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Arts of the East: Exploring Arabic culture through film and poetry

The Council of Arabic and Islamic Studies uses a film and poetry series to fight stigmas about Arabic culture

Professor Souad T. Ali, Director of Arabic Studies poses for a picture of ASU Senior Ben Stelle, President of the Arabic Language and Culture Club on Monday, Sept. 12, 2016.
Professor Souad T. Ali, Director of Arabic Studies poses for a picture of ASU Senior Ben Stelle, President of the Arabic Language and Culture Club on Monday, Sept. 12, 2016.

The Council of Arabic and Islamic Studies is kicking off September with its bi-annual Arabic Film and Poetry Series, a public forum that combats the stigma associated with Islam by showing the artistic and cultural aspects of Arabic culture. 

The series has been very successful in the three years it has been running, said Souad T. Ali, founder of CAIS, director of Arabic studies and associate professor of Arabic literature, Middle Eastern and Islamic studies. 

She also explained why this series was created — not just for the ASU community, but also for people all over the world.

“It was part of clarifying some of the misunderstandings about Arabic and Islamic cultures ... and to promote cross-cultural understanding, interfaith dialogue and diversity,” Ali said.

With more students enrolled in Arabic language courses at ASU than ever before, the school is seeing more interest in Arabic and Islamic cultures. By attending one of the four events in the series, Ali said students and staff will get the chance to be exposed to things they normally do not get to experience.

“We feature films that are rarely seen in the U.S. or even in the West in general,” she said. “So it’s a good opportunity for them to see those films.”


Following each poetry presentation or film is a panel discussion that all the attendees can partake in. This open dialogue will allow for students and staff to have healthy conversations about current events and Arabic and Islamic cultures.

Neimeh Mousa, a lecturer for the series, explained why students, especially those enrolled in Arabic classes, should attend the events.

“A language class is not just teaching language,” Mousa said. “Culture is also important. So this introduces (students) to the language, the culture, the religion and the traditions.”

Hassan Ajami, an instructor of Arabic language and Islamic philosophy, shared the importance of Arab Islamic education and how the series will prepare the ASU community for cross-cultural social interaction.

“It is highly important,” Ajami said. “The culture is very influential. It exists even in the West — here in America, Canada and Europe. Therefore, there is no way to avoid communication and contact with Westerners and the Arabs and the Muslims. Therefore, understanding the Arab Islamic culture is very important in order to maintain peace, stability, and understanding between people in the West and the East.”

This semester's upcoming events, which will consist of two films and a presentation on modern poetry, will occur on Oct. 26, Nov. 10 and Nov. 17. Contact Souad Ali for more information on how to get involved with this event and others like it at ASU.

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