Friday, May 6, 2016

reflection 7

My goal at the beginning of the course was a very simple one-to learn more about the Arab World and to gain new perspective. Often from the United States, we only hear one side of the story. Unfortunately, that side is often Islamaphobic and misinformed. I learned a lot about how Arabs have contributed to fields such as science, art, and literature.
One of the most startling things I learned about, and still do not have a full understanding of, is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This is such a complicated and multi-layered issue. I was especially touched by Carol Zaru’s talk, and how she thought that her life was the normal, until she came to America. I cannot imagine being unable to do something as simple as plan a date on a calendar because you do not know what restrictions or curfews they are going to put in place, and for how long.
My absolute favorite part of the course was going to the mosque. It was so peaceful and calm there, it felt so serene and I did not want to leave. The director of the mosque was very nice and informed. I also loved seeing the children from the Jewish Day School asking all of their questions. They were very insightful and had deep questions. I also liked learning bits of Arabic and how calligraphy can work with verses of the Quran.

If there was one thing I wish we could have had but did not, it would be the end of the year hafla party. I was looking forward to trying some different foods and learning about a different culture in a relaxed environment. I loved how our FYS last year had a gathering as well as the FYS that I Peer Mentored for this fall, and it helped us grow together as a class, and would have been a good relaxing moment before finals stress hits. I was unfortunately unable to attend the Taste of Arabia dinner, which was the replacement event, because I was in a show, and was disappointed that I missed out on a fun cultural experience. I would have loved to attend a hafla party and was very dissapointed that we were not able have that experience. Having a chance to eat homemade food and get away from the campus for a few hours was something that was much needed and would have enjoyed by everyone. 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

weekly report 8

Naomi Shihab Nye is an Arab-American author. She has a Palestinian father and an American mother. In addition to being a novelist, she is also a poet and songwriter. She considers herself a “Wandering poet”, but she currently lives in San Antonio, Texas.  She started writing poetry at the age of seven. She credits her mother as a large influence in her life. Naomi would often write about the world around her. She wrote poems that covered nature, friendship, school, teachers, and animals that she saw around her.
When she was fourteen years old, Naomi moved to the West Bank with her family, although she moved back to San Antonio a year later. While there, she visited with her grandmother. This visit is the inspiration for the children’s book Sitti’s Secrets.

Sitti’s Secrets follows a young girl, Mona, when she travels to visit her grandmother, who she calls sitti, the Arabic word for grandmother. At first, they rely on Mona’s father, who speaks both Arabic and English, to translate. Soon, however, they develop a language that does not need words. Mona picks up certain Arabic words, like habibi, which means darling or beloved. When Mona and her family return home, she writes a letter to the President about how he should meet her sitti, presumably because of all of the conflict surrounding the media’s portrayal of Arabs and how they are not all bad people.

My favorite part of the book as when Mona wakes up, and she thinks about her sitti, who is just going to sleep. When Mona goes to bed, she tells her that it is her turn to experience the day, because of the time difference between Palestine and the US. I really enjoyed this book and think that it has a good message for everyone who reads it. 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Report 7: Arab Americans

Dr. Michael Debakey was a Lebanese-American cardiac surgeon. He was born in 1908, and died in 2008. He is very well known, and developed many surgical techniques and performed thousands of surgeries over his career. He is most well-known for helping develop the mobile army surgical hospital. This helped people receive critical care in the battlefield. This saved many lives beyond those involved in Korea and Vietnam, and continues to be beneficial today.  He worked with the Surgeon General and inspired a system of research that the Department of Veteran affairs used. He also advised many presidents, and worked hard to start the National Library of Medicine. He performed well over 60,000 operations in his life time, continuing to work past the age when many of his colleagues in the field had retired. He performed cardiac surgeries both on well-known and famous people, as well as those who were poor and could not afford the procedures that could save their lives.
Dr. Debakey received many awards for his achievements, including the American Medical Association Distinguished Service Award, and most notably the Presidential Medal of Freedom with Distinction in 1969, the highest award a US citizen can receive.
Debakey helped pioneer the first successful coronary artery bypass, the first successful implantation of a ventricle assist, and others. He also helped pioneer an artificial heart, and later helped create a heart pump that could be used in children.
In 2005, Michael Debakey suffered an aortic dissection. Years ago, he had developed an surgical procedure, known as the Debakey procedure, to fix this problem. He initially refused the surgical treatment, but then became unresponsive. A board of Ethics at the hospital voted to give him the procedure. The surgery lasted seven hours, but ultimately prolonged his life. He died at the age of 99 in 2008, two months before his 100th birthday.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Report 6

