Posted by Meredith Pahowka on November 20, 2017 in Blog

American culture oftens dehumanizes and views Arabs in a stereotypical and harmful light. To combat this, it is important that we listen to and work to understand those different from ourselves. On November 14, 2017, Dr. Jim Zogby addressed the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and greater Birmingham community on this topic. His lecture was entitled "What We Don't Know (But Need to Know) About the Arab World Today". The lecture was sponsored by UAB’s Institute for Human Rights and the Birmingham Islamic Society. To an audience of students, faculty, and community members, Dr. Zogby explained the importance of listening to Arab voices in hopes of building bridges. Dr. Zogby’s talk was based on the belief that policy and perception must be based on reality rather than stereotypes. 

A central message throughout his speech was the idea that despite perceived differences, Americans share much in common with those in the Arab world. Dr. Zogby notes that many Americans would be surprised to learn we share many of the same central fears, concerns, and hopes with those that live in the Arab world. Some universal concerns Dr. Zogby pointed out were healthcare issues, job stability, and access to education. Much more can be found in common if we take the time to learn the stories of those we have differences with. The key to learning about others, Dr. Zogby said, is to look outside of the classroom, meet people, and listen to their stories. “If you want people to listen and hear you, listen to them first”. 

The speech took place at the UAB Institute for Human Rights (IHR). The Institute is an internationally renowned platform that brings together scholars, community leaders, and educators in order to collaborate and discuss the issues and initiatives that surround global human rights. The work of the IHR is essential in an increasingly complex global landscape. Dr. Zogby’s speech can be viewed here.