Thursday, May 5, 2016

Reflection 8 - Final Thoughts

As the spring semester comes to an end, I've come to reflect on all the things I've learned and read throughout the duration of this course. I initially took this course wanting to studying something I had little knowledge on but a subject that is often discussed about within the international community. As a student and as well as a global citizen, I firmly believe in the need of learning and teaching of the other cultures of the world other than one's own. I am happy to say that this Arab World course definitely exceeded my expectations and taught me to look at the world in a new perspective. I have learned a tremendous amount of new knowledge about a totally different culture and people that the world usually looks at in negative way, and to learn that the realities of the Arab world is not how its portrayed by the Western world. While much of the topics and discussions relating to the Arab world is mostly of political affairs and issues, it was refreshing to learn about the actual culture and the people of this area of the world. I did not realize before of the great contributions by the Arabs into math and science and how without those contributions, the world would not be for what it is today. Learning about the art and traditions of the Arab world was incredibly fascinating as we looked at Arabic calligraphy, the intricate geometric designs, and learned about the Islam religion. It is unfortunate that the media and education institutions only mainly cover the political instability or terrorism currently in the Arab world so that the majority of the world only knows the negative side of the Arab world rather than the Arab world as a whole. I am grateful for taking this class that now I understand more of the Arab world other than just the impact of 9/11 and how "horrible" Muslims and Arabs are portrayed to be. Everything that was taught and learned in this class does not have about the Arab world, but also should be applied to any other country or culture in the world. A particular culture or people should not be judged so quickly for what a small percentage of people from that group did, but people should first learn and be educated on the facts before making any decisions about those people. When the class touched on the subject of Arab stereotypes in the media, the class learned that Hollywood and the entertainment industry have continuously portrayed Arabs and the culture in such a negative light and this stereotype of Arabs has taught the majority of the Western world to see Arabs in this way. Very little of the population is willing to go farther to educate themselves on real truths of Arab matters than just what the media presents, which can be a very dangerous way of thought. But even in all prejudice and discrimination that Arabs have taken post-9/11, they have continued to celebrate their heritage and been proud of their Arab identity, as seen in "Axis of Evil Comedy Tour".
As a student, I have gained a great respect of the Arab world and its culture as I've continued to learn more and more about it throughout the course of the semester. Even though the course ended today, I know that my learning about the Arab world does not. Hopefully, I am able to take more classes in the future that will also include in discussions about the Arab world, or maybe even be fortunate enough to visit the Arab world in person.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Weekly Report 8 - Arab American Writers

Naomi Shihab Nye is a poet and writer of Arab ancestry, who was born to a Palestinian father and an American mother. Born in Missouri in 1952, Nye spent her childhood in both San Antonio, Texas and Jerusalem. Being immersed in both cultures and diverse, her experiences of exploring two different cultures has influenced and inspired her writing and works. She describes herself as a "wondering poet" because of constantly traveling the global to not only learn more and find inspiration for her writing, but to also spread her writing and understanding of the world. Her poetry is known for its simplicity of events that occur, such that much of it describes the daily life of locals. She speaks through her poems about her Arab heritage and her identity as an Arab-American in a humanitarian sense. She graduated from Trinity University in San Antonio with her Bachelors and went on afterwards to publish many books of her poems.
Not only a writer, Nye became an activist and a voice for those Arab-Americans who were condemned against after the 9/11 attacks. She fought against the prejudices and discrimination against Arabs-Americans from the ignorant parties that chastised them simply for having Arab heritage. She wrote poems about the lack of understanding and communication between the Western world and the Middle East and her experiences as an Arab-American. She speaks out against those who have caused injustice towards Arab-Americans for their heritage and have tried to remind them even Americans have roots that trace back to other nations and that we are all citizens of the world.
Nye has also written children's books, which she believes that her works and influence will be held up against the negative headlines of the news that develop a negative image of the world.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Weekly Report 7 - Famous Arab-Americans

History has shown that the Arabs and spread of Islam has greatly contributed to civilization with their developments of the maths and sciences, but their legacy still continues into the modern day world. One Arab-American, Mostafa El-Sayed, has continued to make contributions to the field of sciences as a chemical physicist. Born in 1933, El-Sayed studied at the Ain Shams University of Cario and receiving a Bachelors of Science. He went on to the receive his Ph.D at Florida State University, and afterwards researching at other institutions, such as Harvard University, Yale University, and California Institute of Technology. His research has contributed to immensely to the field of chemistry research, such as using ultra fast laser spectroscopy to examine the energy conversion between molecules of solids and also has a spectroscopy rule named after him, the El-Sayed Rule. His experiments has been known for the development of the gold nanorod technology and has over 500 publications in referred journals in his respective field.
For his groundbreaking work, El-Sayed has won numerous awards for his contributions to the sciences, most notably when he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1980 and was awarded the Un National Medal of Science in 2007 for his seminal and creative contributions to our understanding of the electronic and optical properties of nonmaterials and to their applications to nanocatalysis and nanomedicine, for his humanitarian efforts of exchange among countries and for his role in developing the scientific leadership of tomorrow."

