Local Scholars Set Up Middle East Studies Consortium

Four professors have launched the Northeast Ohio University Consortium for Middle East Studies to encourage public discussion on the diverse cultures, societies, and politics of the Middle East and wider Muslim world.

“The problem and the promise here in Northeast Ohio is there are a number of great learning institutions but not one institution of critical mass of people studying the modern Middle East,” said Pete Moore. an associate professor of political science at Case Western Reserve University. who directs the consortium. “If we joined together we could
leverage our sparse resources and generaLe more interest.”

Moore said he and his colleagues Joshua Stacher, an assistant professor of political science at Kent State University; Neda Zahwari, an assistant professor of political science at Cleveland State University; and Zeinab Abdul-Majd, an assistant professor of historyal Oberlin College-have known each other for years.

As relatively junior scholars who travel to the Middle East and Africa, they wanted to foster discussion outside the classroom and realized if they worked together they could attract funding and community support, Moore said.

They fonned the consortium, which received an $86,000 Carnegie Corporation grant from the Social Science Research Council, an independent. nonprofit international organization in Brooklyn N.Y.

In partnership with Civic Commons, Ideastream, and tho City Club of Cleveland, the consortiurn will host a series of public addresses and community discussions beginning this fall on themes including “Women in the Muslim World” and “Muslim Societies in Transition.”

“Since 9/11, if you are an academic and do modern Middle East, you keep your head down,” Moore said. “This project is designed to put academics and academic research in an accessibl format in the public sphere.”

The consortium’s programs “will shed fresh light on an extremely important, vibrant and rapidly changing part of the world,” Julia Shearson, executive director of the Cleveland office of lhe Council on American-lslanlic Relations. said in an e-mail. “‘We hope their efforts will help dispel stereotypes and present the public with a more nuanced picture of the societal and historical complexities of the Muslim world as well as future trends in the region.”

Her organization has offered support to the consortium, as has the Cleveland. Council on World Affairs. Cuyahoga County Public Library, InterAct Cleveland, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral Cleveland and the First Church in Oberlin.

“The community response has been incredible,” said Moore, who noted that the consortium plans to add universities throughout Ohio.

Scheduled speakers include Rami Khouri, who directs the Issam Fares Institute of Public Policy and International Affairs at American University of Beirut and is the editor-at-Iarge for Daily Star, a Beirut-based newspaper. He will speak Oct. 4 at Kent Slate University’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication and at the City Club on Oct. 5.

Sherine Hafez, an assislant professor of women’s studies at the University of CaHfornia at Riverside and author of “An Islam
of Her Own; Reconsidering Religion and Secularism 1n Women’s Islamic Movements,” will speak at the City Club and at a library in early November.

Toby Jones. a Rutgers University historian of the modem Middle East and author of “Desert Kingdom: How Oil and Water Forged Modem Saudi Arabia,” will speak at the City Club on Dec. 16.

Other speakers are scheduled next year. Moore said he is in contact with the Cleveland International Film Festival to perhaps bring in a director if it sponsors a series of films on the Arab/Muslim world.

Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 6, 2011, B5.

Written by Karen Farkas