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Students campaign for Middle Eastern and North African cultural house

The+view+of+various+cultural+houses+on+Nevada+Street+in+Urbana.+Students+for+an+Arab+Cultural+Center+is+working+to+establish+its+own+cultural+house+at+the+University.
The view of various cultural houses on Nevada Street in Urbana. Students for an Arab Cultural Center is working to establish its own cultural house at the University.

The view of various cultural houses on Nevada Street in Urbana. Students for an Arab Cultural Center is working to establish its own cultural house at the University.

Nikky Gary

Nikky Gary

The view of various cultural houses on Nevada Street in Urbana. Students for an Arab Cultural Center is working to establish its own cultural house at the University.

By George Vasillatos, Staff Writer

For the past two years, Students for an Arab Cultural Center has campaigned to open a Middle Eastern and North African cultural house as a way to help students connect to their heritage.

“This is essential, especially in the current political climate,” said Amira Hadyeh, president of the group and senior in LAS.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there has been an increase in anti-Muslim hate groups from 34 in 2015 to 101 in 2016.

Hadyeh said one of the main reasons SACC is advocating for a house is to provide education about Middle Eastern and North African culture.

One of SACC’s goals is to allow students the opportunity to ask questions directly to Middle Eastern and North African students. Hadyeh said they want to “get (the questions) answered through a dialogue instead of depending on the media.”

Currently, the Middle Eastern and North African students hold their events at the Asian American Cultural Center.

“We appreciate the Asian-American cultural house,” Hadyeh said. “But we really would like to be recognized as a culture instead of being grouped with another.”

Hadyeh said she believes a cultural house would allow the group to broaden the scope of their events.

“We just want to spread more knowledge about people that are often misrepresented,” she said.

Zain Al-Khalil, vice president of SACC and junior in LAS, said in an email that SACC has had several Middle Eastern and North African students report instances of discrimination on campus because of their ethnicity.

“Our main focus right now is to gather support from the student body in order to show the administration that many feel strongly about establishing a (Middle Eastern and North African) cultural house,” Al-Khalil said.

The group is working on promoting its message through its Facebook page, Students for an Arab Cultural Center at Illinois, and are preparing to host a series of events next semester to spread the word.

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