After the publication of Arab Voices, I faced the challenging problem of initiating a dialogue between Arabs and Americans. I knew that it would require social media to make this happen. As an instructor at the Honors College at the University of South Florida (USF), I recognized that social networks like Facebook and Twitter have become the favored tool for communication between students — and that they represented a grand slam opportunity for me to reach out and create a meaningful conversation.
Through social media students can now learn about the Middle East in the classroom, then apply that knowledge to real life dialogues with Arabs living in the Arab world. They can assume the role of investigative reporters, proactively seeking knowledge through online interviews. Upon conclusion of this experiment, they can reflect by writing a comprehensive paper and then share their findings with their peers.
My hope is to spread this idea to all high schools and colleges.
Join the dialogue on Facebook
These are some testimonials by American students:
I had no interest in Knowing Arabs!
Middle Eastern culture was a mystery to me just a few months ago. I had no idea what was going on over there and for the most part I didn’t have any serious interest….. I am happy I have unblurred my vision of the Middle East. But most of all I am excited that it is not the place I thought it was the women are working, happy, and educated. Knowing this is really enlightening and proves all the stereotypes wrong. I am glad I learned it for myself instead of allowing the media to continue spoon feeding me my beliefs. The Middle East is changing and prospering and I am very thankful that these women shared their lives with me and that I was encouraged to begin dialogue with them. (Yvette)
Arabs are nice!
The more people I talked to the more I realized that Arabs are genuinely nice, open, and kind. I think that the American media gives the impression that Arabs are inhuman monsters. However, through my dialogue with many Arabs, I found that to not be the case. Arabs are human, just like Americans, they are experiencing the same troubles as Americans and they do the same things for fun that Americans do…. I wish everyone would take the time to educate themselves about both sides of an argument before they form an opinion on the topic. I think Americans could learn a lot about themselves and about the world from having discussions with Arabs. (Mary)
There are Christians in the Arab World!
It was actually really great to converse with someone my own age because there was no generation gap to contend with. We were on the same level mentally and interested in the same things, so our conversations flowed smoothly.
One of the first issues we discussed was religion. Because Sleiman lives in a predominately Muslim region, I had automatically placed him as a follower of the Islamic faith. To my surprise, he is a Greek Orthodox Christian and was raised Christian since he was a young child. (Alex)
Wish all people can do this
If I described this project to some of my friends, they might think I was weird or tell me I was taking a boring class. “Why would you want to learn about what other people do in their everyday lives? Why does it matter if they like Shrek 2 or cereal for breakfast? Who cares?” I would tell them that it was one of the most interesting projects I’ve ever had to do. I thoroughly enjoyed learning that Tamer likes historical movies and Dima is a sociable person who likes to get along with others, that Qudisa loves Honolulu and Ghassan is an advocate for secularism. These aspects of their personal lives aren’t boring or mundane, they’re the very aspects that unite people from different countries and religions and family structures. This project was an eye-opening experience for me and I wish more people in America, and even other countries were assigned to do the same thing. Through our similarities and the destruction of our mental ignorance, the world will become a open and welcome place for everyone.(Megan)