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Celebrating Arab American Heritage Month at the UW and beyond

Throughout April, we join the nation in celebrating National Arab American Heritage Month, a designation established in 2021 by President Joe Biden to honor Arab Americans and the Arab American community. Particularly at this moment, when the war and loss of life in the Middle East has created or exacerbated divisions and discrimination within our society, this is an important moment to recognize and celebrate the many contributions by Arab Americans that have helped make our diverse nation so vibrant. In April, and throughout the year, we reaffirm our commitment to fostering a UW community that rejects hate, discrimination, Islamophobia and racism in all forms while celebrating excellence and impact for the public good.

This includes celebrating the many achievements by Arab American UW alumni, students, faculty and staff, like UW alumna Rita Zawaideh, founder and CEO of SCM Medical Missions/Salaam Cultural Museum, a Seattle-based nonprofit that provides medical and humanitarian aid to Middle Eastern refugees. In 2021, she was awarded the “Everyday Hero” award by MOHAI for her decades of humanitarian work.

Our UW faculty include numerous distinguished Arab and Arab American scholars and researchers, such as Professor Amina Moujtahid who, with co-author Jeffrey A. Bennet, recently published The Combinatorial House of Wisdom, a guided classical Arabic reader. Professor Moujtahid, with Associate Professor Hussein Elkhafaifi, will also be leading the UW’s inaugural study abroad program in Morocco, a summer study program available to both current and UW alumni. And just last month, Associate Professor Karam Dana, who holds UW Bothell’s Alyson McGregor Distinguished Professorship of Transformative Research, received the Arab Community of the Pacific Northwest Outstanding Service and Leadership Award in recognition of the impact of his scholarship on Palestinian and Muslim American political identities.

The UW’s Jackson School recently hosted a lecture series, “War in the Middle East,” and the UW’ is home to the outstanding Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures Department (MELC). A graduate of MELC, Jocelyn Hendrickson, was recently awarded the Middle East Medievalists Book Prize for her book, Leaving Iberia: Islamic Law and Christian Conquest in North West Africa. MELC’s programs include the Arabic & Islamic Studies program, which offers comprehensive curriculum dedicated to Arabic language, literature, linguistics and cultural studies. Interest in this program is at an all-time high, thanks in large part to its distinguished faculty who are among the world’s leading Arabic Studies scholars

This National Arab American Heritage Month, we have the opportunity to celebrate the countless ways that Arab Americans have enriched our nation’s cultural, political and economic landscape, reflecting our deep commitment to the diversity and excellence that are the hallmarks of our UW community.

Updated Thursday, April 25, 2024