For students who have been curious about the Middle East, the School of Literature, Science and the Arts is here to lift the veil. Students will have a number of opportunities to learn about the Middle East, from mastering the art of Arabic calligraphy to learning the fundamentals of Islam.

In an effort to show the more personal side of a region that some Americans consistently view as a hotbed of violence, religious fanaticism and terrorism, LSA’s winter 2005 theme semester presents “Cultural Treasures of the Middle East.”

“This is a wonderful opportunity for the (University) and Ann Arbor communities to gain a fuller appreciation of the Middle East’s rich and diverse heritage,” said Mark Tessler, vice provost for international affairs and director of the International Institute.

The aim of this undertaking is to focus on Middle Eastern culture rather than politics by offering a wide variety of courses as well as events.

Included are film series, lectures, exhibits at university museums, and concerts in conjunction with the University Musical Society’s Arab World Music Festival Series.

Marcia Inhorn, director of the Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies, said the theme semester is “all-inclusive” in terms of how it encompasses region, time-span and medium. It strives to include as many Middle Eastern countries as possible.

“We tried to make this very inclusive and broader than just the Arab world to include Iran, Turkey and Israel, as well,” said Inhorn.

Christine Fergus, a MENAS graduate student, said misconceptions abound about the various cultures and ethnic groups of this region of the world.

“It is hard to break away from the view of the Middle East as monolithic — all desert, all Arab, all Muslim — even for me, someone who’s gone abroad,” Fergus said.

“Even the term Middle East is detrimental, because it tends to lump all these different peoples together and continues stereotypes. That is why this theme semester is so exciting. It has the possibility to erase stereotypes,” she added.

Theme semester events span various subjects, ranging ancient art forms such as mystic Sufi music to the Lebanese experimental singer, Sam Shalabi, hailing from the Montreal underground music scene.

“We in the U.S. don’t know enough about this region of the world,” Inhorn said. “Our goal is to open up people’s minds to the Middle East.”

Inhorn said that many other centers across the country are similarly focusing on Middle Eastern culture, in lieu of the politics.

Applications to the Middle Eastern and North African Studies masters program have doubled since last year, and job openings in fields related to the Middle East also have doubled.

After the conclusion of Winter semester, LSA will have two semesters which focus more on the natural sciences, and another semester centered upon the social sciences.

Fall 2005’s, “100 years beyond Einstein,” sponsored by the Departments of Physics and Chemistry.

The theme semester will focus on scientific research and progress since Einstein’s landmark publication a hundred years ago of a series of papers concerning physics which revolutionized the scientific world.

For the Winter 2006, a collaborative effort by numerous university departments and museums will look at biological evolution from a variety of disciplines ranging from paleontology to psychology and philosophy in a theme semester that will be titled “Explore Evolution.”

Finally, academic year 2006-07 will look at, “The Theory and Practice of Citizenship: from the Local to the Global,” sponsored by the LSA Dean’s Office and other faculty members.

These theme semesters will also promote their goals through lectures, courses and outreach programs.

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