We work at the grassroots level throughout the Muslim World to counter violent extremism before it takes hold, to promote tolerance and understanding, and to foster better relations with the United States.
The following is a guest post from AUA Mosaic Scholarship recipient Mirabel Rouze. She is currently volunteering with Hands Along the Nile Development Services, Inc. in Egypt. To find an amazing opportunity like this one, search the AUA Directory of Recommended Organizations© today!
This trip to Cairo has fostered dialogue with advocates, community leaders, and students—more than anything, these conversations with the people that I meet in Cairo will stay with me. This trip is providing me with the opportunity to meet the people who I have been studying for years; but they have felt distant, separated by geography. However, through meeting a wide variety of Egyptians and Middle Easterners from different levels of society, I am gaining a more concrete understanding of their lives. Throughout my time in Egypt, I have been ecstatic to find that everyone I meet is open to answering my endless questions—even the most sensitive ones. By asking and having these questions answered, I can see myself applying and expanding upon my academic knowledge.
Our group meetings with a lawyer in an NGO and a women’s rights advocate led to conversations about the structural and social changes occurring in Egypt. At the meeting with the lawyer, I learned more about what actually goes into to the promotion of freedom of speech. Meeting with the women’s rights advocate helped me to recognize the complex nuances of the issue. Talking with both left me hopeful for Egypt’s political future, as they are part of a larger group of committed individuals working to move the nation beyond the transition period. Meeting with community leaders in the zabbaleen community, I learned more about the challenges it faces and how it is working to address them. During all of these meetings, it was interesting to see how each situation looks to the West for a model of inspiration but diverges by looking at the situation in Egypt itself to create a plan of action instead of exporting a model.
We also met with students from universities in Cairo within both formal and informal settings. On Wednesday, we went to the American Embassy to meet a group of university students, where I was enthralled to talk about politics, foreign policy, leadership, and education. Within this setting, both Americans and Egyptians took on the role of representative of their nations, which fostered a productive conversation comparing America and Egypt. On four occasions, we also have met with undergraduate students in an informal setting with drinking tea or eating meals. At these, the topics of conversation also included politics, but we have also discussed social dynamics in more detail. As many of the students we have meet have lived in several nations throughout the Middle East, we also have been given a regional perspective. Through both of these conversational settings, I have developed a more holistic and realistic conception of life that diverges from the presentation of the media.