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The Cultural Context of “Musaraya” Talk Kaye College of Higher Education, Be’er Sheva and York St John University, York Joint Consultation on ‘Revisiting.

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Presentation on theme: "The Cultural Context of “Musaraya” Talk Kaye College of Higher Education, Be’er Sheva and York St John University, York Joint Consultation on ‘Revisiting."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Cultural Context of “Musaraya” Talk Kaye College of Higher Education, Be’er Sheva and York St John University, York Joint Consultation on ‘Revisiting Multiculturalism in Educational and Social Contexts ’ June 2 nd -6 th 2013 Dr. Omar Mizel

2 Musayara Musayara, the subject of this talk, is a very complex topic, that is sometimes hard to comprehend. It is greatly dependent on the specific context In order to understand it one must be very familiar with Islamic and Arab culture. The use of Musayara includes all the domains that necessitate communications.

3 Arab Society in Israel The Arab ethnic minority lives separate from Jewish communities, except for 6% in mixed cities. The Arabs are distinguished from majority Jews by religion, language, lifestyle and cultural norms. Within the Arab-speaking minority are many ethnic groups: Moslems, Christians, Druze, all influenced by and reacting differently to trends of modernization and contact with the majority Jewish Western culture.

4 The Arab Education System in Israel  Israel maintains separate education systems for Jews and Arabs.  Arabic is the language of instruction in Arab school; Hebrew is taught as second language from mid-elementary years.  Almost all school funding is from the Israeli government.  Education is compulsory until 10 th grade.

5 Researchers : Concern with identifying divergent discourse strategies and their paralinguistic features. Folk-linguistic term – accompanying one's interlocutor in conversation: points to a cultural ethos aimed at the promotion and maintenance of social harmony and traditional patterns of social interaction. Differences promote miscommunications, (negative) stereotypes, political consequences Research

6 Musayara To return to the subject of Musayara: What is Musayara?  Translated literally from Arabic as "to accommodate and go along with".  Rather than speaking directly to a topic, language is enriched, elaborated and long- winded.  A question that in Western culture would generally be answered with a "yes" or "no" will typically be answered in great detail and using a great deal of repetition.


8 Musaraya means to accommodate a partner in dialogue out of consideration for his social standing and wishes, i.e., it invokes sensitivity to the other. Its roots are in Islam and also in social patterns of early traditional societies. Musaraya as a Cultural Mode Musayara as a Cultural Mode

9 Musayara is a communication style used in interaction in many organizations. Its goals are to: Serve as a social language that maintains harmonious interpersonal interactions. It should avoid interruptions as they indicate a lack of deference towards the interrupted speaker (Greifat & Katriel, 1989). Displace importance of personal resources, e.g., money, time, effort, social standing. Be used as a code of courtesy and civility in order to protect the ego in dialogue with others. Musayara as a Cultural Mode (cont)

10 The Language of Musayara  Accords great respect to dialogue partner(s).  Forbids cutting off or cutting short conversations.  Embellishes language with many repetitions, genteel nuances, and extreme emphasis on graciousness.

11 The language of Musayara differs from that of typical Western communication. Western linguistic style Musāyara-talk SimplicityRepetition AccuracyImagery UnderstatementExaggeration Action wordsDescriptiveness and verbosity Specificity of termsVagueness The Language of Musayara

12 Musayara continued In the Arabic language there are many concepts similar to Musayara, each used in slightly different nuanced situations, For example:  Mujamala – manners and courtesy  Mudarah – used to lure the unbeliever to Islam  Taqiyya – used primarily by minority Druze and Shia population when approaching the rulers  Mudahanah – literally: to camouflage one’s true intentions

13 Four general types of musāyara  Musayara of respect  Musayara of magnanimity  Political Musayara  Musayara of conciliation

