A window to the Mideast

BY MARISA WAY | JANUARY 21, 2010 7:30 AM

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When flicking through news channels or skimming over the headlines, such words as the “Palestinian territories,” “Saudi Arabia,” “Kuwait,” and “Iraq” stand out.

While the news might present information about these places and how they relate to the United States, it can be easy to forget the rich and complex cultures — as well as history — that these, and many other Arab countries, possess.

The Arab Student Association offers several opportunities for those interested in learning about Arab cultures. The organization offers Arab students a venue in which they may connect with others who share their cultures and is a source for curious students who want to better understand those backgrounds.

“We strive to be a resource and provide an answer to questions that people may have,” Harb Harb, the public-relations officer for the organization, wrote in an e-mail to The Daily Iowan. “It is critical that the Arab Student Association help increase exposure and awareness to counter negative publicity that is often described in public media. A small minority does not reflect the vast majority.”

One way the group shares Arab culture on campus is by hosting events. The association sponsors lectures, film screenings, and traditional music performances.

“It is through dialogue and education that awareness of Arab culture can be disseminated,” Harb said.

One of the most popular events hosted by the organization is called Arabian Nights. It takes place every year at the Red Poppy, 341 E. College St., and features belly dancers as well as Middle Eastern music and cuisine.

A goal for the organization is to reach 1,000 members, so new members are always welcome, Harb said. The group intends to host another Middle Eastern band, in addition to showing monthly films and giving lectures throughout the semester. Those who are interested in finding out more about the group can join the organization’s list serve at www.uiowa. edu/~asa or look for the group on Facebook.

Harb said those who attend an event might be surprised by how much they are able to learn about Middle Eastern culture.

“It is important that we have a dynamic approach of topics to provide a number of ways to think of the Middle East and understand that,” he said. “Although it is often referred to as a war-torn region, it still has a beautiful history and culture that is overlooked at times.”

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