A few months ago I was able to help plan and attend an event for my fellow Global Engagement Fellows and international students. The event was one from a series that the GEF Event Planning Committee is putting on throughout the year highlighting various regions of the world.
This particular month, the region was the Middle-East and, as someone who has yet to leave mainland USA I was very interested in learning about the region and it’s cultures.
In main stream media, the Middle-East is often depicted in an incredibly negative (and homogeneous) light. However, after hearing the stories from my fellow students who have lived in and traveled to the region, I quickly began to realize just how false these stereotypes truly are.
With each narrative that I heard — about hair fetishes, pottery, bookstores, and encounters with friendly strangers in the park — I began to see the extreme depth and dimension of the Middle East that our media generally neglects to mention.
In my experience, when someone begins a conversation about the Middle East, people talk about two things: ISIS and refugees. Obviously, each of these topics is important and deserves to be discussed. There are millions of people who have been displaced in the region that are in need of assistance, and ISIS is a very real threat that we must be vigilant in guarding against.
However, I believe that it is equally as important to begin discussions about the diversity and cultures of the region, so as not to marginalize the lives of those who live there. And, I believe that this event allowed myself and all others in attendance the opportunity to begin those discussions on the OU campus.