U.Va. alumna Heba Kholod Tellawi has recently published an article in the VA Engage Journal titled A Profile of the Middle Eastern/Muslim Community at the University of Virginia: Resources, Concerns, and Recommendations. As stated in the introduction, the article “outlines the history of resources available for Middle Eastern and Muslim students at the University of Virginia, and attempts to create a profile of what the community has looked like throughout the years.” It then goes on to make policy recommendations and suggest ideas for future research on the community.
On Saturday, December 3 students gathered to celebrate Yalda Night (Shabe Yalda), the longest night of the year, with the Persian Cultural Society (PCS) and the Afghan Students Association (ASA). The actual Yalda Night, or winter solstice, is Thursday, December 22, during winter break. PCS and ASA hosted a fun-filled event with traditional music, poetry readings, and authentic food. Poetry recitations included works from the rich Persian literary canon by Hafez, Rumi, and Sa`adi.
Yemeni Echoes of the Arab Spring
On Tuesday November 15, the Department of Middle Eastern & South Asian Languages & Cultures (MESALC) and the Center for International Studies (CIS) at the University of Virginia welcomed Jefferson Gray, a guest speaker to discuss the Arab uprisings in Yemen. Mr. Gray was a Fulbright scholar to Yemen and is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Chicago. He discussed, among other related matters, the importance of grassroots political activism in Yemen, tribal, environmental and geopolitical concerns facing Yemen, and the recent awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to activist Tawakkul Karman. The event was well-attended by MESALC faculty, students, and staff.
On Tuesday November 8 students convened in the Munford dormitory of the International Residential College (IRC) for a Multicultural Poetry Night co-sponsored by the Office of the Dean of Students (ODOS), the Middle Eastern Leadership Council (MELC) and the IRC. Dinner was catered by Kabob Palace, and poetry was read in Persian, Hebrew, Urdu, and Arabic. Students from the Department of Middle Eastern & South Asian Languages and Cultures (MESALC) participated, as well as students from the Middle Eastern and South Asian communities.
On Sunday November 6, 2011 the Muslim Students Association (MSA) held an Eid banquet in celebration of Eid Al-Adha, which marks the end of the Hajj season, or the pilgrimage to Mecca that takes place once a year. Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam, in addition to shahaada (acknowledging God’s oneness), salah (prayer), sawm (fasting in the month of Ramadan), and zakaat (almsgiving). Dinner at the Eid celebration was catered by Milan, a local Indian restaurant.
On Thursday, November 3, at 9:30 am in Newcomb Hall Rm 389, Professor Hanadi Al-Samman on behalf of the Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Cultures (MESALC) gave a presentation titled “Buried Cities and Resurrected Histories in Hoda Barakat’s The Tiller of Waters.” Professor Al-Samman analyzed the quest for knowledge about the history and heritage of Beirut in the novel, a search conducted via the examination of ancient, preserved fabrics that were used in traditional Lebanese clothing. During the presentation Professor Farzaneh Milani served as a discussant, and the presentation was followed by a plenary session from 11:00 am to noon. The talk was given as part of “The Colonial City Symposium.”
Trick-or-Treat on the Lawn
Various members from the Middle Eastern Leadership Council (MELC), Arab Student Organization (ASO), and Students for Peace and Justice in Palestine (SPJP) came out on October 31st for the University’s annual event “Trick-or-Treat on the Lawn.” The event was held in Lawn Room 24, in which attendees passed out candy to greet eager little trick-or-treaters from the Charlottesville community. It was an lively opportunity to celebrate the festivities with costumes and candy, as well as to give back to the children of Charlottesville.
Big MELC Friday
The Middle Eastern Leadership Council (MELC) hosted MELC Fridays October 28th at Lawn Room 24. Food was catered by Kabob Palace and representatives of the various MELC organizations were in attendance along with members of the Latino Student Alliance (LSA) and the American Indian Student Union (AISU). Students enjoyed Middle Eastern music, Afghan food, and traditional Arab dabka dance, and had a fun opportunity to mix and mingle.
Rock the Casbah
Acclaimed foreign correspondent, commentator, and author Robin Wright visited the University of Virginia Monday October 24 to share her experience and knowledge related to her book Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World. In an engaging lecture attended by students, faculty, staff and other members of the University community, Wright relayed through pictures the dynamic situation in the Middle East due to recent uprisings. She shed light on the role of emerging activists, artists and comedians, most of them young people, and their importance for the uprisings and the future of the region. The event was co-sponsored by the Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Cultures (MESALC) and the Center for International Studies (CIR).
Sleep Out for the Homeless
Students gathered for the UVa Sleepout for the Homeless to increase awareness and raise money for organizations that help the homeless in Charlottesville. Participants slept outside in tents for 1-3 nights and secured donations from family, friends, and local organizations to be given to The Haven, a local Charlottesville organization dedicated to providing assistance and means to reintroduce homeless individuals back into society and allow them to once again become independent. The event was co-sponsored by the Muslim Student Association (MSA), Shalom Salaam (In conjunction with MSA), Sustained Dialogue, Jewish Education Initiative, Jewish Religious Life Council, and many more organizations.
