Even at midnight, I still find myself grappling to deal with the killings of three Muslim students Tuesday in North Carolina.
I will expand upon the events of my day in school and reveal why there is an unacceptable link between the atrocity and the unfortunate apathy found in my World Literature class.
We’ve just started discussing the Prologue to ‘1001 Nights’ in ENGL 2332, World Literature, as well as our respective assigned stories.
I’ve personally looked forward to this reading assignment since I’ve never been exposed to non-Western world literature in an academic setting.
I was really hoping the majority of my classmates would also be eager to partake in literatures and forms of storytelling more foreign to us than Greek mythology. I have not found that to be the case.
From day one, the story’s heroine, Scheherazade, and other women within the text were labeled “sluts” by my classmates, and the men and general nature of the stories “barbaric.”
There was no attempt at all by our teacher to not only provide context or background, but also correct such close-mindedness.
There was no effort from the person in charge of our education. So the slander and squeamish discussions of ‘1001 Nights’ lasted for a solid 70 minutes today, and I’m amazed I didn’t have a fit about the borderline Islamophobic attitude and tone of the “discussion,” which consisted of nothing more than giggles and mockery and staunch resistance to understand a culture from its literary tradition. Again, no help from teach.
Where is the connection to Chapel Hill? The execution of students Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, his wife Yusor Mohammad, 21, and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha happened concurrently with my class.
Or at least the press release of the tragedy occurred while I was in this class today.
In a world literature class, where we ought to be educated and enlightened on the storytelling traditions and canons of other regions and cultures, we instead belittled, mocked, and trifled with Scheherazade’s tale, dehumanizing her without regard.
Maybe my classmates don’t know better. But our teacher should, though she has claimed this region’s literature “is not one she’s very familiar with.”
This mentality presents two very real problems:
1) We have paid for a WORLD Literature class, not a Western Civilization Literature class. It ought to be inherent that critical exposure to, and analysis of, non-Western texts be included as a part of the course.
Also, if one has been teaching literature courses for over a decade, it seems one might have had enough time to familiarize oneself with non-white, male-dominated texts. Just saying.
2) Now more than ever, it seems so very critical for us to try and learn more about each other around the globe.
Everyone and everything is interconnected by technology and globalization. From this can come great friction and conflict, as we have witnessed more and more as the days go by.
But from this can also come harmony and UNITY.
Unity is something that can often manifest between different literatures when we read.
This is why literature is so important: it is a binding element of the human condition.
Our stories, our dramas, are shared with each other and create connections. It is an absolute disservice to us at San Antonio College that this particular class does not provide for understanding and the eradication of “Otherness” via literature on both a pragmatic and philosophical level.
This disservice also extends to Deah Barakat and his loved ones, may they rest in peace.
In this class today, I feel we have perpetuated ignorance toward Muslim individuals and Islamic culture.
Though ‘1001 Nights’ is not Islamic text in nature, it was born from Arabic regions and contains Islamic influences.
We have a chance to not cast off Scheherzade, and her continuous nights of storytelling.
We can examine her wit and cunning intellect, learn about the education of Muslim women in that time, discuss why ‘1001 Nights’ seems so popular in the Western world, but has never really been given regard in the Middle East.
We could lift the veil of ignorance and explore the complex humanity depicted in a language foreign to us, but translated in a way that exposes how familiar the conflicts and characters are within the stories she shares with us.
We can see that she is like us. We can see that Deah Barakat was like us, too.
Through literature, we can uphold and affirm that #MuslimLivesMatter.
I don’t want my teacher’s head on the chopping block. As more and more literature courses are removed every semester, the last thing I’d want is to make my beloved English department look bad.
I love Mike Burton, and all that he and his staff have done for me. An entire group shouldn’t be held responsible for the methods and action (or lack thereof) of one individual.