Thursday, April 7, 2016

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

Alaa Al Aswany is a well known novelist in the Arab world who wrote the novel, "The Yacoubian Building", which beings up political issues and corruption that is consistent with Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak during his time in office. His book tells a tale of a real place, where his father was a lawyer for the Yacoubian Building. Including occurrences of the revolution, Al Aswany writes to question if people are willing to sacrifice what is necessary in order to bring freedom, or if people  have evolved from a life of freedoms and have adapted to living under a dictatorship.
He is also known for his activism during Egypt's Uprising that occurred in 2011 at the peak of the Arab Spring. Not only has his novel, "The Yacoubian Building", been called "the novel of the Arab Spring, he has also been regarded as the face of the leaderless revolution and actually in Tahrir Square until former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak finally stepped down after 18 days of protests. While the novelist described his experience of the revolution of his country to be unbelievable, he still believed there was work to be done and concerned about the future state of things, such that even after Mubarak was driven out of office, there were still presence of his regime with the country's military rulers and other international powers who could impose a new threat to Egypt. Al Aswany continued to reveal the secrets of the Egyptian government by help protesters who were requesting the military authorities to investigate the corruption of Mubarak's presidency, which successfully lead to a case on the family's financial affairs.
Since then, Al Aswany has been hopeful for future directions for developing a secular, liberal, democratic state for Egypt, even though less than 20% of population supports this platform, but expects it to become a reality before he dies.

The Guardian

Reflection 6 - US Involvement in the Middle East

It is no secret that foreign relations between the United States and the Middle East have increasingly become more complicated and complex within the last 15 years, especially after the events of 9/11. While 9/11 served as the 'stimulus' for changing US foreign policy in the Middle East, other factors such as the Gulf Wars and US invasions into Arab countries clearly have also intensified tension between both sides, which have developed into many other problems that needs resolution. Some of these problems include the rise of attacks by radical Islamic groups ISIS throughout Europe and the Middle East, which have caused the world to view the Arabs world and its people and religion in a different, negative light. Consequently, controversial opinions and views of Arabs and Muslims are being expressed everyday in the news and social media because of the violent actions of a small selected group of radical extremists. In a way, it is logical to question why is there so much hostility from the Arab world towards the West, or to simply put it - "why do they hate us?"
Many radical (and uninformed) Westerners often believe in this idea that the Muslims who attack the Western world because "they hate us." Not only is it problematic that the statement of "them hating us" is vague in determine who "them" and "us" refers to, but also it is just too simple, such that "they" can't just hate "us" for no reason whatsoever and there must be some sort of reasoning behind this hostility. It is seen frequently in Western media of just terrorist attacks reports in Western countries by radical islamic groups, which the majority of the public only pays attention to when regarding to news associated with the Middle East. However when it comes to US foreign policies and relations, or any other interaction with that area of the world, it seems that the general public suddenly have no interest in that type of news of involvement. Because there's a disregard any other news, it forms a misconception of the subject because the whole situation is not known. 
Its not that they hate us just because they can, but its because the US has provided support of weapons and aid to Arab dictators, which their actions and decisions have been known to violate basic human rights. The US has invaded many parts of the Arab world and initiated what seems like pointless wars. They have established military bases in Saudi Arabia and maintained their presence, even after they promised to leave after a certain amount of time. The US have also greatly contributed to militarizing the Middle East, such as providing military aid to radical extremists and Israel, which have lead to more conflicts. With Israel receiving 40% of all US military aid, the Israelis have greatly taken advantage of this aid in their conflict with Palestine by maintaining power and occupation over the Arabs. Aid to Israel from the US have gone back into history as far as the 1920s or 30s, and their aid allowed Israel to develop its own army and institutions that eventually lead to establish its own state and the occupation of Palestine. Since then, the conflict have escalated to new heights. While peace talks and resolution plans have been issued throughout the years, but none have been successful because Israel continues to violate them anyways. 
While US involvement and presence have lead to drastic results with their foreign policies, the US have also affected the Arab world culturally. US globalization have established its presence in the Middle East with US products, ideas, and other aspects of culture, but it seems that these entities are only available to the elite and upper class and no one else. Because those can afford it, they are able consume US products. While these products are the norm in the West, it is a hypocrisy of values in the Arab world. 