On Monday, October 3, students gathered in NAU 101 for a presentation hosted by the Latino Student Alliance (LSA) and co-sponsored by various student organizations including the Middle Eastern Leadership Council (MELC). The event was titled “Still Dreaming” to demonstrate the goals of the DREAM Act, which is an acronym for the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act. The legislative proposal provides methods to offer the undocumented children of unauthorized immigrants the opportunity to attain permanent residency in the United States.
The Middle Eastern Leadership Council (MELC) held MELC Fridays at 4pm at Lawn Room 24. The meeting provided an opportunity for MELC members and others to meet in an informal setting and enjoy tea and light refreshments. MELC members were encouraged to attend and bring friends. Attendance was high and those who participated found a place to end the week on a good note.
ASO Families Interest Meeting
The Arab Students Organization (ASO) hosted a Families Interest Meeting this Thursday the 29th at 7:00 pm in Maury Hall Rm 110. Students met the ASO executive committee as well as new and returning ASO members. ASO conducted ice breakers with a speed dating game, after which upperclass members were paired with underclass members for mentoring and facilitating group solidarity.
News Related to Beta Bridge Incident
For more information on the news coverage surrounding the Students for Peace and Justice in Palestine (SPJP) Beta Bridge incident which occurred Thursday, September 15th, please see the news page which contains a brief summary of the sequence of events plus relevant links to articles and op-eds from the Cavalier Daily.http://www.virginia.edu/deanofstudents/middle_east/?page_id=11
SPJP Guest Lecture
Students for Peace and Justice in Palestine (SPJP) convened Monday evening at 7 pm in Minor 125 for a guest lecture by activist Gabriel Shivone. Shivone, who participated in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla II this past summer, shared his experience with the flotilla and non-violent activism. The guest speaker also fielded questions from attendees on topics ranging from Israeli security concerns to the various ideologies present in the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict to his experiences with activism apart from the flotilla. Gabriel Shivone is a coordinator for Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) from the University of Arizona.
MELC Shoots for the Moon
On Saturday the 17th, the Middle Eastern Leadership Council (MELC) rounded up a team to join Gamma Phi Beta’s “Shoot for the Moon” philanthropy soccer tournament. The money raised was donated to Campfire USA and I Have A Dream Foundation. The team players consisted of Ibrahim Tora, Omar Nabhani, Mimi Boussouf, Michelle Caravella, Mina Pirasteh, Mohamed Abdelrahman, Omer Abdul Hamid, Mohammed Shafi, Amani Boudriga, and Sara Almousa- with five players on the field and five alternates. The MELC team made it to the semi-finals of the coed team bracket. The tournament provided an opportunity for the members to give back to the Charlottesville community as well as a chance for the various MELC members to conduct outreach and bond with each other.
SPJP Paints Beta Bridge
Members of Students for Peace and Justice in Palestine (SPJP) came together Wednesday night at 10 p.m. to paint Beta Bridge, an annual event. The event was geared toward building camaraderie among group members and collectively advocating for their cause. This year, the members decided to use the slogan “Palestine Deserves a State” in accordance with the Palestinian bid for statehood at the United Nations.
Students gathered Monday evening at O’Hill Forum for an Interfaith Dialogue held by Sustained Dialogue (SD) in light of the 9/11 memorial weekend. Five students from diverse backgrounds briefly shared their 9/11 experiences and how they have been impacted by them, and then the meeting broke up into smaller groups to discuss ideas brought to light. Participants exchanged views on topics as varied as airport security, the status of Muslims and Middle Easterners pre and post-9/11, and how to collectively reflect on what will forever be remembered as a devastating event, and to hopefully move forward. Students from the Middle Eastern and Muslim community were active participants and leaders of discussion.
Students for Peace and Justice in Palestine (SPJP) convened for its second meeting Sunday evening in New Cabell Hall. Leaders briefed attendees with news updates regarding the reported economic growth of Palestine and its anticipated bid for statehood at the United Nations this month. SPJP then voted to launch a fundraising effort to support Inash Al-Usra (The Restoration of the Family), a non-governmental organization that aids the education of Palestinian children. In conclusion, a schedule was given of upcoming conferences on the Palestinian situation scheduled to take place this semester.
MELC at 9/11 Memorial
Middle Eastern Leadership Council (MELC) representatives along with UVA students, faculty, staff, and members of the Charlottesville community gathered Sunday, September 11 to reflect on the events of September 11, 2001 ten years ago. A 9/11 memorial was held in the Dome Room of the Rotunda sponsored by SAFER and the Burke Society. An opening acapella performance was given by the Academical Village People (AVP), followed shortly thereafter by a speech from University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan. A steel from the World Trade Center (WTC) was displayed (pictured above), marking the solemnity of a tragic experience shared by the current generation of UVA students.