14 Musāyara in Action Musāyara-talk utilizes two formats: 1. “Linguistic restraint” : never interrupting, never changing the topic, always avoiding confrontation or challenge, 2) “Linguistic aggrandizement”, or effusiveness: adhering strictly to specific rules of conversational etiquette, Conversational effusiveness uses exaggeration and dramatization, repetition, an almost fawning politeness, and sometimes addressing the other in an especially intimate way. These interchanges usually require allocating a large block of time, attention and focus to the conversation while engaging in circuitous, indirect speech. (Greifat & Katriel, 1989)

15 Types of Musayara SituationGroupTypeFunctionStatusComment inequality, hierarchy men, youth, women, children respectfulsocial harmony low towards equals or higher standing reserve, requires linguistic eloquence inequality between dialogue partners Socially weak/ strong munificenceconcern and kindness high status vs. low status respect, concern, hosting foreign guests equal & unequal relationships majority/ minority politicalprotect personal interests daily situations chance power struggle, acquire something from someone conflictsinterested parties compromiseconflict resolution disagreements between individuals return situation to prior harmony preserve honor influence others more/less religious mudaraaccepting others who can’t help you believers towards non- believers Oppose evil, make him a believer minority towards majority Shia vs. Druze tekiafear of majority, loss of status special ethnic, religious groups Praise the government and majority as self- protection Fear of truthfulness believers/ heretics nafaak (lie)coward, seek approval especially weak groups Can lie to an enemy as a ploy

16 Musayara in School Musayara is appropriate within the school setting because it is useful in mollifying tensions and is normative within the larger social context.

17 The Cultural Context of Musayara in Arab Schools in Israel Musāyara is used within the school setting in Arab communities by  Teachers towards pupils  Principals towards teachers  All school staff towards parents,  Students towards teachers and parents  In the Bedouin community - by all members of the tribe towards the sheikh.  To understand the importance of the use of Musāyara within the school, some basic background about the Israeli, and specifically the Arab-Israeli, educational system is needed.

18 Using Musayara in Education Academic achievements Decision making Relations with parents/ teachers Relations with students ViolenceLevels of musayara Compromise on achievement to avoid confrontation with parents/teachers Especially in schools with conflicts Used with veteran teachers and low status parents Observed in many schools, especially problem students, upper grades Parents & school prefer musayara to turning to authorities High musayara: used commonly, involves many repetitions of behavior. Medium musayara: depends on situation, sometimes outside rules are followed. Low musayara: Rarely used, sometimes in extreme situations (disrespect, loss of honor, violence)

19 Examples: Academic achievements Decision making Relations with parents/ teachers Relations with students Violence Medium MusayaraHigh Musayara Medium Musayara High Musayara ”If you behave I’ll give you more time on the exam” In a weak school the principal compliments the only regional superintenden t in front of teachers. To veteran teacher:”I would be most grateful if you would substitute for me for an absent teacher. I know you are better than the young inexperienced teachers.” New teacher can’t control the class, turns to school principal and is told: ” Use Musayara with them. They’re not children, respond to their feelings” Parent of child who was stabbed in school to principal: “Why call the police? We’re all family and can solve it among ourselves.” To parent: I’ll give him a better grade – don’t be angry. Head of town council appoints unqualified teacher: ”Don’t worry, we’re watching him.” To a (high status) parent whose child was disrespectful to teacher: “Its our fault. I apologize the teacher didn’t treat your child right.”

20 Summary 1. Seeks to contain tensions between personal and socio-political needs and considerations. Musayara is a very common method of communication in Arab society. It is intended to advance processes, to maintain harmony in society and to solve conflicts. It is the opposite of the “dugri” type of speech. It is interesting that Musayara has entered schools, and is used as a very important style of administration, alongside western management theories. Many school principals prefer it to the management theories they studied in western academic institutions.

21 Summary (cont) It is most important for educational institutions in western societies, that have large Islamic and Arab populations, to familiarize themselves with the concept of Musayara, and integrate it permanently in their policies and in introducing reforms in the education system. Musayara is dependent on the context, on the text and on the sub-text, and most notable on the sub- text.

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