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Outreach News

The Center has been commended by the Department of Education for its Outreach Program, which works with schools and colleges, community and religious groups, government and military institutions, and the general public to raise awareness and understanding of issues in the Middle East and their importance to our communities.

In August 2006, the Middle East Center organized and hosted with the assistance of Education for Peace in Iraq Center an extraordinary off-the-record, day long conference bringing together military officers from the 358th Civil Affairs Brigade and chief representatives of international NGOs working in Iraq to discuss outstanding issues of concern and engage in dialogue in order to communicate better their respective missions.  This followed two day long workshops held for the officers in August and September 2005 on politics and society in Iraq and issues of corruption and regional politics in the post-war era.

We partner frequently with the other area studies centers on campus. In June 2006, the Middle East Center, Center for East Asian Studies, South Asia Center, and Africa Studies Center held a week long summer institute for middle and high school teachers, “Teaching about Islam Across the Continents: Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.” Featuring pedagogical and content experts on all regions, this highly competitive institute included educators from public and private, suburban and urban schools and even home school teachers from New Jersey and the Delaware Valley.

In 2006 we initiated with the Turkish American Friendship Society - US and helped organize a semester-long professional development program on Turkey for humanities and social sciences professors at the Community College, which culminated in a week long intensive workshop in Istanbul. This followed a highly successful year of programming on Egypt at CCP as part of their Title VI grant on the Middle East in 2005, capped by a week long workshop in Cairo with various experts on ancient and modern Egypt, organized by Penn Ph.D. student Stacey Philbrick Yadav and all supported by the Middle East Center.

The Middle East Center was a major co-sponsor of a unique “Citizen Diplomacy Community Summit” organized by the International Visitors Council of Philadelphia in April 2006 at the Mayor’s Reception Room in Philadelphia City Hall.  City officials, leaders from the business community, and diplomats participated in the day long summit, which included a presentation on “Understanding Other Cultures – Islam” by Lubna Ismail, president of Connecting Cultures.

The Middle East Center has active partnerships with the Philadelphia Arts Community in sponsoring events that help educate the public on the diversity and complexities of the Middle East and Islam.  In February 2006, for example, we organized with the Wilma Theatre two symposia, attended by over 400 people, on “Women and Islam” and “Current State of Affairs in Iraq” to coincide with its production of Heather Raffo’s renowned one-woman play, “9 Parts of Desire.” We also co-sponsored in 2006 after-show discussions with InterAct Theatre Company and innovative narrative, film and musical performances on Iraq and Israel/Palestine as part of Philadelphia’s annual First Person Arts Festival.

The Middle East Center partnered with the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in 2005 to help develop and support a unique course on “Contemporary Manifestations of Islam” for rabbinical students and seminarians from the nearby Lutheran Theological Seminary in Spring 2006.  Adnan Zulfiqar, a joint Ph.D./J.D. student in the Department of Near East Languages and Civilizations and the Law School, was recruited by the Center to lead this innovative course, which included a service learning component for Rabbinical students and Muslim students from Penn to go to Muslim and Jewish middle schools in Philadelphia to teach students about interfaith commonalities.