Mar 242008
 
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Khaleel Alyahya says teaching the world about Arabic culture — the beliefs, values and language — is key to bridging the gap between Arab and American cultures.

In his latest attempt to bridge cultures, Alyahya and his co-author Fatmah Assiri created a handbook, titled “Let’s Speak Arabic,” written to make learning Arabic and about Arab culture easier.

“It’s not about language only; it’s about culture; it’s about people,” Alyahya said. “My value is to appreciate this culture, and the American people here. I try to have something for them.”

Alyahya said he hopes that by providing a more graphic and interactive handbook, students will seek to better understand the Arab culture and create a more open community and unite.

“When you see Arab people, come to them, understand them. Try to clean out the misconceptions that you receive from different media,” he said. “We are human. We like other nations, other cultures, other people.”

Alyahya said that he believes it is his duty to educate different cultures about Arab values and beliefs so cultural understanding goes beyond the media’s presentation.

Since coming to CSU in 2000, Alyahya has earned his master’s in adult education and human anatomy. He has been president of the Muslim Student Association and the Saudi Student House and established two organizations that reach out to Arabs in the U.S. and students interested in learning about Arab culture.

In 2005, Alyahya established the Saudi Forum of America, a group with a current membership of 20,000 from across the U.S. The organization gives members an opportunity to communicate online and to inform students about American schools, culture and ideas.

SFA has volunteers available to members 24 hours a day in case they need a translator or other support. Last year, CSU hosted an SFA convention, which had 1,000 members who attended workshops and exchanged experiences they had in America.

Alyahya also established the Alis Baa Club on campus, for which he serves as president. The club is an outreach program for Arab students and other students wanting to gain more knowledge of their culture.

Alyahya is currently finishing his Ph.D. in biomedical sciences and will leave for Saudi Arabia to teach medical school next fall. He plans to have his handbook available for students before he leaves this summer.

“The achievement that comes from this book is to leave something for my friends here,” Alyahya said. “For American people, for other people from other cultures, for my friends to have this book in the store if they are interested to learn something about us.”

Senior Reporter Kaeli West can be reached at news@collegian.com

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