Club works to better inform Rutgers community about Arab culture
The Arab Cultural Club at Rutgers works hard to raise awareness on campus about Arab culture and to inform other students about their traditions.
The club's biggest event of the year is their annual Street Festival in April on the College Avenue campus. The event is geared to all Rutgers students and features DJs, cultural performances, rock-climbing walls and free food, said Nourin Abubaker, president of the Arab Cultural Club and a Rutgers Business School senior.
At the event, members will hand out fact sheets about Arab-American people and the Middle East, and display educational posters about Arab people all around the campus. The club is also planning another awareness event sometime in March, she said.
Abubaker described the organization as "educational and informative." The club's main objective is to reach out to people of all races and ethnicities in hopes of sharing information about Arab lifestyle and traditions.
The Arab Cultural Club has been particularly active on campus following President Donald J. Trump’s executive order to ban immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries from the United States, she said.
On Jan. 31, Rutgers students protested the order on College Avenue.
University President Robert L. Barchi spoke at the event and signed an order that urged the president to repeal the ban. The Arab Cultural Club was in support of the peaceful protest that took place, Abubaker said.
Although the club has stressed that they are neither religious nor political and do not wish to be seen as that type of club, they have been vocal about this particular issue, said Faris Elfar, historian of the club and a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences sophomore. He emphasized that this problem affects everyone and is no longer just a matter of politics.
Abubaker said she believes that these protests will send a message to the new administration.
“When an order like this affects human rights, this is no longer political, and no longer an issue that we can just stay out of,” Abubaker said. “Especially because one of the biggest gatherings of Arab students on campus is through our clubs and our members, so we just can’t ignore that. That’s why we feel so strongly about joining the rally and cosponsoring it.”
Elfar said the club is pleased that so many people have been vocal at these protests, and are guaranteeing that their voices are heard. To move further, they want to get more of the student body involved in the conversation.
“We need to do a lot better at, number one, being more informed on what it is that going on, what we are protesting. And number two, specifying what it is that we want to get done and being more involved in the process altogether,” Elfar said.
One of the primary goals of the Arab Cultural Club is to show people the real Arab culture, Abubaker said.
“Everyone's entitled to their opinion, but I think that America has already done a pretty good job of developing their own opinion about Arabs before someone has made one up for them, well at least the majority of them,” Elfar said.
Abubaker said their presence on campus adds a crucial element to Rutgers. It debunks stereotypes about the Arab community from what they see around the world and gives them an impression of who they really are.
“It’s a burden, but it’s also our responsibility to educate those who don't understand what it is to be Arab, or who thinks that Arabs are the way that the media portrays them or who have never really interacted with them before," Abubaker said. "It’s important to have an official club that promotes the culture that focuses on the culture, traditions, dances and the food."
Jacob Turchi is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in journalism and media studies. He is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum.