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College of Liberal Arts

University of Mississippi

Arabic Language Students Share Reactions to Libya Conflict

The political events unfolding in Libya have received a great deal of media attention worldwide, but several Ole Miss students agree that they would like to see more interest generated on the Oxford campus.

Senior public policy major Alex McLelland and Cullen Coker, a sophomore Liberal Arts major — both Arabic students — said they have been following the transformational events abroad closely.

Both students take Arabic 312, where professor Allen Clark encourages them to think about why these revolutions are happening now.

“We’ve been reading a lot of articles about the situation in Arabic in class,” McLelland said. “I’m just so happy to be studying here now because it is such an opportune time to be doing it. Everything that is going on in the Middle East right now is huge, and it really is a watershed moment in our history.”

McLelland and Coker said they believe the Libyans are in many ways misunderstood by the American people. Middle Easterners are protesting because they want democracy, a freedom that Americans are accustomed to having.

“Often when people think of the Middle East, they think of problems, but I think this perception is going to change drastically once people realize that (Libyans) want what Americans have,” Coker said. “They’re no different than us. They want progress and to move forward.”

The students said Clark asks his class to think about why the Middle Eastern revolutions are happening at this time in history.

“Anytime a people feels suppressed, they are going to lash out and demonstrate it,” McLelland said. “I think that starting with (the ousting of) President Mubarak in Egypt, Libyans have felt encouraged, and now there are several Arab countries that have followed suit in the form of public protest.”

Coker said Libyans live in fear of their own government when they ought to be able to seek protection from it. They have reached the point of revolt because their leader, Muammar Gadhafi has refused to grant them liberties that they feel they deserve.

“There is a great deal of disapproval from the citizens,” Coker said.

“Many don’t have simple things like running water, and their government is doing nothing to get them out of these situations. I think that is a big factor as to why the revolution is happening now.”

The future of Libya is still somewhat unclear at this point, but McLelland said he is confident that there will be a transfer of power in some form.

He said he feels very passionately that the drastic changes happening in the Middle East will undoubtedly shape world history forever.

“What is Libya going to do? We don’t exactly know what will come about from all this,” McLelland said.

“They are going to have to figure it out and hopefully create a government that works for everyone.

“What we need to do, as Americans and as students, is to promote peace for them in any way we can.”

from DM by Molly Dyal