Alaa al-Aswany was a dentist before he was a writer. In fact, his practice was in the Yacoubian Building, which is in Cairo and where his famous novel takes place. Long before he formally joined the protest movement, he spoke out frequently in relation to Egypt’s leader Hosni Mubarak. He is grateful that he had such a presence in society. He theorizes that this appeal with the public helped keep him out of jail or possibly worse. If he cannot find another platform to protest on, al-Aswany is confident that he will turn to social media and that his movement will still flourish. He says that a politician has to work within certain limitations as to be careful not to overstep boundaries or irritate the public, but that a writer “must be a dreamer”. This is true, as a writer can write about anything they choose, especially in fiction, but a politician is limited to certain topics that they are permitted to discuss. Writers have free reign.

People today, especially youth, are typically more likely to pick up a book as opposed to listening to the news or paying attention to politicians. Youth want to learn as much as they can from every side of the story and I believe that novels like these, although fictional, really help illuminate another side to the story that is not shown often to the mainstream public audience.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Reflection 6

Dr. Leahy’s lecture focused on the United States and the Middle East both pre and post September 11th.  She focused heavily on the United States, Israel, and their relationship and history with each other. She mentioned at the beginning of her presentation that forty percent of all US aid, totaling to around $3.5 billion a year, goes to Israel. This was surprising because people generally think of foreign aid going to developing and third-world countries, which is not the case when almost half of the money is going to a very well developed country.
Democracy is a point of contention between the Arab World and the rest of the United Nations. In 2006, the first free and democratic election was held in Palestine.  As soon as Hamas won, they leveled sanctions against Palestine and cut their funding. This is very hypocritical because the United States as well as the United Nations both supported and pushed for these elections to take place. However, they did not like the fact that Hamas won, so they took aggressive actions.
The Arab world is also subjected to many Human Rights violations, especially from Israel in particular. In 2006, Israel invaded Lebanon. Hassan Nasrallah only attacked the military. Meanwhile, Israel attacked civilians as well. The United States supports Israel in whatever actions they take and will continuously veto any negative actions the other countries in the United Nations want to take against them. During the Battle of Jenin in 2006, the IDF attacked homes and killed many, yet the United States vetoed the motion that the UN take action against them, so it did not pass.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Report 5

The Pakistani cricket team has been playing the majority of their home games in the United Arab Emirates ever since gunmen attacked a bus full of team members in Lahore in 2009. Six policemen were killed, and seven players along with an assistant coach were injured. Their captain, Shahid Afridi, has stated that he will make a decision on whether or not to retire once he returns home to Pakistan, after the current cricket season is over. He has been captain of the team twice, having been appointed for the second time in 2014, two years ago.

He is very famous in Pakistan, nicknamed “Boom Boom” for his hitting style in cricket matches. He lamented that they did not perform well enough in their last four matches, although it was difficult since they were up against such a good team that has a high record of wins. Instead, they lost and Australia went through to the next round.  

