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.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Weekly Report 4 - Israeli-Palestine Conflict

Within recent weeks, France have tried to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talk by this summer. By initiating a peace talk, France claims they will not automatically recognize Palestinian statehood, as they had previously claimed before in the past. Because of the increasing, recent violent attacks occurring since last October that left 188 Palestinians and 28 Israelis dead, France have decide to initiate a peace talk to avoid further escalation of violence. While Egypt expressed their appreciation of France for stepping in and initiating a talk, which "guarantees the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people", the Israelis reacted opposingly towards the French efforts of a talk and claim that the Palestinians would come unable to compromise.
While French foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault sought support from Arabs states to revive peace talks, an unnamed French diplomate was report to claim that this on-going conflict was "a powder keg waiting to explode" in reference to the increasing violence in Israel and Palestine. Since 2014, the US have also attempt to make efforts in resolving this conflict with the two-state solution. The unknown French diplomate is skeptical that the issue can be resolved in three months.
The French hopes to find some sort of resolution, creating a "two-state solution" to end this conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians, which can only be resolved by recognizing Palestine as a state. France will attempt to convince the international community to recognize two states.
France have also pushed the US to proceed with the peace talk, which the US so far have not dismissed. The White House has reported that they were working on negotiations and outlines of a resolution plan before President Obama's presidential term ends.

France 24
Israel Hayom

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Reflection 4 - Radical Islamist groups and their impact on the world

Since 9/11, the talk of Islamic extremist groups and terrorism has been on the rise in the international community and states have struggled to find effective solutions to stop their terrorist activities. One group that has been more exposed in the new within recent year is ISIS, a Islamic terrorist organization. ISIS stands for "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" and has claimed them as an Islamic state based in Iraq and Syria. ISIS initially pledged its allegiance to al-Qaeda in Iraq after the US sent troops into Iraq in 2003 and has gradually gained more attention throughout the years. In 2014, ISIS separated itself and proclaimed themselves as an independent group. However, there have been many terrorist groups that have come from the Arab world, but it seems ISIS has gained more attention and has become more of a threat to the world than any other terrorist group within recent years. 
Why is this, and how did this happen? 
While ISIS is only one of the many terrorist groups today, they are the first from the Arab world to bring violent extremism from the margins of the issue into the spotlight. Although the majority of the international community view their actions as horrific criminal acts, since they continually violated basic human rights by slaughtering many innocent lives, ISIS defends their actions by claiming that they are acting on behalf of Allah. As ISIS state that Islam is the reason for their actions, many have  blamed the religion of Islam for terrorist attacks and have began to generalize anyone who is Muslim as a terrorist. Obviously, this stereotype and thinking of Muslims are false and it is necessary to understand that Islam is not the fundamental ideology that stands behind terrorist groups like ISIS, but it is actually their interpretation of Islam and its teachings. As ISIS carry out more terrorist attacks around the world, such as the mass bombing in Brussels, Belgium today, more reaction and fear is produced from the international community. 
It is complicated of how ISIS gained much support and a developed platform for their organization because of the many factors that contributed to the emergence of this terrorist group. ISIS is claimed to be a support platform of the Sunni Muslims, who make up the mass majority of the Arab world. Although they are the majority of the Muslims in the Arab world, they are treated as the minority and have faced brutal discrimination and persecution from the Shiites. Feeling humiliated and oppressed, ISIS extremist were able to feed on the Sunnis' negativity against the Shiites to gain their support by proclaiming they were in support of the Sunnis and all their hardships. At the rise of the Arab spring, particularly in Syria, ISIS was able to recruit supporters from Syria while they where in their most valuable state when their country was in a stage of instability. 
The comeback of ISIS was also affected by the actions of many state actors. Iran had passed foreign policies that contributed to the radicalization of Shi'a organizations in the state, which gave ISIS more supporters and lead to an emergence of Secularism. The Gulf monarchies spent much of its oil money recklessly, which unfortunately ended up in the hands of ISIS. The Western states, especially the US,  have played a major role during the development of ISIS by letting issues escalate and their actions became a breeding ground for terrorist activities. Because of the actions made in the early 2000s of the Bush administration, terrorist group al-Qaeda was able to be created and lead into a 10+ year war that accomplished little. The US even supplied military weapons to Osama bin Laden before he was killed. While Russia claims to sent help over to Syria, they have also been reported to send support to ISIS. 
Although the news of ISIS gaining power seemed immediate and their terrorist attacks shocked the world, it can be seen that their potential of power has been built gradually by many contributing factors. They gain their support by feeding off on secularism, the fear and feelings of angered persecuted Sunnis, economic failures, and the falling state governances. 
Members of ISIS are very young and often join not because they believe in their ideologies specifically, but that they feel they do not fit within their community. Before ISIS, many members were seen as typical wild, young people as they partied or did drugs. They did not want to conform to their parents' traditions or heritage. However, right after their "wild, party stage", they would very quickly change their whole persona and was "born again" to join ISIS. They immediately start carrying out terrorist activities. Even though an Islamic group, members are clueless are about the religion itself ironically. 
But how can we stop ISIS?
With so many contributing factors in the creation of ISIS, it is hard to determine a solution to destroy ISIS. The issues are not as black and white as some individuals perceive it to be. But one issue that must be approached is the persecution and discrimination of Sunni Muslims. By doing so, Sunni Muslims will no longer to have restore to ISIS for solutions, and then ISIS may be unable to persuade Sunnis to support them. But that is only one factor among many. The international community must come together in hopes of coming to a resolution in solving this problem. While many have suffered of the actions of ISIS, such as those in Paris, Istanbul, and Belgium, it is important to take action before ISIS gains more power and cause many more to suffer.

