"As-Salamu Alaykum." 

All day, each day, Muslims share this greeting. It's a greeting related to "Shalom Aleychem," the salutation used by Jews for centuries. Both mean, "Peace be upon you." But few regions in the world seem further from peace than the Middle East.

It is for this reason that we recall the words of our Lord, "Blessed are the peacemakers," knowing that if we are to be true peacemakers, we must first understand the complex causes of conflict. One of the first lessons here is that peace comes only through sacrifice and engagement - not mere words or cheap grace.


The Middle East Studies Program integrates the study of culture, history, religion, politics, and language. Three seminar courses and an Arabic course overlap and interact throughout the semester. In addition, qualified students may receive intercultural practicum credit during the semester. (Contact mesp@bestsemester.com to discuss practicum credit.)

Introduction to Arabic Language

4 credits*

This course, which partners with local language centers, aims to teach students basic skills in colloquial Arabic, emphasizing the practical use of the language and encouraging interaction with locals in everyday life, on the streets, in taxis, during home stays, and at service projects. Students will have class two or more times per week, learning everyday vocabulary and colloquial grammar.

(Possible Credit: Language; Cross-Cultural Studies)

Related Course Activities

In order to enhance the students' use of colloquial Arabic, MESP arranges weeklong homestays with Arab families. Ideally, each family has an English-speaking contact person of the same gender as the student, so that students can communicate their needs, ideas and feelings.The homestay is an essential step in learning to appreciate the nature of life in an Arab society.

*6 credit Arabic course available if required by student's sending campus

Islamic Thought and Practice

3-4 credits

This course examines many dimensions of Islamic faith - historical, legal, doctrinal, popular and behavioral - from early times to the present. Emphasis is on contemporary and "popular" Islam (the beliefs and practices of Muslims), including issues such as colonialism, gender equality, modernization, development and democracy. Students are encouraged to begin thinking about relevant similarities and differences between themselves and Muslim peoples around the world.

This course, like all MESP courses, has a strong experiential component, with students being encouraged to learn about Islam by developing relationships with local Muslims. In addition, the course frequently makes use of local scholars, experts, religious figures, or other locals in order to enhance students' encounters with the religion and history of the region.

(Possible Credit: History; Religion)

Conflict and Change in the Middle East

3-4 credits

This course examines the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which many scholars now call ‘the 100 Years War.'  Beginning with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, this course traces the origin of the conflict from the early encounters between Arabs and Jews in Palestine to the contemporary struggle to achieve a final status agreement between Israelis and Palestinians.

The course begins in Amman with readings, documentaries, lectures, and interactions with local Palestinians regarding their experiences and perspectives. The course then continues during a travel component to Israel/Palestine, where students participate in homestays with both Jewish and Palestinian families and hear from a variety of speakers including academic experts and local professionals working towards a reconciliatory solution.

Because the conflict and its consequences - human, geographic, social, cultural, and political - are so proximate to the MESP experience, students learn intimately the complexity of reaching peace in a small land shared by two peoples with competing civilizational visions.

(Possible Credit: Political Science; Peace and Conflict Resolution Studies; History)

Peoples and Cultures of the Middle East

3-4 credits

This course examines the diverse mosaic of the Middle East peoples and cultures through the prism of various societies encountered along the students’ travels. Jordan will provide the primary context for this course, but recent semesters have also included immersive experiences in Israel/Palestine, Morocco, and Egypt. This course seeks to introduce students to patterns of thought and behavior that characterize the region in general without losing sight of important national and religious differences. The Middle East is a multiethnic, multiconfessional region, and regional travel allows students to observe and study a great variety of social, religious and political groups. In addition, students learn about pressing issues related to gender, conflict, economic development and cultural identity that currently animate the many religious and political communities they visit. Due to regional change, please note that all travel is subject to change based upon safety considerations. 

(Possible Credit: Sociology; Anthropology)

Related Course Activities

In addition, MESP seeks to connect its students with young people from the major traditions in the local mosaic of Jordan - Muslim and Eastern Christians, but also groups like the bedouin (tribal culture), Circassians, and others. This is done through local speakers, site visits, homestays, and through "friendship events" or opportunities for casual conversation provided by the "street labs" of Amman, other parts of Jordan, and other areas visited during the MESP journey. The hope is that students will engage their local hosts in ways that enrich friendships, mutual understanding, and respect. At the same time, they will learn what it is to be a guest amidst the legendary hospitality of Middle Eastern society.

 

**Syllabi available upon request