Egyptian teach-in draws crowd in MUC

Thursday afternoon brought a little rebellion to the Morris University Center in the form of a teach-in.

CAS student Ben Baker Skypes with teach-in audience about the situation in Egypt.

International Programs, the Middle East and Islamic Studies Initiative, and the Arabic Club collaborated in the hopes of cutting through the news inundating SIUE students and the broader world. A goal of the teach-in was to offer students a closer look at the rebellion that has captivated the attention of global news watchers.

The event offered access to several teaching tools. al-Jazeera Television in Egypt was streamed onto a television set up on the south side of the Goshen lounge. There were presenters to speak to the event. Skype was used to speak to a student who was recently evacuated.

The teach-in began with Steve Tamari, associate professor of historical studies, giving a overview of Egypt and the events leading up the the rebellion.  Tamari gave a brief timeline of the rebellion.

“The immediate protests, we could probably date them back to last summer, when  a guy named Khaled Said was killed in police custody,” said Tamari. “An internet campaign on his behalf, to remember him, got started. It really generated a lot of interest among especially young Egyptians. That event started getting things moving.”

The second speaker was Dr. Khaled Hamid, an Egyptian and a physician in private practice in St. Louis. Hamid began by giving a hopeful statement, one that echoes the statements coming from Egypt itself. Hamid stated that he hoped that his presentation would be interrupted by Hosni Mubarak, the (now former) president of Egypt, announcing his resignation from the position of president.

Hamid gave a deeper interpretation of the events in Egypt, bringing very personal accounts of the issues of the country. He encouraged SIUE students, faculty, and staff to stay engaged with the news from Egypt.

“I really encourage everybody here to make some effort to learn more about what is going on. Contact your elected representatives. Contact the White House,” said Hamid. “Ask them to switch the delivery aid that we are sending to supplies the army in Egypt, for no good purpose whatsoever, to civilian needs.”

Hamid was followed by Rehem Mohsen, a master’s in education student. Mohsen is SIUE’s first Arabic teacher who came to SIUE as the first Fulbright Foreign Language teaching assistant in Arabic. She stated that people in Egypt have been pushed to the point where they had nothing else to lose. Mohsen reiterated that statements by other speakers that the revolution began as a movement by the youth.

“Everyone knows that this revolution started with the Egyptian youth who really suffer from torment and other poverty and everything,” said Mohsen. “Unfortunately, other parties come, like the Muslim Brotherhood, and they try to benefit from what is going on now.”

Mohsen stated that the youth are sticking up for their demands. She expressed hope for the future of the country because the protesters are maintaining control of the protests.

When Mohsen finished speaking, Mohamed Okasha, a master’s student in industrial and mechanical engineering, picked up where she had left off. Okasha expressed his  beliefs about the role the Muslim Brotherhood plays in Egypt.

“This [revolution] was initiated by the young generation who are caring about their country. There are a lot of views in the western world about this issue because we are all thinking about what happened in Iran 30 years ago when the Muslim Brotherhood, they took over the country,” said Okasha. “In my opinion, this is just never going to happen in Egypt because… Just take a look at the videos or pictures. These are just normal people, ordinary people who are protesting for their liberty.”

Okasha focused his presentation the ability of the Egyptian people to transcend religion for this rebellion. Okasha then turned the presentation over to Allison Thomason, associate professor of historical studies.

Thomason spoke about the interconnectedness of the history of the Egyptian people and the museum near Tahir Square. She relayed a story about looters who were able to get into an exhibit that holds items from King Tutankhamen. Thomason was delighted to state that the protesters and the army were able to work together to prevent any thefts from taking place.

The final speaker was Ben Baker, a CAS undergraduate who had been studying in Cairo when the protests began. Baker had just been evacuated and was able to link with SIUE students and faculty through Skype. Baker commented on an article in The Alestle which referenced Egyptians who had approached Baker to find out what Americans thought of the protests.

“Many of the people who we met actually wanted to let us know that they weren’t protesters any different from those that would be in the U.S. They wanted us to let the American people know that they were protesting a corrupt regime,” Baker stated. “They are protesting against legitimate concerns that people in America would have if they were put in the same situation.”

Baker stated that he is keeping contact with the friends he had made in Egypt. He heard from many of his fellow students that no one supported Mubarak. The Skype connection was dropped and the event turned to a long and effective question and answer session.

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