The issues of terrorism and the extremists that came from Arab world is one topic that I have little knowledge on, but Dr. Boukhars's lecture on radical Islamic groups really opened up my eyes about the terrorism issues of the world today and painted an authentic picture of the progression of Islamic groups such as ISIS. It was really interesting to hear the development of this important problem and the background of contributions that has allowed it escalated to such a large scale. 

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Reflection 3 - Drumming with Massamba Diop

Massamba Diop is an international famous drummer from Senegal, who is most well-known for playing the 'Talking drum'. He has played all over the world for many cultural events, such as the 2012 London Olympics, Nobel Peace Prize ceremonies, and even for Nelson Mandela. Born into a family of Griots, Massamba Diop grew up in Senegal playing the talking drum and in the culture of story-telling. He describes his family of Griots as "the dictionary of Africa", meaning that the history of his family and people are passed down from generation to generation through an oral tradition. Their history is not written down so the only way to learn about their history would be to go ask a Griot, who has memorized all the history of their people. Not only griots, but Massamba Diop explains how his people plays the tama drums, or 'talking drums', which is played as a way of expression and communication. By playing different beats or sounds on the talking drum, messages can be transmitted through the music throughout the town, and this is serves as their method of communication. Massamba Diop tells the story of how he announced his marriage to the town, in which the morning after his wedding at 6am, he played his talking drum for the town to hear that he has found a wife.  Out of the girls he did not choose to be his wife would hear that he had picked another girl and they would understand that he did not pick them.
He also explains play the talking drum as a source of happiness and good for a person's overall well-being. The talking drum is played for celebratory occasions and should be able to raise people's spirits. Massamba Diop is a master of the talking drum and has been playing for a majority of his life and that it has kept him young in his mind and body. Playing the talking drum is also his way of connecting to God. As a Muslim himself, he explains that music is a method of survival tactic for people and it can be another method for call for prayer.
As modern media becomes more developed and accessible to the world, the tradition of playing talking drums and griot culture are at a decline. T.V. has been regarded as the "uninvited guest" to communities since its influence has taken away the attention of the younger generation from their traditional and older cultures of their ancestors. As generations go by, less and less are interested in the culture of their past and are playing the talking drums. As the older generation begins to die off, their culture and history will be harder to preserve. Massamba Diop and his band heavily emphasized on how people should learn and understand their history and past, where they came from in order to understand themselves as person. They make an argument that human race all came from a common ancestor and share a common history, so it is important to understand our history in order for humans to live together and help one another, as it should be

