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El-Ghorba: A Media Ethnography of Transnationalism among Arab Immigrant Families in Canada
Unformatted Document Text:  With a pen in her right hand, Zeinab awakes from her daze to the smell of smoke coming from the kitchen oven. Rushing to the kitchen, she quickly removed the pan of meat and potatoes from the oven, despairing at her misfortune. “I’m so clumsy,” she says to her self as she slaps her palms across her face. Smelling both the smoke and the commotion in the kitchen, her youngest son, 17-year- old Omar leans over the pan and sniffs it. His face hovering over the much-anticipated meal, in a swift single motion, Omar plunges his index finger deep into the pan, scooping up some soft potatoes and tastes it. “It’s OK, mama, we can still eat this.” Seeing him do this, Zeinab reacted with lightning speed by slapping Omar on the wrist. He let out a thin screech and mischievously grinned at me. “I wasn’t the one who burnt the dinner,” he remarked as he walked back to the computer in his room. Omar has been spending most of his time in front of the computer the last few months. Zeinab complains about his unwillingness to partake in family activities, outings and ceremonies. “First it was television,” she exclaims, “we couldn’t get him to leave it. I remember having to hide the remote control before dinnertime so he can forget about the TV and join us at the table. The he complained that he needed to have his own mobile telephone so we can call him when he’s outside.” But when Omar is outside the house with his friends, the last person he wants to talk to is Zeinab. He’s even embarrassed of bring friends home when she’s around. “I don’t know any of his friends, even though I told him to invite them over for lunch or dinner,” complains Zeinab. Over the last four years that Zeinab and her kids have lived in Halifax, Canada, she has felt increasingly concerned about her children’s loss of their religion and culture. She is worried that when the time comes for them to choose between their Arab Muslim identity and Canadian culture, that they will pick the latter. This is one of the reasons why Zeinab and her husband, Farook, a mechanical engineers in Kuwait, decided to get Arabic satellite television in their Halifax home. Omar had stopped going to the weekly Friday prayers at the local mosque and hardly fasts during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan. Zeinab suspected it one evening when he came back to join them for iftar (fast-break meal at sunset) and hardly ate. Another day, as she cleaned the inside of his school knapsack, she found doggy-bagged leftovers from a lunch he’d had outside the house. “Doesn’t he know it’s the holy month of Ramadan? I can’t believe it.” This and many other circumstances convinced Zeinab and Farook to try and “salvage” the situation. They were watching their children lose sight of their religious and cultural heritage by the day. Other Arab women friends of Zeinab had suggested that the Arabic satellite TV channels would help the kids stay in touch with the Arab world. “The religious programs on the Islamic network will really help you with Omar and put him back on track,” said Om Fadi who lives a few blocks down from Zeinab. Zeinab hasn’t been the same since the satellite was connected several months prior. Overcooking of food is happening all too often these days. When it was first installed, Zeinab was ecstatic. She rearranged the furniture in the living room to have the TV as close as it possibly could be to the kitchen. Now, for the first time since she left Kuwait four years ago, she can watch her favorite black-and-white Egyptian classics and Lebanese soap operas while she prepares her family’s daily meals. With her husband living five thousand miles away and her

Authors: Iskandar Farag, Adel.
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With a pen in her right hand, Zeinab awakes from her daze to the smell of smoke coming from
the kitchen oven. Rushing to the kitchen, she quickly removed the pan of meat and potatoes from
the oven, despairing at her misfortune. “I’m so clumsy,” she says to her self as she slaps her
palms across her face.
Smelling both the smoke and the commotion in the kitchen, her youngest son, 17-year-
old Omar leans over the pan and sniffs it. His face hovering over the much-anticipated meal, in a
swift single motion, Omar plunges his index finger deep into the pan, scooping up some soft
potatoes and tastes it. “It’s OK, mama, we can still eat this.” Seeing him do this, Zeinab reacted
with lightning speed by slapping Omar on the wrist. He let out a thin screech and mischievously
grinned at me.
“I wasn’t the one who burnt the dinner,” he remarked as he walked back to the computer in his
room.
Omar has been spending most of his time in front of the computer the last few months.
Zeinab complains about his unwillingness to partake in family activities, outings and ceremonies.
“First it was television,” she exclaims, “we couldn’t get him to leave it. I remember having to
hide the remote control before dinnertime so he can forget about the TV and join us at the table.
The he complained that he needed to have his own mobile telephone so we can call him when
he’s outside.”
But when Omar is outside the house with his friends, the last person he wants to talk to is
Zeinab. He’s even embarrassed of bring friends home when she’s around. “I don’t know any of
his friends, even though I told him to invite them over for lunch or dinner,” complains Zeinab.
Over the last four years that Zeinab and her kids have lived in Halifax, Canada, she has felt
increasingly concerned about her children’s loss of their religion and culture. She is worried that
when the time comes for them to choose between their Arab Muslim identity and Canadian
culture, that they will pick the latter.
This is one of the reasons why Zeinab and her husband, Farook, a mechanical engineers
in Kuwait, decided to get Arabic satellite television in their Halifax home. Omar had stopped
going to the weekly Friday prayers at the local mosque and hardly fasts during the holy Muslim
month of Ramadan. Zeinab suspected it one evening when he came back to join them for iftar
(fast-break meal at sunset) and hardly ate. Another day, as she cleaned the inside of his school
knapsack, she found doggy-bagged leftovers from a lunch he’d had outside the house.

“Doesn’t he know it’s the holy month of Ramadan? I can’t believe it.” This and many other
circumstances convinced Zeinab and Farook to try and “salvage” the situation. They were
watching their children lose sight of their religious and cultural heritage by the day. Other Arab
women friends of Zeinab had suggested that the Arabic satellite TV channels would help the kids
stay in touch with the Arab world. “The religious programs on the Islamic network will really
help you with Omar and put him back on track,” said Om Fadi who lives a few blocks down
from Zeinab.
Zeinab hasn’t been the same since the satellite was connected several months prior.
Overcooking of food is happening all too often these days. When it was first installed, Zeinab
was ecstatic. She rearranged the furniture in the living room to have the TV as close as it
possibly could be to the kitchen. Now, for the first time since she left Kuwait four years ago, she
can watch her favorite black-and-white Egyptian classics and Lebanese soap operas while she
prepares her family’s daily meals. With her husband living five thousand miles away and her


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