Dr. Leahy's lecture was extremely informative about the current relations between the US and the Middle East and brought up many good points to think about regarding to this subject. It clearly explains why both sides act and respond to each in the way that they do, such as reasons why the Middle East might "hate us." Being informed about ongoing events of US and Middle East relations is important in attempting to come up with solutions to moving forward alleviate hostility.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Weekly Report 6 - USA and the Arab World

A US airstrike was targeted on spokesmen and one of the leaders of al-Qaeda, Abu Firas al-Suri, over northwestern Syria, but the US is currently investigating if the airstrike did or did not kill the al-Qaeda leader.
The airstrike was initially projected by either Syrian or Russian forces before the US took over. The US is unwilling release on specific details of the airstrike attack, where the attack occurred or what type of weapon was used, but human rights group in Syria reported that the attack occurred in a small town of Idlib province of northwestern Syria. This human rights groups reported that the airstrike targeted the al-Qaeda leader's son and somer soldiers that belonged to another terrorist group that is affiliated with al-Qaeda. It was reported that more than 20 people were killed and the numbers are expected to increase since there are some that were wounded and in critical condition. The al-Qaeda leader, Suri, had worked closely with Osama bin Laden and fought in Afghanistan in the 1980s and 90s. Before, the US have never set airstrikes on this terrorist group affiliate with al-Qaeda until this occurrence in their usual attack among the Islamic state.
With the Idlib province being as a recent group of violence and fighting, terrorist groups and several other opposition groups have struggled to maintain their power against Russian air campaign and a reestablished Syrian army that is backed by the Iranian and Hezbollah powers.


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Reflection 5 - Arab-Israeli conflict

The Israeli-Palestine conflict has been referred as the "Forgotten" conflict because it has been buried under the many issues that have emerged into global politics today, such as terrorist groups like ISIS or the European Migration crisis. While many of these problems are important, the prolonged conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians still needs the world's attention.
Although history has shown past wars and the progression of loss of land from Palestine, but no one seems to talk about the realities of living under Israeli occupation in Palestine and what the people have to experience.

Since 1967, the Palestinians have been living under the occupation of the Israeli military and endured much suffering under their power. Living under military occupation meant random checkpoints and military tanks along roadsides and would be interrogated by Israeli soldiers, even though it would to just to to the supermarket. There would curfews for the Palestinians, which forced people to stay in their homes without being able to used the lights until the Israelis would lift the curfew. People would often be approached by Israeli soldiers for random checks to see IDs and papers. They would especially discriminate towards men, and could subject them to military detention where they would be detained and be held for an unknown period of time. There would be no court date for the detained and would not be offered a lawyer. Power outages happened frequently and was a method of collective punishment, which would punish a whole area if someone from that area was at fault. Peoples' homes could be blown up by the Israeli military for absolute no reason, and Palestinians had to live in constant fear for their lives. Moving around and visiting other cities are inconvenient for Palestinians as they are not allowed to step in Israel as Palestinian citizens. They forced to take back roads that make trips longer, even though it could half the time if they were allowed to cross Israeli border lines. Even mobility is limited and it does not help when much of Palestine's territories are segregated, such that Palestinians from the West Bank want to go to the Gaza strip. Palestinians are also restricted of resources because the shipping ports are controlled by the Israelis, who can deny the imports or exports for the Palestinians. These limitations and restrictions carried out by the Israelis keeps a constant reminder to the Palestinians that they are under occupation.
However, situations became even worse during the First and Second Intifada. The arabic word "intifada" means to "shake", which represents the Palestinians view of unable to tolerate anymore of Israeli occupation and demanded change. They did so by initiating a revolution and resisted against the Israeli military.  During these violent times of revolution, there more frequent curfews and the stricter rules placed on the Palestinians. Stores and businesses were forced to close at 1pm and people were faced with water shortages.
But there some hope for the Palestinians when the Oslo Accords were passed, which allowed the Palestinian Liberation Organization to return and established the Palestinian Authority. While things seem to look up for the Palestinians, the possibility of achieving liberation for them was still far from reality. The Palestinian Authority only held jurisdiction over 3% of Area A that the West Bank. In Area B, 25% of the West Bank territory is shared control of the land between the Palestinians and the Israelis. For Area C, 75% of Palestinian land is given full control to the Israelis. While the majority of Palestinian territory lives under Israeli occupation, Palestinians still have to live as if the Oslo Accords were not passed.

While the root of this conflict dates back to the beginning of the 20th century (and probably even earlier than that), the road to finding a solution has not been easy. There have been many peace talks and resolutions in attempt to resolve the conflict but they have not succeeded the way it was intended or did not succeed at all. There are many factors that feed into this conflict, but one main decision to resolve the conflict would be to provide to states for the two peoples. To confine both people in one state would probably not be an efficient resolution because that is the current situation and both sides are not happy with other. The people need two states just so they have a land that is there own, and this is the ultimate problem that the cause of the whole conflict.

Dr. Zaru's lecture was very interesting and eye opening because there is little to no coverage about the Palestinians that live under Israeli occupation in the media. It is disappointing to listen to the horrible experiences that Palestinians have to endure today and thinking that there people who support the Israelis and their actions in Palestine. But it is important to expose the truths and reality of what is happening in that part of the world and come up with a solution to end this prolonged conflict.