EMU’s New Arab Society: Celebrating and Sharing Culture on Campus
EDITOR’S NOTE: Eastern Michigan University’s 15,000 students come to Ypsilanti from 50 states and 83 countries, bringing with them diverse cultures and backgrounds. To explore this diversity, this article is the first in a series on campus organizations designed to showcase and share the beauty of cultures around the world.
This week: Arab society
Next week: International Student Association
What started as an idea about six months ago finally became a reality, as the Arab Society at Eastern Michigan University hosted its first event on Thursday, September 22.
Ahmad Zalt, a Syrian-American EMU alumnus, founded The Arab Society earlier this year alongside Lebanese student Maitham Khanafer, an EMU dietetics student. Because EMU students come from a wide range of countries and backgrounds, members of this new student organization aim to educate the campus community about their culture.
“We noticed that we have a huge population of Arabs on campus from different places, so it was a way to unite everyone and spread our culture with everyone on campus,” Khanafer said. . “Our culture is beautiful. We are very diverse, even though we speak the same language.
Khanafer heads the board of the student organization, serving as the president of a team with Egyptian Somaya Eissa as vice-president, Yemeni Ziad Sabri as secretary, Jordanian Hamzah Dajani as treasurer and full member, Palestinian AbdurRahman Elder.
“We created the Arab Society because we wanted to share Arab culture and educate more people about how things are done in the Arab world,” Sabri said. “I think it’s important because there are a lot of Arabs here, so why not learn more about them?”
The Arab Society welcome party attracted many students to the EMU amphitheater to participate and see a talent of traditional Arabic music and dance, as well as cultural activities and refreshments.
The organization’s first event highlighted the differences between Arab culture and other cultures on campus.
“The biggest difference between Arab culture and American culture certainly comes down, fundamentally, to collectivism versus individualism,” Zalt said.
Zalt believes that this collectivist approach is found in many Arab values and beliefs. One example he described is that it is very common for meals to be shared with the neighborhood and even for neighbors to visit unannounced.
At the organization’s welcome event in particular, Zalt believes that the Arab culture of the community was demonstrated by the talent show, which featured people other than board members, as well as the conclusion of the event, where the public participated in an open dance.
“With this organization, we plan to continue sharing the beautiful things of our culture with people in the East,” Zalt said. “We are very happy to do these events for everyone, to share and to continue learning.”
Going forward, the group plans to host a game night, dinner and giveaway, and other events with “the Arabian spice,” Sabri said. All donations collected will help the organization finance and help poor countries in the Middle East.
“Since we have a band now, we have a way to share the beauty of our culture,” Khanafer said. “I have met so many people. So many people are reaching out. We reach out to new people. I think that’s the best part, meeting new people.
Sabri said people should join The Arab Society not just to have fun and learn about Arab culture, but to get the most out of their campus life and college experience.
“Since we are a new organization, we are trying to set the standard for years to come and leave an imprint on campus,” Khanafer said. “Even though we’re an organization for Arabs, it’s for everyone. We want to share what we have with everyone on campus, and that’s one of our main goals.”