Thursday, May 5, 2016

Reflection 7: A Reflection on the Class

When I started this course at the beginning of the semester, my expectations were that I would be introduced to the Arab world and become engaged with issues that I did not have a previous knowledge of, such as the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. In this aspect, my expectations were fulfilled.

I learned so many things during this semester that it is difficult to know where to start. I enjoyed learning about the contributions that Arabs have made to society. I have also learned a lot about literary contributions from the Arab world. As an English major and someone who loves literature in general, I was very much interested in the different types of literature that have been written by Arab authors. I was intrigued by the theme of identity that ran through so many of these novels and look forward to reading some of these myself for fun during the summer.

The guest speakers that came to the class presented many different perspectives on history, politics, and culture from the Arab world. I enjoyed all of these lectures. Dr. Zaru gave a very thought-provoking talk, as her lecture centered around her personal experience. It was one thing to learn about these events taking place in Israel and Palestine, but it was quite a different thing to hear first hand experience from someone from Palestine. It made the events much more real. Dr. Leahy’s explanation of the politics involved was also very helpful in understanding the complicated events taking place in the Arab world.

All in all, though the SIS requirement has now been dropped from the McDaniel Plan, given the chance I would take this class again simply because I learned so much valuable information. Though I do not plan to go into a field such as politics and am not an Arab Studies major, the knowledge I learned from this class has helped me to become a more informed, global citizen that can continue to learn more about this part of the world and work to educate others about the many misconceptions that they have about this region and the Arab people.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Weekly Report 8

Saladin Ahmed is an Arab-American writer who currently lives in Huntington Woods, Michigan. He was born in 1975 to a Lebanese/Egyptian father and a Irish/Polish mother in Detroit, Michigan. Early in his youth, Saladin became aware of the racism that existed against Arab-Americans in his city. A mayor of his town was elected because of his speeches about “the Arab problem” and he watched as an Arab community center that his father helped to build was burned to the ground twice. Ahmed developed his love of reading while working part time at a library during his youth. It was also during this time that he began to write poetry.

Ahmed went to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where he got his undergraduate degree in American studies. He also became an activist during this time, campaigning for human rights. He then did some traveling in Europe and the Middle East before going to Brooklyn College’s poetry program to get his MFA. He then got his MA in English at Rutgers University.

Ahmed is known for his science fiction and fantasy novels. His trilogy The Crescent Moon Kingdoms are based off of stories from One Thousand and One Nights. He won the something prize for the first novel of the trilogy, Throne of the Crescent Moon. His works have been translated into five other languages.

He married Hayley Thompson in 2007, and became a father to twins in 2010. His works continue to be included in journals and anthologies he has been given several fellowships from the University of Michigan, Brooklyn College, and the Bronx Council on the Arts.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Weekly Report 7: Arab-Americans

Image courtesy of The Wall Street Journal
Etel Adnan is a famous Arab-American poet and abstract painter. She was born on February 24th, 1925 in Beirut, Lebanon. Her mother was a Christian Greek, while her father was a Muslim Syrian. In her early years, she spoke mainly Turkish and Greek at home, but also learned French while she was at a French convent school. In fact, French was the first language that she began to compose poetry in. She also then learned English and composed much of her later work in that language. It was also at this time that she began to paint. As she spoke so many languages, she never was sure which one she ought to compose in, and described herself as being “caught” between the languages. She explained that art requires no language, and she was free to be herself when she was painting.

Adnan moved to Paris in 1949 at the age of 24, where she studied philosophy at the Sorbonne. She then moved again to the United States, where she continued her graduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and also at Harvard University. She then began to teach at the Dominican University of California from 1952-1978, as well as lecturing at other universities across the country. During this time, as the Algerian war was then taking place, she tried to resist the political implications that society placed on writing in French.

She then returned to Lebanon to work for the French language newspaper Al-Safa. She contributed significantly to the cultural section of the paper, working as both a journalist and the culture editor at this time. Adnan is also known for her insightful political commentary that would be published in the paper, commenting on the politics of that time.

Adnan moved back to Paris once the Lebanese civil war began, where she penned Sitt Marie Rose in 1977. She then later returned to the United States, where she has been a prolific writer and lives with her partner, fellow writer and artist Simone Fattal.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Weekly Report 6: Alaa Al Aswany and his role in the revolution in Egypt

Image courtesy of the Wall Street Journal
Author Alaa Al Aswany, writer of the book The Yacoubian Building, was an important leader during Egypt’s revolution in 2011, also known as the Arab Spring that spread throughout the Arab World. Al Aswany himself is an author who is also a dentist, which brings him into contact with many types of people and gives him a keen insight into human nature, which is shown in his books.

Al Aswany was a key part of the demonstrations that took place across the country. He was there during each and every one of the eighteen days that the demonstrations took place. He helped demonstrators focus and work together while in Tahrir Square, as he led them to call for officials to investigate the Murabak family and look into charging them with corruption. This demand was met, as officials began to investigate the finances of the Murabak family, and Murabak himself was later required to go in court in Cairo.

One of Al Aswany’s most memorable moments during the revolution was his discussion on a television chat show with then Interim Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik. Al Aswany asked many insightful and important questions during the chat show, but the prime minister became increasingly more agitated during the discussion. Shafik eventually became angry at the many questions that Al Aswany had for him, and began to shout at him, declaring that he was a great patriot. Al Aswany’s answer for this sudden outburst that he, as an Egyptian citizen, had the right to ask such questions. The Prime Minister was later fired from his position.


