Over the course of the semester, I learned a lot about the Arab World- some of it I expected to learn about, and other parts I did not expect.
My goal at the beginning of the semester was to better understand the Arab world other than just what is presented in the media, particularly on the news channels and I did achieve that. I learned about Arab contributions to western culture that, even though I think I knew a few of these, I did not understand the extent of which Arabs improved and advanced western culture. I also learned more about Arab music and arts- particularly through the drumming session- which I enjoyed because I wanted to better understand Arab culture as well. I also gained a better understanding of Islam and its practices, before starting the class, I knew that Islam did not preach the things that radical Islamist terrorist groups claim that it does; however I did not know the extent to which Islam calls for peace and working issues out through mediation. I also did not know how progressive Islam is, especially in regard to how women were treated and the rights they were given and how it was only the patriarchal systems that were in place before the Quran that kept it from giving women more freedoms.
I definitely think that I have gained a better understanding on the Arab World and a lot of the issues it is facing right now; however, I also recognize that there is still a lot that I do not understand or understand fully that would require a lot more study to firmly grasp. Two examples of this are the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and the war in Syria. I now know a lot more about refugees from Syria and some of the causes of the war itself; including actions the US took that actually aided Assad in his gaining of power. I am also aware of the complexities of negotiating peace with the war in Syria, especially since Russia has now begun to aid the Syrian government. I was aware of the war in Syria to a degree, however, I was only slightly tangentially aware of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict before this class and so now I now know a lot more than I did before. Both of these issues have root causes that date back many years and have many factors making them difficult to try to solve- this is considering that there are probably other factors to this that I am still unaware of.
I think that I learned a lot from this class about the Arab World including its culture and some of the conflicts and issues it is facing right now. What I have learned has made me even more aware that there is so much that I still do not know about the area. I enjoyed the class an getting a different perspective on this area that one typically does not get from western media, especially in the US and it was eye-opening to learn about things that I had never seen mentioned before.