Guilt by association abounds in current American society. Middle Eastern belly dance is the latest victim.
The American belly dance community is under attack due to ignorance, fear and hate. Because this art form originates on the continent of Africa, in particular the Middle East, it is being targeted. Belly dance instructors and performers are being taunted, ridiculed and threatened. Some are being labeled terrorists by embracing this ancient dance with its ethnic music and culture. The atmosphere is worse than after 9/11 when everything Arabic was suspect. With the media and vocal politicians, anything related to Middle Eastern culture is suspect.
First of all, Daesh (an insult), as dancers prefer to call the terrorists (as the acronym ISIS lends credence to their belief that they represent the Muslim state, which they don’t and insults Isis, the winged Egyptian goddess of the earth, motherhood, fertility, magic and love) represses women, dance, music and art. To align belly dance to a group that imposes strict Sharia law is ludicrous. By dancing, women are denouncing Daesh’s repression of women and the freedom of expression that dance and music allows.
Second, to be threatened by women in beads and bangles, coins and makeup is absurd. To equate performers with terrorists is as extreme as the beliefs held by the terrorists. Belly dancers are just entertainers.
Third, the United States is supposed to be the home of the free. Freedom of expression is supposedly allowed and not to be suppressed. Diversity is supposed to be embraced and unity the ideal. By suppressing art and culture, American society is no better than the laws imposed by the terrorists.
Belly dance is a folk dance that predates the Abrahamic faiths, including Islam. Belly dance, is the world’s oldest dance. All other forms of dance originated from this dance. The art can be traced back to prehistoric sculpture and rock painting, to art, literature and mythology. Statuettes of belly dancers from India to Spain have been dated thousands of years before Christ.
In ancient times, the dance was used in religious rituals. Members of primitive communities bonded through the spiritual expression released in dance. It is a matriarchal folk dance paying homage to Mother Earth and creation. In matriarchal societies fertility was a matter of survival and power and where the moon represented the eternal cycle of conception and birth, growth and death. Women danced in the moonlight on hilltops, symbolizing the belly, the naval of the earth, the beginning and center of life. Thus, the belly was incorporated into the dance while the accompanying drumbeat symbolized the heartbeat of life. Undulating movements simulated procreation and the birth process.
Though female-centered religions disappeared around 3,000 BC, the dance continued, though in private. Judaism and Christianity, male-centered religions, frowned upon the dance and its ties to goddess worship, the human body and the “evil” of serpents. In Islam, where women were (and still are) forbidden to dance for men, women danced for one another in hareems and in homes, passing down the art form to their daughters and granddaughters, a form of female bonding. The dance was used to teach young women about reproduction and childbirth. Women also danced around women in labor to guide and assist during childbirth.
The movements have been passed down from generation to generation of women. Women danced and continue to dance for one another. In the United States, we have the freedom to share our unique dance with the public as well. It is a dance of joy, life and love.
Before hating something, research it. It is far too easy to condemn something that one knows little about.
Stop the hate!