The MEST Forums

The Middle Eastern Studies Division at the School of Arts and Sciences held the last of its monthly MEST (Middle Eastern Studies) Forums of the 2015-2016 academic year, titled “Peace through Arts” on Monday, April 11, 2016.

This conference focused on representing peace in several ways. Students from the American University in Dubai studying Middle Eastern Studies showcased visual art, songs, poetry, dances, and food that symbolize peace.

The event was organized by Dr. Nadia Wardeh and Dr. Pamela Chrabieh, and it was hosted by Journalism student Amar Tahboub. The event started with small introductory speeches given by the organizers.

In her speech, Dr. Wardeh said: “Peace is a state of non-violence or truce.” She also stressed the importance for peace to become “the nature of the human state, not a temporary phase in human life.”  Following Dr. Wardeh’s speech, Dr. Chrabieh said the incentives and motivations that influenced organizing the event, in which she explained how the Middle Eastern Studies department views the American University in Dubai as a community in which ”people of different backgrounds and identities live together in respect and mutual support, creating paths to peace.” She also stressed the fact that this peaceful event will bring students together to share their creativity and to work together in harmony and cooperate together to raise awareness and represent peace in different ways.

Dr. Chrabieh said she believes that differences in cultures should not be a barrier for peace: “Differences in religious beliefs and practices should not hinder the progress of many individuals and communities working for common causes such as the causes of humanity and peace.”  As the event started, students performed their work.

The first representation started through a “dabkeh” dance that symbolized unity in diversity. Then, students shared some recitation of sacred scriptures specifically about peace. In addition, to the students that recited some poems about peace, and those students that had recited their own written poems. For instance, journalism student Hala Abulhawa, expressed her own thoughts about peace by writing her own poem, as she said : “At first when I heard about “Peace Through Arts” event, I did not know how to represent peace in any way, so I decided to write a poem about it, maybe my words would help.” Abulhawa believes that peace comes from within and the world is lacking peace nowadays, so each one should be the one that initiates peace so that it can spread along everywhere. Abulhawa ended her poem by saying: “I realized that I cannot just find peace in the air, peace comes from within us I swear. “Another poem written in Arabic by Omar Shazly, emphasized the fact that Muslims seen as “terrorists” is just a stereotype as he said that “the word ‘Islam’ by itself means “peace” in Arabic.

After all these performances, a buffet that was prepared by the students, in which, each student presented a dish from his/her unique culture. Students presented their dish by explaining the meaning of it and what it represents. For instance, some students prepared dishes that represent joyful occasions such as “eid” or weddings, and others prepared dishes that represent their national unity. This buffet was titled as a “peace buffet.”

Finally, the event ended with short speeches by Dr. Wardeh and Chrabieh, as Dr. Wardeh said: “The MEST Division’s mission is to break any cultural, religious, ethnic, and social barriers among people and to build bridges of acceptance, tolerance, respect and appreciation of the other.” As well as Dr. Chrabieh concluded by saying: “the importance of the function of art that of helping in creating and promoting a culture of peace; this culture is not something we wish for or an unattainable ideal; it is a culture we make, we embody and we share”.

In an interview Dr. Chrabieh said that the  MEST forums started its first activity in year 2014 with her talk about peaceful education. After her talk, several MEST forums took place one after the other every once in awhile between years 2015-2016.

For instance, The first MEST forum for year 2015 took place in September and was titled as “Eid Al Adha Celebration.” “This event celebrated the spirit Eid Al Adha that was represented by different cultures and religions by the students,” stated Dr. Chrabieh.

During the event of “Eid Al Adha,” Dr. Wardeh said, “It is exciting to engage our community and the visiting students with the traditional, cultural, socio-religious customs, folklore, and food so as to enable them to “live” the culture and senses its beauty.”

Following that event, “Women in the UAE, Past & Present” took place as the second MEST forum in 2015, which occurred during October. This event presented Dr. Saeeda Al Marzooqi and Dr. Alia Al Bawardi who told the story behind the Women’s Museum in Dubai. Both these Women further explained to the audience through a cultural and a historical platform how the Emirati Professor Rafia Obaid Ghubash became a phenomenon that “brought a younger generation closer to understanding their heritage.”

The MEST department then started year 2016 with an MEST forum that gathered the alumni of the Middle Eastern Studies and the current students. This event was titled as the “1st Alumni Annual Gathering.” This gathering aimed to bring together the alumni and the current students who are completing the certificate of the Middle Eastern Studies to talk about their experience with this department whether it influenced them in their careers or in their everyday life.

Following this event, the second for year 2016 took place in February and was titled as “Dr. Nadia Wardeh on Turath.” This MEST forum was a “book signing” event and a panel discussion around Dr. Wardeh’s book that is entitled as “ “The Problematic of Turath in Contemporary Arab Thought.”

The certificate of the Middle Eastern Studies is a program of 18 credit hours aimed to grant students the ability to understand the area they live in or the area that will be the focus of their profession. During an interview with students that are completing this certificate, the DPST student Dana Oweis stated: “I truly enjoy the MEST forums, and I am so glad I have signed up for this certificate as it influences my everyday life.” Agreeing with Oweis, the student Noor Shahin adds: “sometimes I feel more proud of my MEST certificate than my major itself.”

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