characters speaking Arabic in casual conversation where their background and/or time period would make this improbable). Please do not add examples along the lines of "Character X is Arab" when it is nothing remarkable. Similarly, it's not worth listing an "aversion" if a work just happens to have a Muslim who is Indonesian or Moroccan.

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Examples

Comic Books
  • In New X-Men, Dust speaks Arabic and wears a Saudi-style abaya, despite hailing from a poor region in Afghanistan, where she would be much more likely to speak Pashto or Dari.

Literature

  • Lampshaded in The Millennium Trilogy, where Dragan Armansky was born in Croatia, to a Armenian Jewish father from Belarus and a Bosnian Muslim mother of Greek heritage, and his Swedish immigration papers erroneously mark him as a Serbian, but because he is a practicing Muslim, he has acquired the nickname "The Arab".

Live-Action TV

  • While this is true in NCIS: Los Angeles more often than not, one episode has Callen infiltrate a Muslim extremist cell led by a white Chechen and including at least one black American woman. It's mentioned by another Chechen, whom the team arrests at LAX so Callen can impersonate him, that he was sent precisely because of this trope: Americans expect Muslims to be brown, not white.
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Film

  • In Crash (quoted above), a Muslim family’s store is horribly vandalized, and anti-Muslim and anti-Arab slurs of spray-painted on the walls. Seeing this, the store owner remarks that they are Persian, not Arab.
  • The Dictator has John C. Reilly's character Clayton looking forward to torturing General Aladeen because he's "an Arab", although the nation Wadiya is located in the Horn of Africa, making Aladeen African.
  • Zero Dark Thirty received some controversy from Pakistani audiences for, among other things, portraying community elders speaking in Arabic instead of their native Pashtun.

Video Games

  • The Karachi map in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 features all of its text in Arabic, despite the fact that Pakistan's official languages are English and Urdu.

Real Life

  • During the manhunt for the Boston Marathon bombers, a group of Redditors zeroed in on a pair of brown, apparently Muslim men in photographs from the crime scene. To avoid a witch hunt, the FBI decided to inform the public that the actual prime suspects, the Tsarnaev brothers, were white (Muslim Chechens).
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