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Weekly Report 3 - Musicians of the Arab World

One famous singer that originates from the Arab world is Egyptian Umm Kulthum,  someone who has been regarded as 'The Lady' of Egypt and is known for her incredible voice throughout the Arab world. Umm Kulthum was born in a small rural village in Egypt into a poor family and was one out of eight children. Her father was the iman at the local mosque in their village and was the one who had introduced Kulthum to music and singing. As a religious leader, her father took on jobs where he was asked to religious songs for weddings or other social occasions. After hearing her father teaching her brother religious songs, Kulthum started to learn how to sing these songs as well. When her father discovered his daughter's gift of singing, he started to teach her too. Kulthum's voice grew stronger as she learned how to sing and she became an attraction of entertainment in her village. In 1923, Kulthum and her father moved to Cario to establish a singing career for Kulthum. Kulthum's singing voice quickly gained attention from the public. She had also trained with poet Ahmad Rami to improve her knowledge of literary Arabic for her singing. Umm Kulthum really rose to fame in the 1920s and 30s and her singing gave her a source of income. Her songs were heard on the radio, in films, and in television. Kulthum is known for her ability to improvise her singing in a way where her listeners can really feel the meaning of her songs. She has also been know to 'mesmerize' her listeners when they listen her songs, in that her voice had essence of the Arabic as tarab, an idea of enchantment. In this idea, Kulthum's voice was shown to capture listeners' interest by really feeling the music and entranced by it. Although Kulthum died in 1975, the presence of her music and influence still exists as prevalent as ever, as many Arabs today listen to Kulthum's magnificent voice.

Outline of Umm Kulthum's life
Voice of Egypt

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Reflection 2 - Al-Andalus

Al-Andalus refers to the Islamic presence and the occupation of Muslims in Iberian Peninsula, known mainly as modern day Spain, from 711 to 1492. There is a historical saying that states "Europe ends at the Pyrenees", which is to mean there is evident divide at the Pyrenees mountains between Europe and Spain. This is an interesting statement since Spain is considered to be a part of Europe, and by stating there is a divide at the Pyrenees, it would be to state that Spain is a part of Africa, for the tip of Spain is only 14 kilometers away. However, it can be said that Spain is separated from Europe of cultural and ethnic differences. Because Spain is so close (being only 14 kilometers away), Islamic culture and the Muslims have been able to migrate into Spain, thus the territory became an entity of the Umayyad Emirate. After the Iberian Peninsula was conquered by the Umayyad, the Abd-ar Rahman of the Umayyad royal family reigned over land and Cordoba was established as the capital. By 929, Abd-ar Rahman III succeeded his grandfather and and Cordoba had become to serve as a major intellectual, cultural, and economical center, which also at the time held the largest library with approximately 400,000 books that had been handwritten by its original authors and philosophers. During this time of the Muslim rule throughout the Iberian Peninsula, there were Muslims (known as Moors) as well as Christians and Jews living collectively in the area. Because of their religious and cultural differences, there was often conflict and disharmony within these groups of people. The Caliph was able to rule over their land until 1031, where the land was spilt and broken into taifas, or city-states. Because the city-states were small and weak, there were unable to defend themselves when the Christians from the north invaded and eventually conquered them. In need of defense for their country, the taifas needed to ask help from the Almoravids, Muslims that were still in Northern Africa. After the rule of Almoravids, they were succeeded by the Almohads who continued to rule over the Iberian Peninsula until neighboring powers started invading. The last Muslim entity was Granada until it was conquered in 1492 by Fernando and Isabel of Spain. By 1609, there was an expulsion of the Muslim population still in Spain after the the war from Spain. And because of they forced to leave, much of the intellect, resources, and crops of food left with the Muslims.
Today, there is evident of Islamic influence found in Spain, as one can find many mosques and traces of Muslim culture. As the song heard in class, Islamic influences impacts Spanish music and songs by incorporating Arabic words into their music. Although the Muslims were forced to leave in the early 17 century, their influence did not leave and still exists in Spain today.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Weekly Report 2 - Arab and Muslim contributions to world civilization