Cricket is a very demanding sport that requires a lot of physical and mental strength from its athletes. Additionally, it can be quite taxing for the team to not be able to play home games in their home country like all of the other teams. This can lead to decreased team morale and spirit, making them burn out faster and not perform as well in games.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Reflection 5

The Arab-Israeli conflict is like a tangled mess of cords. It has been going on for so long with so many changing groups, beliefs, and powers that we are now left with a big ball of confusion and hurt. No one knows exactly what lead to one thing or another or what the direct motivation behind things are anymore. Because this is so entangled, it can be very difficult to know where to start in order to untangle the conflict and find peace. If both parties do not cooperate, however, nothing will change.
The people of Palestine are presented with living in very inhumane conditions, as shown in Carol Zaru’s talk on Tuesday about what it was like to live under occupation. There are curfews put upon them without any notice or warning, random checkpoints that could turn a fifteen minute drive into a two hour drive, as well as power and water being cut off without any idea of when it will be back.
The United States also does not fully understand or acknowledge both sides of the conflict, siding with the Israelis. They need to step back and fully commit to learning and hearing both sides of the story before making a judgement. I realize that this can be difficult to do, but an effort should be made. We need to be educated on Palestinians and everything they are going through, and increase pressure on Israel to change their ways.

If this happens, there is a greater chance that dialogue will become more open and involved, that people will listen to each other instead of a “he said/she said” battle. Perhaps then a fair compromise that will please both parties will one day be reached, and the cords will finally be untangled.  

Friday, March 25, 2016

Report 4

On Thursday, March 24th, Israeli settlers from illegal settlements in Hebron celebrated the Jewish holiday of Purim with a march that began in the same location where the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) shot two Palestinian youth and then executed one of them a few hours earlier. The teenager, while seen in a video to be completely helpless and lying on the ground, is shot at point-blank range. A few hours later, Purim celebrations began in that same spot where Israeli settlers wore colorful costumes and played music, dancing in the streets. That morning, the IOF also shot and killed two more Palestinian teenagers in the streets.
The march proceeded down Shuhada Street, which had been completely closed off to Palestinians. They are not allowed to even walk there, unlike the illegal Israeli settlers who can walk and drive.  The group then continued on to the Ibrahimi mosque, where at that point Israeli forces started closing off the area to all Palestinians even if they were residents of that area. They also pushed children out of the area in order to create a Palestinian-free space that the Israeli settlers could celebrate in. Two days before, during other celebrations for Purim, the loudspeakers from that same mosque were misused to proclaim hate speech calling from the expulsion of all Palestinians from Hebron, instead of the call to prayer. Israeli forces made sure that no Palestinians even could come close to the people celebrating.

I believe that these events are unfair and unjust. Purim is a celebration about the Jewish people surviving a holocaust, when Israeli settlers are dancing in the streets in a place where young people were shot and killed just for occupying a space and were unable to defend themselves.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

reflection 4

Dr. Boukhars talked about how ISIS was an aggressive organization with a surprisingly clear identity. It began in Iraq after the US invaded in 2003, and it is the first movement in the Arab World to bring both violence and extremism from the margins to the center. This means that ISIS made these things more prominent and in the foreground than they were previously. ISIS rose to power through its enemies increasing power and sectarianism, or widening the divide between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. Assad’s extreme take on the war on terror and Russia’s involvement in the Arab World (particularly in Syria) helped contribute to help ISIS gain traction and solid place in the Middle East.
 ISIS claims that they are helping Sunni Muslims who are oppressed. According to Dr. Boukhars, the Sunni world has had trouble coming to terms with their history as well as their present situations. They are confused, marginalized, humiliated, and deprived of their fundamental human rights. ISIS feeds on this and uses this to make them stronger. Sunnis are described as being “a majority with a minority complex” by Dr. Boukhars as well, which I found intriguing. It seems that recently the Shia regime has been making more victories, and the Sunnis need a source of inspiration to get them back on track. Unfortunately, they have found this inspiration within ISIS. 
Those who join ISIS are relatively young, around sixteen to twenty-four years old. They are looking for direction, inspiration, and guidance. They long to be a part of a group and feel like they are accomplishing something, which ISIS provides for them. Many of them were delinquents who were then “born again” into the faith. Their religious enthusiasm quickly turned into radicalism. 
I learned a lot from this lecture. I knew it was difficult to stop ISIS, but I did not realize how difficult it really was until we began discussing it. It was very enlightening and I enjoyed learning about this topic.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Reflection 3: Massamba Diop Drumming Session

