Middle East Interest Group: Opening Meeting

Middle East Interest Group

Opening Meeting


28 January

1641 Humanities

Formed in cooperation with the Center For Middle East Studies, The Middle East Interest Group strives to increase awareness within the UW campus community regarding Middle Eastern affairs. Weekly, the group aims to discover a new perspective on Middle Eastern politics, economics, geography, culture, religion, language, arts, society and foreign interests. An alternating weekly schedule of films and discussion sessions has been developed to enhance understanding of a multitude of topics pertaining to this critical region.

This semester, the group will focus on four geographical regions and the interactions within them. Each month will combine film, both documentary and feature length, with the discussions and lectures to provide a wide scope of perspectives on the country in focus. The countries selected are Israel and Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon and the United States. The following is the 2010 semester schedule:

February: Israel and Palestine

-Following months of debate surrounding the 2008-09 Israeli Operation Cast Lead into the Gaza Strip the programming will explore issues of status, religion, war and justice within the bounds of these two nations. Is peace a realistic prospect for the two in their current relationship? How does the situation affect the daily lives of Palestinians and Israelis? Issues including the UN Goldstone Report, NGO activity and more will be addressed this month.

March: Iraq

-In March 2003, the United States invaded Iraq. In 2010 the United States remains in the country. This month we will explore the significance of this seven year relationship. Tracing back the conflict to its inception the programming aims to examine how the US invasion evolved and transformed Iraqi society. Accounts from military, religious, academic, media and government perspectives will dissect the interactions between the US and Iraq. This month will be greatly complemented by individual directly involved.

April: Lebanon

-in 2005, Lebanon entered into a revolution following the assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. By April 2005 the Cedar Revolution succeeded in ousting Syrian influence and formal presence within Lebanon. How has this multi-ethnic, -religious and -ideological population cooperated in forming one of the most “liberal” states in the Middle East? Issues such from Hezbollah to homosexuality will be evaluated determine the nature of contemporary Lebanese society. Is this a sustainable future?

May: The United States

-The semester will conclude with a consideration of what happens when Middle Eastern ideas, people and issues travel across the Atlantic to the United States. How do Americans interact with the Middle East within the United States? Topics including migration, advocacy, religion and customs will be analyzed during May.

For more information on this semester’s programming stay tuned to the Center’s blog at http://www.mideast.wisc.edu

If you are interested in joining the Center for Middle East Studies Mailing List, please e-mail cmes@mideast.wisc.edu with MAILING LIST in the subject line.

Please Note: We are open to new ideas and directions to maximize our understanding of the Middle East. NO PREVIOUS KNOWLEDGE IS REQUIRED.

Israel/Palestine Film Series

Lecture: “What is Shari’a and Why Does it Matter For Feminism?” by Asifa Quraishi. Presented by the The UW Sociology of Gender Center

Asifa Quraishi, Law School. Sponsored by Sociology of Gender.

12:30 – 2:00 pm, 2435 Sewell Social Science Building, 1180 Observatory Drive.

Asifa Quraishi, a specialist in Islamic law and legal theory, joined the University of Wisconsin Law School faculty in Fall 2004. Professor Quraishi’s expertise ranges from U.S. law on federal court practice to constitutional legal theory, with a comparative focus in Islamic law.

For more information on the event, visit: www.ssc.wisc.edu/gender/Activities/index.htm

For more information on the Quraishi, visit www.law.wisc.edu/profiles/aquraishi@wisc.edu

American Muslims for Palestine presents Palestine Remembered Exhibit on February 6 2010

Palestine Remembered is an exhibit including divisions on The Goldstone Report, Al-Nakba, Rachel Corrie, History of Palestine and much more…

Come watch the award-winning documentary film, Occupation 101: Voices of the Silenced Majority. We will be giving out copies of this documentary and informational brochures. We will also be selling t-shirts, bracelets and key chains.

“But we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians” -Nelson Mandela on International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People (11/29/1997)

-For additional information on the crisis in Palestine, contact AMP at info@ampalestine.org.
-For questions regarding the event, contact Dewaa Ali at (414) 550-9112
-Sponsored by: Student Progressive Dane, Justice for Palestine, American Muslims for Palestine and Project Downtown

WUD Distinguished Lecture Series present Ayaan Hirsi Ali: An Evening Lecture

On Wednesday, January 20, the Wisconsin Union Directorate voted to bring Ayaan Hirsi Ali to campus on February 2nd. The Distinguished Lecture Series is proud to be highlighting one of the world’s leading feminist voices. With this lecture, sure to be the most controversial campus event most UW students will have the opportunity to attend, DLS continues its commitment to free speech, open discussion and humanist ideals.

