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aMerica knOcks fOr yOung QaTaris


a NuMBer of orgaNiSatioNS iN aMerica are tryiNg to foSter healthy uS-araB relatioNS, But the NatioNal couNcil oN uS-araB relatioNS (NcuSar) iN particular, iS focuSed oN educatiNg youNg aMericaNS uSiNg practical MethodS. they are Now proMotiNg aN iNitiative here which will eNcourage youNg Qatari patriotS to experieNce their culture through iNterNShipS aNd deBatiNg foruMS.

76 Qatar today

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november 2011

By RoRy c oE N
heres an endemic perception among American youths about Arab culture and this region. Its an issue which might not bother most Americans, but for those who have spent a considerable amount of time in this region, this lazy perception can be a source of embarrassment. Dr. John Duke Anthony first visited Qatar prior to its independence in 1971, and subsequently wrote a chapter (one of the first American-authored publications in English to appear on Qatar) in his book Arab States of the Lower Gulf: People, Politics and Petroleum. Since then, he has spent a significant amount of his time in this region and developed a strong opinion regarding these ignorant perceptions that were being fostered in the US. The National Council on US-Arab Relations (NCUSAR) was founded in 1983 to combat the problem as Anthony saw it through the most potent weapon available to him, education, and the association has gone from

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strength to strength ever since. Its mission is defined as seeking to enhance American awareness, knowledge and understanding of the Arab countries, the Mid-east and the Islamic world through education. Vice President of NCUSAR Amy Greenlee explains: It really was by the relationships Dr Anthony built up here in the region, and through his regular visits back to the US, he garnered this impression that young Americans needed to be educated about the Arab world. They needed to have the correct facts about policies, politics and general life here. Not necessarily Islam. Qatari Internships After years of promoting this organisation in the US, NCUSAR is now striving to develop it here in Qatar. Greenlee is working on an initiative to help young Qataris understand American culture, see what its like to work there, and leverage this experience in their careers thereafter. Our summer internship programme hosts 35 college students in Washington, DC, and we accept international students as well as US students.We place these students with organisations focused on Middle East developments and US relations, where they are required to work 35-40 hours a week. I am working on a Qatari student-specific internship programme in Washington, DC, and ideally in time we would certainly like to host US students in internship positions in Qatar. The Qatari Ambassador to the US, HE Ali bin Fahad Al-Hajri, has expressed an interest in being supportive of this. One of my goals is to encourage the patriot students here in Qatar to work for a summer in the US. One area in particular we are focusing on is journalism at the Washington Post or Al Jazeera English. However, there are many suitable organisations which are happy to accommodate Qatari students, such as ANERA, AMIDEAST, Al Jazeera English, Al Jazeera Arabic, the Middle East Policy Council, Qatar Airways, the League of Arab States, the Embassy of Jordan, and the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies. This programme would give young Qataris a well-grounded, fully-informed way of looking at things. To bring them to DC and place them with cultivated organisations, they get to understand and appreciate how Americans do their business and gain a better understanding of the way they operate. The students are expected to attend

founded in 1983, the ncusar is an american non-profit, non-governmental, educational organisation dedicated to improving american knowledge and understanding of the arab world. it is not a membership organisation; its supporters are primarily philanthropists, individuals, and institutions in the united states and the arab world that have hosted or participated in one or more of the councils programmes.

lectures every week at George Washington University often given by Dr Anthony which are focused on the Middle East, while special field trips are arranged to bring variety to the learning process. In the past, the students have visited the White House, the Office of the Defence Attache of the Arab Republic of Egypt and the Islamic Centre of DC (the National Mosque).

thiS prograMMe would give youNg QatariS a well-grouNded, fully-iNforMed way of lookiNg at thiNgS. to BriNg theM to dc aNd place theM with orgaNiSatioNS, they get to uNderStaNd aNd appreciate how aMericaNS do their BuSiNeSS aNd gaiN a Better uNderStaNdiNg of the way they operate

tion. We take students into the Model Arab League regardless of their major, and it really empowers them to be leaders in their field. Im sure the debates have been much more interesting and heated since September 11, 2001. Most of these students have lived their lives in the aftermath of this tragedy, so its very much engrained in them. Thankfully, since then, theyve had the opportunity to learn more about the Middle East and the Arab World, which have made them a little bit more informed. Art and Film Greenlee is looking to diversify the programme a little in Qatar, and has some interesting ways of extending the message. Shes an advocate of using art and film as a medium of translation, and has been working with some groups on ways to help her with her vision. An area of interest that I have personally and professionally is art and film, she explains. I believe they are a way to educate and open minds, and the National Council is supportive of education in many forms. Film can be one of those ways to capture people of all ages and engage them in dialogue. A good friend of mine is currently in post-production in Los Angeles with her film Mars at Sunrise, which depicts the relationship between an Israeli soldier and an imprisoned Palestinian painter. The National Council will host a screening of it and a question and answer session with the writer, Jessica Habie, afterwards. The film stars Ali Suliman (who starred in Paradise Now) as Khaled, Guy Elhanan as Eyal and Haale Gafori as Azzadeh. The directors passion behind this film stems from seeking peace through art, not war, guns or violence. Something else we are trying is a documentary about a member of the Saudi Arabian royal family journeying through eight states in Americas mid-west. A MiddleEast meets mid-west type show. Over the next five years well be engaging in all areas, because we are focused on policy, education and culture, because I feel there is so much to be found in art and films.

Model Arab League The Councils flagship event is their Model Arab League which is mirrored from the Model United Nations League, and they hope that they can try something similar in Qatar in 2012. It gives students a real chance to research an argument and understand why a particular Arab nation might take a certain stand. Since the Council was founded, 35,000 students have participated in it, says Greenlee. We have a national competition twice a year at Georgetown University for 2,000 high school and university students. Team of students from each high school, from each university, represent an Arab country and they must decide how that country might debate an issue that is before them. Whether it is political, or regarding the environment or economics, we teach them how to debate, how to write a resolu-

november 2011

Qatar today 77