UI to celebrate Middle East week
The Arab Students Association wants the University of Iowa community to look beyond the turmoil that's rocking Libya, Syria, Yemen, and a host of other Middle Eastern states.
Today marks the second day of a week of activities designed to teach students about the culture and day-to-day life in the Middle East — with a healthy dose of political discussion thrown in. It's the UI's first Middle Eastern Awareness Week.
"Sometimes, [the Middle East is] overcome by all this violence we hear on TV," said Harb Harb, the president of the association and a fourth-year medical student. "It's a good way to kind of show everyone it's not all about that."
Harb said the combination of cultural and political events will help people learn about many aspects of the Middle Eastern environment — including both the conflicts and the lifestyles.
There is still a distance between Americans and those experiencing the current revolutions in the Middle East, said Denise Filios, the director of the UI Middle East and Muslim World Studies program.
"Events like this could help you feel a little bit closer, and know more, understand more," she said.
This week will help students gain a sense of what true Middle Eastern culture is like, she said.
"It will enable students to see many more perspectives," Filios said.
The week's first event — called "Midwest to Mideast: Health Care During Conflict" — will be held at 6 p.m. in 346 IMU. Three UI medical students will discuss their experiences in Palestinian and Israeli hospitals during the ongoing struggles.
On Thursday, John Dabeet, the president of Americans and Palestinians for Peace, will speak at the Iowa City Public Library in a discussion called "Achieving Peace in Palestine."
Dabeet said it's key to reach out to college age people.
"Students are always the first that stand up against injustice, and students are a major target when it comes to freedom and justice and so on," he said. "They're young; they have the energy to do the things others cannot do."
He said he will discuss what he perceives as the media's biased coverage of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and help people understand that they need to form opinions after doing their own research on the topic. He said he wants attendees to understand the American media are biased toward Israel.
"Americans need to educate themselves about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict," Dabeet said.
Gerald Sorkin, the director of the local Hillel Foundation, said he didn't perceive large-scale media bias in favor or against Israel.
The awareness week will conclude with "Dance of Arabia" at West High, 2901 Melrose Ave., on Saturday night, featuring the Sa'id Music and Dance Company from Los Angeles. Organizers expect between 400 and 500 spectators, Harb said.
"Our main vision we were looking for is having a diverse portfolio of dance," Harb said. Dance from several Middle Eastern countries, including Jordan and Egypt, will be featured along with a fashion show.
Bassel Haddad, a member of the Arab Students Association, said he thinks the purpose of the event is to increase awareness of Middle Eastern culture, history, and political issues.
He said cultural and musical events will help start discussions about the Middle East.
"We strive to promote diversity and cultural exchange in the community," he said.
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