MSA Food Bank
The Muslim Students Association (MSA) held an Emergency Food Bank event at the Whole Foods on Hydraulic Road this weekend (Friday and Saturday) from 10 A.M. to 6 P.M. Members stood at the entrance and passed out flyers with information on what kinds of nonperishable foods were being collected for those in need. Customers exited Whole Foods with bags filled with cans, cereal, snacks, and much more to contribute to the large MSA Food Bank bin. It was reported that the bin filled up almost every two hours. The amount of food collected (in pounds) will be calculated by the end of next week.
First Meeting for ASA
The Afghan Students Association (ASA) convened for its first meeting Tuesday evening in Newcomb Hall. Leaders, returning members, and new members became acquainted with one another and an outline of upcoming events was presented. Be on the lookout for a special performance by ASA, which will be featured during the Culture Fest scheduled to take place October 28-30 (also Parents Weekend).
MSA Eid Banquet
The Muslim Students Association (MSA) hosted an Eid banquet at the Student Activities Building Tuesday evening to celebrate the close of the Holy Month of Ramadan. Students gathered for a fun-filled evening of socializing, a presentation on what Ramadan means to Muslims around the globe, and of course, plenty of good food. UVA students and faculty were in attendance, as well as members of the larger Charlottesville community.
First Meeting for MEMP
The Middle Eastern Mentoring Program (MEMP) held its first meeting of the year Thursday evening at the Shea language house. The program is designed to help new students make a smooth transition to university life and to feel part of a community that values their cultural background. Upper-class mentors describe the program as a rewarding experience and one that provides opportunity for personal growth, while mentees gain not only a valuable resource in their mentors, but also good friends.
First Meeting for PCS
The Persian Cultural Society (PCS) held its first meeting of the year Wednesday evening in Newcomb Hall. Refreshments including traditional sweets were provided while new and returning members got acquainted with one another. PCS leaders then introduced themselves to the group as a whole, and established a general outline for cultural and social events to come during the course of the year. Leaders offered to befriend and mentor younger students, as well as to make themselves available for cultural education and academic help.
SPJP Movie Screening: Occupation 101
Students for Peace and Justice in Palestine (SPJP) convened for a movie screening of “Occupation 101: Voice of the Silenced Majority” 8 pm Tuesday evening in room 204 of the Physics building. The film documents the experiences of Israelis, Palestinians, peace activists, scholars, religious leaders, and others who have been affected by the Israeli occupation of Palestine. The film screening was followed by a moderated discussion on the Israeli occupation and its effects on the regional and global political landscape, as well as possible solutions to the conflict that has resulted.
MSA Ice Cream Social
The Muslim Students Association (MSA) celebrated Eid (the end of the Holy Month of Ramadan) 5 pm Tuesday afternoon with a garden party ice cream social. Ben and Jerry’s ice cream was provided for under and upperclassmen, graduate students, and university staff who attended the event.
MSA Sisters’ Gathering
The sisters of the Muslim Students Association (MSA) broke fast Monday night with prayer and Iftaar (the evening meal during the Holy Month of Ramadan), and then proceeded to hold a sisters-only gathering in which traditional foods were provided, accompanied by dancing and good conversation. Students celebrated the last night of Ramadan before Eid, or the closure of the fast for the year. Also present were those who volunteered to draw artistic designs with henna on the hands of attendees.
First Meeting for SPJP
Students for Peace and Justice in Palestine (SPJP) convened for its first meeting on Sunday August 28 on the Lawn in front of Old Cabell Hall. Organization leaders and members got to know one another, and a basic outline of the year’s activities was laid out. SPJP seeks to provide resources for its members to educate themselves about the political, economic, and humanitarian situation in Palestine, as well as to educate the public on the matter. SPJP is not anti-Jewish and is not against the existence of Israel, but rather advocates for the rights of the Palestinian people.
MSA IHOP Suhoor
The Muslim Students Association (MSA) met for Suhoor (early-morning meal during the holy month of Ramadan) at the local IHOP at 2:30 am Friday morning to grab a bite to eat before the period of fasting began. Students described the meal as an opportunity for friends and family to spend time together and celebrate Ramadan, typically done in an intimate home setting. Students from various cultural backgrounds were in attendance, though many of them shared similarities in terms of Ramadan observance.
Middle Eastern Welcome Reception
The 2011-2012 school year kicked off with a Middle Eastern Welcome Reception on Thursday evening during the first week of classes. Hosted by the Office of the Dean of Students (ODOS), students were introduced to services and resources available to them through ODOS, as well as through student-led community organizations. Attendees were encouraged to make the most of the resources presented, as well as to get to know the leadership and membership of UVA’s student groups who have an interest in and/or heritage from the Middle East. The event was attended by underclassmen as well as upperclassmen, student leaders and university administrators.
Attention Middle Eastern Alumni!
The Middle Eastern Leadership Council is currently working to establish an alumni network. If you are an alumnus of the Middle Eastern community at UVa, please fill out this form or are interested in becoming more involved with the project, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
UVaClubs engage alumni, parents and friends in the life of the University in more than 100 communities around the world.
Sign up for a Mentor
The Middle Eastern Mentoring Program is made up of upper-class students who are friendly, helpful and informed. If you are interested in being matched to one of them so that you have a peer mentor, please email Aurelia Massoudi-Khorsand.