Tickets become available to students at the Union Theater box office on Tuesday, January 26th. Remaining tickets will be available to the public on Friday, January 29th. This event is expected to sell out — get your tickets early.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali captured the world’s attention with “Infidel,” the acclaimed, eye-opening memoir of her Muslim childhood in Africa and Saudi Arabia and her eventual escape to the Netherlands to avoid an arranged marriage and become a Dutch politician. After a Dutch director with whom she made a documentary about the mistreatment of Muslim women was murdered by a radical Islamist, death threats forced Hirsi Ali into hiding, ultimately leading her to the United States, where she works as a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. In addition to “Infidel,” she is the author of “The Caged Virgin.” Now, in “Nomad,” her most recent book, she tells the story of her search for a new life in America as she tries to reconcile the contradictions of her Islamic past with her adherence to belief in democracy, equality and reason.

There will be a book signing and reception following Hirsi Ali’s lecture, and an opportunity for 15 minutes of audience-initiated Q&A. Come prepared for stimulating discussion on the central issues of our time.

(Growing) List of Co-Sponsors:
University Housing
Chadbourne Residential College
A Room of One’s Own Bookstore
American Civil Liberties Union, UW Chapter
Wisconsin Center for the Study of Liberal Democracy
UW-Madison Human Rights Initiative
Committee on Academic Freedom and Rights
UW Atheists, Humanists and Agnostics
Students of Objectivism
The Onion

NOTE: No bags will be allowed into the event. Security for this lecture will be very high, as Ms. Hirsi Ali requires constant police protection during her time at UW-Madison.

Position Available: Student Hourly, Center For Middle East Studies

The Middle East Studies Program (MESP) is looking for a second student hourly employee who will work beside and assist our current student hourly employee.

The new student hourly employee will be expected to:

1. Maintain a presence in the MESP office, including answering the telephone and responding to visitors’ questions;

2. Assist the current student hourly in routine tasks such as running the office, distributing publicity (including putting up flyers), responding to e-mails, delivering other materials, helping to organize events, making travel arrangements for MESP visitors, and assisting the director and financial specialist for the program;

3. Learn the duties of the current student hourly, including checking the MESP voice mail, MailPlus e-mail account, maintaining faculty, student, and publicity e-mail lists, maintaining the MESP website (using Dreamweaver), posting MESP news on RSS feeds, etc.;

4. Carry out other duties as required by the position.

5. Approximately 10 hour/week commitment

To apply, please send a resume and/or a brief statement on qualifications, relevant work experience, and knowledge about the Middle East (the latter is desirable, but not an absolute requirement for this position) to:

Middle East Studies Program

323 Ingraham Hall


Preference will be given to applications received by Friday, January 29, 2010.

Salary: $8.00-$11.00 based upon experience and qualifications.

Isthmus: Misconceptions frustrate UW campus Muslims

It’s a hard enough path to follow without being linked to terrorism.

UW students Dalia Saleh and Akbar Yakub. Says Salehl, 'I know my religion. I know how good it is, and I want other people to know.'

It’s 12:30 p.m. on a Friday in December. Dalia Saleh and her friends are kneeling on the floor, bowing their heads in reverence to Allah.

These are the weekly services at the Islamic Center, 21 N. Orchard St. Everyone has removed his or her shoes, out of respect for Allah. About 30 men are at the front of the hexagonal building, women at the back of the room.

Saleh and her friends — eight other college-age women — sit on a balcony overlooking the service below. A brief sermon, usually a lesson on how to be a good Muslim, is followed by one of the five daily prayers.

Saleh, 20, is one of about 300 to 400 Muslim students on the UW-Madison campus. She does not date, wear makeup or drink alcohol. Her faith is visible in the dark silk sheath wrapped tightly around her head.

“Islam is the type of religion that touches every aspect of my life,” Saleh says. “I try to always be conscious of my religion.”

Muslims on the UW-Madison campus, like Muslims everywhere, often encounter unfair perceptions.

“It’s harmless, in the sense that it usually isn’t something the person is doing on purpose,” Saleh says. “It’s that they don’t understand a lot about the religion, and they have a lot of assumptions and misconceptions.”

For instance, many people think the headscarf (hijab) is meant to make women submissive, but Saleh says its purpose is to empower women and prevent objectification. And in fact, Islamic women are encouraged to seek independence and higher education.

Most troublesome of all is the belief that Islam condones terrorism. “It’s very frustrating,” Saleh says of this perception. “I know my religion. I know how good it is, and I want other people to know how good it is.”

Islam, whose roots go back 14 centuries, is today practiced by more than 1.2 billion people.

Muslims pray five times a day: between dawn and sunrise, at noon, in the afternoon, at sunset and before midnight. During the holy month of Ramadan, they can’t eat, drink, smoke or have sex from sunrise to sunset.

