The Corner

The Middlebury Madrassa

This is interesting:

At Middlebury College’s Arabic Summer School, where I recently taught Arabic, students were exposed to more than intensive language instruction. Inside the classroom and across campus, administrators and language teachers adhered to a restrictive Arab-nationalist view of what is generically referred to as the “Arab world.” In practice, this meant that the Middle East was presented as a mono-cultural, exclusively Arab region. The time-honored presence and deep-rooted histories of tens of millions of Kurds, Assyrians, Copts, Jews, Maronites, and Armenians–all of whom are indigenous Middle Easterners who object to an imputed “supra-Arab” identity–were dismissed in favor of a reductionist, ahistorical Arabist narrative. Those who didn’t share this closed view of the Middle East were made to feel like dhimmi–the non-Muslim citizens of some Muslim-ruled lands whose rights are restricted because of their religious beliefs.

In maps, textbooks, lectures, and other teaching materials used in the instruction of Arabic, Israel didn’t exist, and the overarching watan ‘Arabi (Arab fatherland) was substituted for the otherwise diverse and multi-faceted “Middle East.” Curious and misleading geographical appellations, such as the “Arabian Gulf” in lieu of the time-honored “Persian Gulf,” abounded. Syria’s borders with its neighbors were marked “provisional,” and Lebanon was referred to as a qutr (or “province”) of an imagined Arab supra-state.

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