UW students Dalia Saleh and Akbar Yakub (credit: Mary Langenfeld)
This is a guest post by Clare Milliken, a UW-Madison undergraduate majoring in journalism. She recently published a story about the Muslim student community on campus in the Isthmus newspaper.
Working as a reporter opens your eyes to the world, allowing you an intimate look into others’ lives, cultures, and experiences. Never have I appreciated this ability as much as I did writing on UW’s Muslim community.
I began my research on a December Thursday at the Muslim Students Association meeting at Memorial Union. I tried, as much as possible, to immerse myself in Muslim students’ lives, from musical tastes to prayer practices. After 20 interviews, secondary research, and my first Friday service at a local mosque, I began writing the piece in the hopes of granting other people this “reporter’s window.” Continue reading
Despite the fact that the vast majority of Muslims do not live in Arabic-speaking countries, Arabic is still the language of Islam. As images of the prophet Muhammad are forbidden, Islam relies heavily on language to pass down ideas and stories from generation to generation. Language is, of course, open to multiple interpretations, mistranslations, and misunderstandings. For example, jihad, literally meaning “striving in the path of God,” can be understood as both an internal struggle to live a moral and virtuous life and an external struggle against injustice and oppression. But in English, unfortunately, the word is often translated to “holy war” and implies fanatical violence against non-believers of Islam. This is just one example why an in-depth knowledge of Arabic is important to both Muslims and non-Muslims.
More and more Americans, especially young people, are realizing the critical role of the Arabic language in breaking down misperceptions about Islam and in working with Muslim communities. As a result of 9/11, enrollment in Arabic in American colleges increased by 126.5% from 2002 to 2006. This fall, 225 students are taking Arabic at UW-Madison, up from 120 students in fall 2006 and the UW’s summer Arabic language program continues to grow. Earlier this month I talked to a few students in a first-semester Arabic class to see how their perceptions of Islam and the Muslim world might differ from others. Continue reading