All Muslims who are physically and financially able must make a pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca at some point in their lives. And all Muslims must donate 2.5% of their wealth to the needy each year.

“[Islam] is so embedded. It’s a sense of who I am,” says Neha Hasan, a sophomore engineering major and events coordinator for the Muslim Students Association. “Praying five times a day, it’s for support.”

Unlike Saleh, Hasan does not wear a headscarf. Dressed in dark blue jeans and a crimson blouse, she does not talk about her faith unless asked. And while Islam has brought her a sense of stability in her stressful college years, Hasan has at times struggled to follow her faith.

“Gender relations was a difficult thing to overcome [in college],” she says. “I don’t date, but I have to keep checking myself.”

This checking and self-reflection is a part of many Muslim students’ lives.

“[Islam] makes me always question what I’m doing,” says Mohammed Ansari, 24, a computer sciences graduate student from India. “Am I doing something that’s ultimately beneficial to me? And it gets hard at times.”

Like waking up at dawn every morning to pray.

Where do Muslim stereotypes originate? Ansari blames the media, which he says peg Muslims as dangerous and unstable, based on the actions of a few.

Yet the UW’s Muslim students say they encounter little overt discrimination on campus or in the community.

“I’ve never had anything happen to me,” says Salman Dar, 21, vice president of the Muslim Students Association. “No one’s ever confronted me. No one’s ever said anything to me. And I haven’t ever found people who treat me differently. I think [prejudice] is rare, at best.”

At 7:30 on a Thursday night in the Memorial Union, 10 Muslim students sit around a table decorated with Kit Kat bars and M&Ms. The meeting starts with a debate over the gelatin content in Starburst and Skittles — is it pork gelatin, and therefore forbidden, or is it beef gelatin?

Saleh resolves the dispute, saying she contacted the Mars Corporation and was told it is indeed beef gelatin. Thank Allah. Now the meeting can begin.

“Muslims are always late, and we tend to get off topic,” says Dar. The schedule of upcoming events is broken by random YouTube videos of Muslim rappers. Dar tries to keep the meeting on task, yelling over continuous laughter and quieting members when they get rowdy.

Dar says about 30 active members help with events. Campus Muslims come from all over, including India, Iraq, Pakistan and Egypt.

“MSA is predominantly a minority group, but it’s very diverse,” Dar says. “There are Muslims from everywhere.”

In his personal life, MSA public relations chair Akbar Yakub refrains from drinking, gambling and gossiping. In class, he strives to provide what he calls the “Islamic insight” on issues from health care to pop culture.

“I know there’s not much I can do personally,” Yakub says, “[except] set an example of what Muslims really are and what they believe.”

Saleh, for her part, notes that Allah is the God of Abraham — the same “God” worshiped by Christians and Jews. But she acknowledges that Islam is very different from Christianity, and is glad to help others understand its complexity.

“If you don’t make an effort to understand Islam, there are things that can be difficult [to understand],” Saleh says. “But I really want people to know Islam is not an oppressive religion. Islam does not support going and blowing up a bus.”

Posted 21 January 2010

By Claire Milliken

More on the web
UW-Madison Muslim Students Association website: www.uw-msa.com
UW-Madison’s Inside Islam: Dialogues and Debates blog: insideislam.wisc.edu
To read Wisconsin Public Radio’s Inside Islam blog or listen to a podcast of the Inside Islam radio series, visit:insideislam.wisc.edu.

UW Political Science: Office Hours Program features episodes on the Middle East

Office Hours, a half hour weekly talk show on the Big Ten Network, is hosted by University of Wisconsin-Madison professor Ken Goldstein. The show is produced by University Communications and the guest selection, research, and writing is done by Goldstein’s upper level political science class Political Communication: Theory and Practice. During the first season on the program the show featured three episodes on the Middle East and War On Terror. The descriptions and episode links are below.

For more information about the show and the upcoming season, visit: http://officehours.polisci.wisc.edu/index.html

Episode 15: Afghanistan

Guests: Jon Pevehouse, political science, and Katja Favretto, political science.

Professor Katja Favretto is a new assistant professor  the University of Wisconsin-Madison Political Science Department.  She specializes in crisis bargaining, international conflict management and currently teaches a class on third party involvement in international disputes.

Professor Jon Pevehouse is also a professor in the political science department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is well known for his research involving international relations theory, international security, and foreign policy. Recently, he has published recently topics including reciprocity in regional conflicts and international influences on democratization.


Episode 19: Iran Policy

Guests: Andrew Kydd, associate professor of political science, and Paul Wilson, professor of engineering physics and electrical and computer engineering.


Episode 25: New Policy on Afghanistan

Guests: Political Science Professors Jon Pevehouse and Andrew Kydd discuss the United States’ new direction in Afghanistan, foreign policy and current developments in Iran.