From its early beginnings Fife Arabic Society has been at the forefront of raising awareness among politicians, civil servants, business leaders, and the wider community, of the barriers to integration that the Arab community faces daily through media misrepresentation, and the general lack of awareness of their specific cultural and religious sensibilities. Until relatively recently these were more often than not ignored in the provision of public services. A Community Consultation across Fife in 2008 labelled Arabs as “The Invisible Community” as there were no statistics available on population, gender, education levels, employment, or other indicators of social and economic status. The information was buried under “other” in National Statistics, as no separate ethnic classification of “Arab” existed.
This exclusion from national statistics had profound implications for the community, as future planning and allocation of resources in Education and Health, for example, took little account of the particular needs of the Arab community, nor was it possible to quantify population size. FAS has lobbied hard at national level to have this problem addressed, and the ethnic classification “Arab” is now used in demographic information gathering.
Over the years FAS has become recognised, locally, nationally, and internationally as a highly articulate and vocal champion of the Arab community, not just in Fife but across the whole of Scotland. Their Conferences, Election Hastings, and Community Events consistently draw in audiences of hundreds, and they have provided platforms for public figures, politicians, equalities champions, and serving government ministers on numerous occasions.
The Middle East conflicts of the past few years have added a whole new dimension to FAS’s work, as they have been at the forefront of welcoming and resettling refugees arriving in Fife from various war zones. It quickly became clear that much of the anger and resentment directed towards the newcomers, and fuelled by a sensationalist Press, was down to a lack of knowledge of the reality of what it means to be Arab, and the history and culture of the Arab nations, and their contribution to the West.