Massamba Diop and his band came and gave a lecture in class today with his band, the Rhythm Griots. He talked about how Griots are the “walking dictionary of Africa” and how they know all of the history of their people, and other tribes as well. There was another man from Senegal, who grew up on the streets. His mother taught him how to dance and make music, which she learned from her mother and relatives before her. This has been passed down through generations and will hopefully continue, or the tradition will die.
They discussed how nowadays not many people want to learn the old traditions of the talking drum (which Massamba plays) or traditional dance. If none of the newer generations learn, the art form dies. The same is true for the Griots. If no one steps up and learns, the entire history of a people will die with the last Griot. Once that happens, a huge chunk of history will be lost to the world forever, because it was kept orally and not written down. This is a terrible thing, and why it is so important to keep history alive.
They also touched on a few cultural aspects in Senegal. My favorite was that a man can have many girlfriends, which I found a little absurd. A woman, I guess, can also have multiple boyfriends. When a man chooses a woman that he wants to marry, they go off and have the wedding in private. The next morning, at around 8 am, the talking drum player goes and announces to the village (which is structured in a circle) that this man is now married, and tells all of his girlfriends to give up and move on to another man. Then the whole town goes to breakfast at the newlyweds’ house.
I thoroughly enjoyed this presentation, and I loved waking up to the drumming early in the morning. It really energized me and helped me throughout the day. Massamba said that the talking drum is lucky, and if someone plays it live for you it is even better, and you will have good luck throughout the day. I really believe this and hope that they will bring me good luck today. I hope that they can come back again to perform soon.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Report 3: Musicians of the Arab world

Find information about “Musicians of the Arab World." Write a report on any famous musician (dead or alive) from any country in the Arab world.

  Umm Kulthum was born Fātimah ʾIbrāhīm as-Sayyid al-Biltāǧī on an uncertain date, and died at the age of 76 in 1975, Her father was also a singer, and sung religious songs at weddings and other celebrations; her mother was a housewife who took care of Umm Kulthum and her siblings. They lived in a poor village in a small house.  She learned to sing from her father, and would often overhear him teaching her brother, so she was able to pick it up by rote. She moved to Cairo with her father and was able to pursue a career in entertainment, with both singing and acting as well. At first she was unskilled and untrained, but had tremendous raw talent. By the late 1920’s she was able to rise to the top with a new and expansive repertoire that was no longer limited to what her father taught her and a few current popular songs of the time.

In 1940, she joined the Listening Committee, which helped select songs for public broadcasting on the radio. This solidified her status as an authority in the music business. She suffered from a variety of health problems and later married one of her doctors. She was a spokesperson for a variety of causes, including Arab music and musicians. Towards the end of her life her health rapidly deteriorated and she passed away from heart failure. Millions of mourners filled the streets of Cairo and her body was carried by many pall bearers in the crowd who took turns carrying her. She was finally buried in keeping with Muslim practices. 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Reflection 2: Dr. Deveny's Lecture

Today, we had a guest lecture from Dr. Deveny. He teaches Spanish, and this was heavily emphasized in his lecture. The old song that was in Arabic as well as had some Spanish code-switching was very interesting to me. As someone who knows a little bit of a lot of languages, I code switch often. The code-switching also implied a message that the Arabs and the Spaniards should get along.
There are three important cities from the 8th century to 1492 that are important to history as it relates to Arabs in Spain. From the 8th to 11th centuries, it was Cordoba. There was a large library in Cordoba that housed many books. What I found significant about these books was that they were handwritten manuscripts from ancient civilizations that Spain had conquered. However, if these books were damaged and ruined like many of them were, that was the only existing manuscript and the information it contained was now lost to the world. From the 11th to 13th century, the most important city was Sevilla. There was an epic poem about the hero Cid, who was exiled from the court. Then, Cid managed to singlehandedly conquer Valencia, which I found very impressive.  The last important city was Granada. There are 4 streams that interconnect, which is similar to what is said to be found in Paradise in the Islamic religion.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Dr. Deveny’s presentation. It was very thought-provoking, seeing as I knew nothing about the topic beforehand besides King Fernando and Queen Isabel from what we learned about Columbus in school. 