Thursday, April 7, 2016

Reflection 6: Dr. Leahy's Lecture

Dr. Leahy’s lecture took a look at the relations between the United States and the Arab World while examining the reasons why there are anti-American sentiments proliferating in that region of the world. First, she talked about 9/11 as a starting point, as many Americans were shocked at the events of that day. Many could not understand and an article was published in Newsweek entitled, “Why Do They Hate Us?” This article addressed the question that many Americans were asking.

The United States has intervened in the Arab World for a long time, and certainly has not acted with motives of justice and peace during all of this time. The US has played a role in brokering peace between Israel and Palestine (such as at Camp David, the Oslo Accords, Wye River, Clinton’s Camp David, and the Annapolis Talks), but one of the reasons that this occurred was because they had to, as they were very involved in the events in that area of the world.

One of the points that stood out to me the most from Dr. Leahy’s talk was the fact that many of the numerous acts of atrocity that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) committed was partially aided by US weapons and such. In the Battle of Jenin (April 1-11, 2002), the armored bulldozers that were used to demolish homes and kill civilians were made in and shipped from a US company in Pennsylvania. It is very understandable why the people from that area might hate the US, as they flee their homes and try to save themselves while being chased by machines from America.

I was shocked to hear that Israel, which is one one thousandth of the world population and yet has the 16th highest pc income, gets 40% of US aid. Israel commits many crimes against civilians and yet nothing is done by the UN. Even when an American citizen, Rachel Corrie, was killed by one of the US made armored bulldozers nothing was done about it. And when reports are made, such as the United Nations Special Rapporteur report or the Goldstone Report, nothing is done about it. In fact, the government tried to hush up the Goldstone Report and the Jewish author of the report was dismissed as a “self-loathing Jew.”

Dr. Leahy made many good points during her lecture, and I agree that something must be done. The US cannot continue to act like a hypocrite and say that they do not support acts of terror against innocent civilians while they are fully cognizant of the situation in Palestine. I do not think anything will be done about the crisis until more people around the world begin to become more informed about these events and are vocal to world leaders that they will not continue to accept such blatant acts against civilians in their own land.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Weekly Report 5

As the Turkish president prepares to visit Washington, relations between Turkey and the US have become strained as there are disagreements in the discussion over what NATO members ought to do in Syria. These two countries have different priorities as to what the world should be focusing on in Syria. The US and its leaders would like to focus on uprooting the Islamic State militants and defeating them. However, this is not the main priority for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who believes that it is most important for the NATO countries to focus on ridding Syria of its current leader, Bashar al-Assad.

Another problem that is causing the tensions between the US and Turkey is the fact that the US supports the Democratic Union Party (PYT) rebels within Syria. Turkey dislikes this, as they believe the PYT to be a part of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a group that wants to take land from Syria, Turkey, Iraq, and Iran in order to form a Kurdish state. Turkey does not want this, and the rising tensions stem from the fact that it appears that the US is supporting a group that is endeavoring to bring that about. Leaders do not see any foreseeable changes in Turkey-US relations until the issue of the two countries’ positions on the status of PYT is resolved.

Also, the US is not pleased with Turkey’s recent crackdown on newspapers in Turkey. The government recently took control of the country’s largest newspaper. The US embassy in Turkey has tweeted support of journalists who have been jailed by the Turkish government, causing even more tensions and some ill feeling toward the US ambassador to Turkey.

Though President Erdogan had announced that he was to meet with President Obama, it is reported that he will now be meeting with Vice-President Biden. Erdogan is also going to be presiding over the opening of a mosque in Maryland, which he invited Obama to attend, however the American president declined.


Friday, April 1, 2016

Reflection 5: Professor Zaru's Talk and Field Trip to DC

I learned a great deal from Professor Carol Zaru’s talk and the field trip to the different embassies, mosque, and Palestine Center. It is hard to weigh in on such a complicated subject as the Israel-Palestine conflict, but from the different lectures that I have listened to and the articles I have read, it seems that there are several things that must be accomplished if this conflict is ever to be resolved.

Firstly, the United States and the rest of the world need to recognize that the Palestinians are being treated very poorly by the Israeli government and military and must intervene more. One can say that something is bad, but if nothing is done about that bad thing then nothing will ever be accomplished. The world needs to show Israel that they are serious about condemning their actions, rather than metaphorically shaking their heads and saying what a shame the whole situation is.

Secondly, the Israelis must stop treating the Palestinians so harshly. They should let the Palestinians govern themselves and cease their occupation, especially the actions that come along with their occupation. Professor Zaru spoke of the stringent curfews, power and water outages, and the overall treatment of the Palestinians by the occupying Israelis, and I found the situation horrifying. The illegal Israeli settlements are also causing more tensions between the Israelis and Palestinians, and those should be removed.

The land division between the Israelis and Palestinians should be proportional to the number of people that each belong too. It is not right that the Palestinians should be given such tiny allotments of the land, and it is even worse that there should be roads that they are not allowed to drive on in order to travel between these sections. This is blatantly apartheid, and the rest of the world should not stand by and watch as the concern for human rights that these countries claim to value are stomped upon through this conflict. If the rest of the world perhaps was able to step in and mediate more, but allow the Palestinians and Israelis to come to a mutual solution that benefited both parties, this troubled land might be able to finally start taking steps in the direction of peace.