Arabic Studies Blog

Posted on July 2nd, 2024 in Blog, Community Service, Featured, Students by ecurtis4
Yaqoub Saadeh displays his Plater Medallion for civic engagement
Yaqoub Saadeh displays his Plater Medallion

Yaqoub Saadeh ’24 recently completed his minor in Arabic and Islamic studies. “The professors in the Arabic studies program are passionate and they pass that passion on to their students,” Yaqoub said, reflecting on his experience.

Well, Yaqoub, the feeling is mutual.

Yaqoub, a Palestinian American from Fishers, Indiana, had a remarkable senior year, one full of accomplishment and impact. Among his many accolades was the Plater Medallion, IU Indianapolis’ highest award for civic engagement. Yaqoub models the kind of community-engaged learner that the Arabic Studies Program seeks to cultivate and support.

For example, in one of this final classes, “Islam in America,” Yaqoub conducted research on the political engagement of African American Muslim members of the Indianapolis Nur Allah Islamic Center, including U.S. Rep. André Carson, Imam Michael Saahir, Marion County Judge David Shaheed, and Imam Muhammad Siddeeq. In addition to documenting the success of these Muslim leaders in conventional electoral politics, Yaqoub used original sources from the Indianapolis Imam Warith Deen Muhammad digital archive, hosted by the IU Indianapolis Library, to chart their advocacy of police reform. Instead of publishing his results in a conventional academic paper, Yaqoub conducted a social media campaign that attempted to share his findings with a broad public audience.

Nur Allah Islamic Center presentation

Working with other students and community members, Yaqoub’s accomplishments as President of the Middle Eastern Student Association (MESA) are even more impressive. MESA raised money for charity; offered unique intellectual and co-curricular programming; and provided robust and effective avenues for student political engagement.

Its biggest fundraiser of the year resulted in donations of more than $80,000 for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which aids Palestinian refugees. UNRWA supports fifty-eight refugee camps; K-12 schools; health care clinics; the granting of microfinance loans; and provides food, shelter, and other emergency aid to Palestinians in need.

Under Yaqoub’s leadership, MESA also hosted on-campus educational events designed to educate students, faculty, and staff about the cultures of half a billion Middle Easterners and North Africans, including the 3.5 million Americans who trace their roots to the Middle East and North Africa. Among the visits that MESA organized: Sarah Leah Whitson, the former director of Middle East and North Africa Division of Human Rights Watch (HRW), analyzed the human rights landscape of MENA. Fady Joudah, one of the most important poets in Arab America, shared his perspectives about Palestine and particularly the crisis in Gaza.

Perhaps most noteworthy is how Yaqoub led other students of Middle Eastern and North African heritage and background toward effective political advocacy. MESA scheduled a meeting with Rep. André Carson to solicit his advice on student activism; helped students navigate the challenges of testifying at hearings of the 2024 Indiana General Assembly legislative session; and offered sessions on media training and de-escalation training. Yaqoub also worked with the IUPUI Faculty Council on a resolution, passed unanimously, that expressed support for Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim students on campus.

It is hard to imagine a graduate of the Arabic and Islamic studies minor that puts their education to better use, and the program is grateful for the chance to work with students like Yaqoub Saadeh.

To assist other students who wish to minor, the Arabic Studies Program welcomes your financial support via the Arabic and Islamic Studies fund managed by the Indiana University Foundation. For questions, please contact