Final Reflection: As this course comes to an end, I would like to take the time to reflect on the course overall and the Middle East as a whole. When I started this course I knew very little about the Middle East. This course helped me learn about the politics of the Middle East and the factors of influence in different areas. The structure of the course was much different than the tradition lecture, reading, and exams. I enjoyed that this course encouraged creativity. I also liked that I got to pick which subtopic I created an assignment for, for each lesson. It allowed me to pick which case study I was most interested in. This made doing the readings much easier. I also liked that because I was not trying to memorize all of the material for an exam, I went through it being less concerned about memorizing everything and being more worried about understanding each case. I also enjoyed creating the infographics. The skills I learned while condensing information and during the actual creation of the infographic are skills that I know I will use during the rest of my academic career and for jobs to follow. Writing from different prospective was also an interesting aspect of the class. I enjoyed writing from the journalism prospective the best because it was interesting to write as if I was educating someone on the topic. However, I struggled with the assignments where I wrote as an NGO worker. I found it difficult to dive completely in to the role. I think writing from different perspectives is fun and it definitely effected how I presented the information. This could also be a useful skill outside of this class.
In my blog I created a space where I shared what I was learning about the Middle East, but also mixed in my own opinions where needed. If someone were to come across my blog they would most likely notice that the solutions I propose for conflicts, such as the one I proposed for the Palestinian Israeli conflict, tend to be optimistic and unrealistic. I tend to think the logical solutions are the ones that should be put in to place. However, we all know that it is not that simple. This is due to the diversity that exists within the Middle East. Another thing they might notice is that the posts I made mostly had to do with conflict between groups. However, since this course is about politics, that makes perfect sense. The content of the course covered many conflicts to try to understand how the governments of the Middle East interacted with their people to either solve or control the problems. This is something that can be seen throughout my whole blog.
This semester I deepened my understanding of the Middle East. The Middle East is a very diverse place. It is full of people, most of which care very strongly about religion. There are many groups that suffer oppression and rights abuses. These groups are angry and fight back against their oppressors. There were many different case studies in which I learned about protests. I enjoyed covering the Jordanian protest. In Jordan, protests are nothing new. Currently, citizens fear that austerity measure will make goods such as fuel and electricity even more expensive than they already are. The government is considering the austerity measures in order to receive financial assistance. However, not all of the people in Jordan will see the benefits that financial assistance would bring.
Another point within the class that I found to be most interesting was Lesson 11.2, which covered the inclusion and moderation of extremist groups. Once these groups practiced including other groups, they were able to gain political influence. The main idea of this lesson was that once groups work towards including other, which typically means having to cooperate with other, that they would become more moderate. I think that this idea proves to be true as seen with the Hamas and Hizbullah groups. I am hopeful that other extremist groups will realize that violence and terrorism are not the only ways to gain influence and in fact when political power is gained by cooperation it would be more likely to be long-lasting and impactful.
I do not have a list of things that I did not learn specifically within the politics of the Middle East, but instead there are other factors that I wish I understood better. Some of the topics I wish to learn more about are the different religions that exist within the Middle East. I want to know what it truly means to be Muslim and the same for Islam. I know that the values are typically conservative and that women have extremely different roles than they do in other religions, but I want to understand the reasoning behind these values. I would also like to learn more about terrorist groups and why they are so prevalent in the Middle East. I know that the groups are typically fighting against oppression and trying to bring change, but I would still like to have a better understanding of why violence is the option they choose.
I did enjoy getting to see the other students in the class’ work on the course blog feed. However, I think a good addition to this course would be a discussion board. The current structure has assignments that require students to comment on other student’s post, but there is not any feedback or interaction once a comment is made. I guess what I am thinking is that it would be beneficial to have a space where students could discuss the topics and their interpretations and understanding of the conflicts and possible solutions. However, I know this is a short class and only so much can be assigned.
In conclusion, I learned more from this class than I was expecting. Summer classes are normally so rushed that I spend more time memorizing material than I do actually learning it. The structure of this course provided a creative space to cover a lot of material in a way that was fun. The blog allowed me to share what I was learning while mixing in my own opinions. I had to think critically to come up with possible solutions to problems. The Middle East is a diverse place with many ongoing conflicts. These conflicts are difficult to solve due to the governments that are in place. Most, if not all of the governments I learned about were corrupt, self-interested, and oppressive to at least some of the population. Other groups of people that are involved in conflicts such as extremist groups can cause conflicts to escalate and be more difficult to solve.
When it comes to the future of the Middle East, I expect a lot of the conflicts to continue. In order for the Middle East to be a civil, vibrant area, governments would have to be reformed. The people of the Middle East need their voices to be heard. I also think it would be wise to take religion out of government. When a government rules on the basis of religion, the people who do not practice the same religion as the government tend to be treated differently and in some cases governments force religion upon its people. In a space where there are many different religions and people values their religion so deeply, theocracies become problematic. This is because the religion that the government support is superior to all others in the area regardless of the majority religion. This also leaves room for oppression of groups that do not follow the religion of the government. These governments should be replaced by ones that are inclusive and that work toward the best state for the people. The countries in the Middle East should also treat everyone equal. When I studied Iraq, I learned about how the law applied differently to people based on how much money they had. The rich were treated better and got away with crimes that the poor did not. Overall, I wish that the countries that make up the Middle East could find ways to resolve the problems that they face. Many awful things have happened and are not stopping any time soon. People are targeted with violence for being gay or for listening to certain music. There have been numerous suicide bombings, protests, and other rights abuses. Without significant change, the future of the Middle East will likely not improve and risks the chance of becoming full of even more problems.