Friday, February 12, 2016

Arab and Muslim contributions to world civilization, Blog #2

Malala Yousafzai is the youngest Nobel Prize laureate at age 17. She was born in Pakistan and is fluent in three languages; Pashto, English, and Urdu. Growing up, she fought to go to school and receive a good education as the Taliban grew stronger and forbid women to go to school. She even blogged for the BBC under a pseudonym and spoke out frequently about women’s rights to education. The Taliban issued death threats against her, but she continued to demand women get rights to education.
On October 9, 2012; a man boarded the bus Malala rode home from school and demanded to know which of them was Malala. Her friends looked shocked towards her, giving her away. She was shot in the side of the head, and the bullet travelled to her neck. She was in critical care and flown first to a hospital in Peshawar, then to Birmingham, UK. She had many surgery to reduce swelling and fix a paralyzed nerve in her face, but had no major brain damage. She received a massive outpouring of support, although the Taliban still considers her a target and threatens her.

On her 18th birthday, Malala opened a school for Syrian refugees in Lebanon. The school admitted nearly 200 girls ages 14-18. That day, Malala started a social media campaign #BooksNotBullets to encourage world leaders to decrease funding for weapons and to increase the funding on “weapons for change”-books. She has also written an autobiography, I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, and a documentary about her life, called HE NAMED ME MALALA, was released in October 2015.

Friday, February 5, 2016


                Two days after they began, peace talks in Geneva have been suspended, and will hopefully resume on February 25th. However, many suspect that the peace talks never really had a chance to start before they were suspended. Many of the planned meetings never actually happened, and the two sides were never together at the same time. 250,000 people have died as a result of the war, and many more have fled their homes seeking safety. Russia said that they’d continue with the air strikes, even though they are impacting civilians killing them. John Kirby, US state department spokesperson, believes that the air strikes on civilians will extremely hinder the peace process.

I am sad to see that little to no progress is being made on this issue, and that the groups can’t even be in the same room with each other to discuss things properly. Hopefully, by the 25th they will both had a chance to think things over and be able to talk with each other in a civilized manner. Twenty two days (according to when the article was published) is a long time. I am scared for the amount of things that can go wrong between now and then. Many people could continue to die because of the senseless acts of war. These air strikes on civilians make me so angry, they did nothing wrong. Many of the Syrians are asking for the air strikes to stop before the peace talks resume. After all, how can you begin to discuss peace when you are still actively attacking someone? You can’t.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

why did you take this class?

I chose to take this class because it seemed interesting and I don’t know much about the Arab World, so I figured why not learn something new? All I know is through the media and what they choose to portray, and we all know that that is not always the whole story.  I know that the Arab World has a very rich and unique culture and history, which I am hoping to learn more about. I also hope to get a more accurate representation of the Arab World through a variety of new perspectives, which I am excited about.   I have never been to the Arab World before, or traveled outside the USA, so everything will be a completely new experience.

When 9/11 happened, I was 5 years old. I didn’t really understand what was happening, only that the teachers and nuns (who were all from a convent in New York) in my school were crying and that we got to go home early from school, so my brother and I were confused but excited about the day off. My mom told us that bad guys flew into the Twin Towers in New York, but that we were okay and that they were going to catch the bad guys.  Later, when I was older, I learned specifically who those “bad guys” were – Al Qaeda. We had Muslim neighbors growing up and I never thought that they were responsible, although I am sure that they were scared they would receive backlash because of their religious beliefs. I know that even though many years have passed, Muslims are still receiving backlash for the actions of people that they do not support or believe in, even today like with ISIS/Daesh.