November 7, 2007

C.U. Arab Students Unify

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A wide mix of Christian and Muslim Arab Cornellians found a voice yesterday in the intimate setting of loft three of The Straight. The students representing Lebanon, Egypt, Sudan, Syria, Sierra Leone and several other countries met to create an association that will promote Arab unity and spread knowledge about the Arab culture to the Cornell community.
While there was a formerly an Arab Students club organized and attended by different students, the group failed to register the last three semesters due to disinterest and a lack of organization. This new group of students, which includes graduates and undergraduates, aims to create a strong association that will promote of Arab unity on campus.
Although the group will need some more organizational meetings, the diverse interest base is promising for the group’s future. It does not associate with a religious or political ideology, and provides an outlet for all types of Arabs and Arabic speakers at Cornell.
“We want to humanize the Arab image, which is something that is beyond politics,” said Abdul Chaballout ’08.
The group hopes that by avoiding religious identifications, it will attract a wider group of students, emphasizing the diversity within the Arab world. However, some students feel the group should have different aims which would focus more on giving the existing community a chance to speak rather then solely pursuing unity.
“I honestly think this club, like any other club, will have nothing to do with unifying. It’s about projecting an image. It’s for people who want to show off their Arab-ness. It’s about trying to give a voice to a community that already exists, but wants the limelight,” said Tarek Anous ’08.
Students from Arab countries may not always get the chance to raise their voices about issues that concern them. These students are all subject to stereotypes surrounding their community, much like any other minority community, and are looking for the means to change these preconceptions.
“We want to start an Arabic club at Cornell because the Cornell community doesn’t currently have one,” said Makram Raad grad, former vice president of the Lebanese Club. “It will be a meeting place for Arabic students and friends from the different cultures that constitute the Arab world.”
The first meeting, given in both Arabic and English, was centered on general organization like creating positions, making introductions and creating a group name. The group’s goals include promoting cultural awareness and giving the Arab minority community an opportunity to network and unify.
“I joined this meeting in the hopes of breaking some barriers that are preset between Arabic speakers and the American society in addition to inter-Arab barriers preset between various Arabic countries,” said Ziad Naamani ’07.
The group, which will be open to all members of the Cornell community, will meet again in the coming weeks in order to finalize the name and constitution and register officially.
“I think it’s extremely important for Cornell to have an association that unites people from the Arab world, to help promote a better image of Arab people on campus and to spread knowledge about the diversity of Arab culture,” said Nora Choueiri ’10, president of the Lebanese club, who is also a Sun columnist.