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Professor Tariq Ramadan at the UCLU Arabian Society

news editor29 May 2012

Over the past 18 months the world has witnessed historic change in the Middle East.

Unprecedented and unpredictable, the dynamics of transition in the Arab world have defied analysis and fuelled debate, and raised a plethora of essential questions for us to consider.

Since October, the UCLU Arabian Society has hosted a series of lectures and discussions to promote the education of the Middle East at UCL, reflecting the prominence of the ongoing events while always making sure to maintain a strict secular and apolitical stance.

In doing so, the society has seen its membership reach record levels, with a large percentage of its members coming from non-Arab backgrounds for the first time.

The successful programme, which helped the society win the award of UCLU’s Most Developed Society of the Year, has comprised student debates investigating the prospect of democracy in the Middle East, seminars examining the patriarchal culture of Arab societies and the role played by women in the uprisings, and also invited guests such as BBC Security Correspondent Frank Gardner to talk to the society.

The society has also strengthened its co-operation with other UCLU societies such as the UCLU European Society, with which it hosted a discussion on European foreign policy in Libya as part of UCL’s European Focus Week in November.

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No Need for the Great Arab Spring Novel

news editor3 February 2012

Abdelkader Benali and Hisham Matar discuss literature and revolutions at an event attended by Stefanie van Gemert.

With Time Magazine recently choosing ‘The Protester’ as Person of the Year 2011, it seems a relevant question to ask whether art is capable of protest, of revolting against tyranny.

On 26 January the authors Hisham Matar (In the Country of Men and Anatomy of a Disappearance) and Abdelkader Benali (Dutch Writer in Residence 2011-12 at UCL, Wedding by the Sea) discussed this topic at ‘Time Travels in Literature and Politics’: literature and its response to political suppression.

The event was timely – as chair Jo Glanville, Editor of Index on Censorship, pointed out: it was exactly a year after the uprising in Egypt. Matar and Benali are both rooted in the Arab-speaking world: Benali was born in Morocco, before moving to the Netherlands in 1979, aged four. His first novel, Wedding by the Sea (1996, English transl. 2000), discusses a theme that he would often revisit, that of the intermingling of East and West, aptly visualised by his latest title Oost=West (2011, ‘East=West’).

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