One Muslim that is known for their contributions to world civilization would be Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, for her efforts in human rights advocacy for eduction especially for females. Malala Yousafzai was born in the Swat District located northwest of Pakistan, an area that was held under by the Taliban's military. Malala was very passionate about learning and going school starting from a young age, as her father ran a school from their home and an advocate for education. However, living in an area under Taliban control, it made it harder for Malala to pursue an education as the Taliban is known for their oppression of women, including the restriction of eduction for females.
From her life experiences, Malala decided to write anonymously about her daily life while living under the Taliban. These entries often described her fears of how the Taliban might blow up their school, the restrictions of television and music set up by the Taliban, and the suppression of women. Often Malala would also write about her desire to work towards eduction rights for all, especially women. 
Malala and her father had often received death threats for their advocation for education during the time Malala was writing about her experiences. Malala was actually shot in the head by a Taliban when coming home school one day, which initiated immediate responses from protestors and advocates all across Pakistan. In response to her attack, the National Assembly had ratified Pakistan's first Right to Free and Compulsory Education Bill. 
During the time of her recovery, her story spread internationally as it had represented the fears and harsh realities of many girls living under Taliban rule. 
After recovering, Malala has continued to promote education rights for girls by establishing the Malal Fund, which raises awareness of the lack of eduction for girls and in hopes of giving a voice to girls who don't have one. 
Malala Yousafzai won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 for her humanitarian advocacy and is the youngest person to do so. 

Malala Fund

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Weekly Report 1- Syria

During the rise of the Syrian civil war, the condition of the state has become more chaotic and violent in the past 4 years of war. Initially, the fighting occurred between pro-democrat protestors and governmental forces.

But it soon lead into a civil war as the Sunni majority begin to revolt against the Shia Alawite government, which have caused other surrounding states to become involved.
According to the UN, all those involved in the conflict have committed war crimes and they have been terminate the use of weapons to avoid any further death, but the number civilians casualties continue to climb.

The jihadist group Islamic State (IS) have become part of the fight in Syria and Iraq and been accused by the UN to have caused crimes and terror to those who does not accept their principles and beliefs.
In 2014, the US launched air strikes at Syria to hopefully rid of IS.

Similarly, Russia begun intervene but much of their efforts were have said to be more harmful civilians and Western-supported rebels and many accuse that Russia's intervention has actually helped Syrian governmental forces. While Russia defends that they have stopped 875 terrorist objects in Syria, their actions still ended up benefiting Syrian governmental forces by cutting into the rebel supply from nearby aiding Turkish towns. 

As a result of the civil war, it is estimated that as much as 250,000 people have lost their lives and 6.5 million Syrians are internally displaced while 11 million have been driven out of their homes. Now, it is estimated up to 70,000 may be heading to Turkey's border to take refuge to escape the fighting near Syrian city Aleppo. To help Syria, the EU, Germany, the UK, and the US have collectively promised to donate approximately $10 billion. However, these donations were halted as peace talks in Geneva were suspended.

Here's the news story

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Reflection 1-Why did I take this class?

Maybe similar to others, I have only had limited exposure to the Arab world and culture. But often fascinated and curious about foreign parts of the world, I have always wanted to learn more and really understand the real and authentic image of the Arab world as opposed to what has been portrayed by others. By taking this class, I hope to expand my knowledge of the Arab world and have a deeper understanding of what is happening in that area of the world. Although I have never visited the Arab world, I really hope I am able to in the future.
Prior to 9/11, I have to say that I honestly didn't have a specific view of the Arab world, since I had been only less than 5 years old. And after 9/11, I still really didn't develop a view of the Arab world and didn't really actually understand what 9/11 was until I was probably 8 or 9 years old. But still during that time of my youth, I was living in a very diverse and multicultural environment where many of my friends were actually Arab or Muslim (my best friend from 5th grade is Muslim). Because of all the different kinds of people around me, I mainly saw that these Arabs and Muslims were just ordinary people so I hadn't really develop a negative view of them like many others may have formed. It probably wasn't till my middle school years until I learned that people had a negative image of them. However, I highly disagree with many of these negative view to this day and hopefully this class will further enlighten me with more knowledge of the Arab world.