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International Muslim Graduate Students in the U.S. as Cultural Agents of Peace: Experiences of Al-Rihla, Stereotypes, and Cross-Culture Communication

DOI: 10.3968/2299

Keywords: Al-Rihla , International Muslim Graduate Students (Imgs) , Curriculum Spaces , Public Pedagogy , Cultural Agents Of Peace.

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Abstract:

After President Barak Obama‘s historical visits to Cairo, 2009 and Turkey, 2010 it was expected that new doors would open between the Muslim World and American citizens in order to eliminate cultural gaps between the two cultures. One significant door is institutions of higher education in the U.S. as public spaces for educational purposes. In these educational spaces, International Muslim Graduate Students and their American counterparts are expected to work collaboratively and cooperatively to develop a better understanding between the two cultures. This qualitative study examines the experiences of al-rihla of seven International Muslim Graduate Students in a Southwestern American university through in-depth interviews. The participants reflected on three aspects of their al-rihla experiences: Islamic concept of knowledge and al-rihla in search for knowledge; personal experiences; and the impact of the university’s/ departments’ sponsored cultural activities in bringing a better understanding of the Muslim Other. The Content Analysis method was used in analyzing the data. The analysis resulted in six themes: great appreciation of Islamic beliefs of knowledge and seeking knowledge, strong belief in al-rihla as a means to bring mutual understanding of the Other; priority to national culture, limited interaction and communication with American counterparts; stereotypes and concerns; and interest in participating in university administered cultural activities. The study concludes that institutions of higher education in the U.S. are cultural spaces that can be utilized to bring better understanding of the Muslim Other. Key words: Al-Rihla; International Muslim Graduate Students (Imgs); Curriculum Spaces; Public Pedagogy; Cultural Agents Of Peace. Résumé: Après les visites historiques du président Barack Obama au Caire en 2009 et la Turquie en 2010, il était prévu que de nouvelles portes seraient ouvertes entre le monde musulman et les citoyens américains en vue d’éliminer les différences culturelles entre les deux cultures. Une porte est significative établissements d’enseignement supérieur aux états-Unis comme des espaces publics à des fins éducatives. Dans ces espaces éducatifs, International Graduate Students musulmanes et leurs homologues américains sont appelés à travailler en collaboration et en coopération pour développer une meilleure compréhension entre les deux cultures. Cette étude qualitative examine les expériences d’Al-Rihla de sept internationaux musulmane des étudiants des cycles supérieurs dans une université du Sud-Ouest américain à trav

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