This column is dedicated to all things Middle East – whether that be a cultural take on the region or a political commentary of current events. We decided to create this column after we realised how interesting (and self-absorbed) we are. We come from two very different backgrounds with diverging opinions, yet we somehow manage to keep our conversations informed, civil, and full of love. Our title is a reference to Karl Sharro’s (@KarlReMarks) ingenious and satirical Twitter page that uses humour as a method for inciting discussion. Let us start by introducing ourselves and explaining what we intend to achieve by the end of this year.
Hi! I’m Tracy and I am a third-year student from Beirut, Lebanon. When I left home for university, I knew I was sacrificing my life at home for a life of my own, which I hoped would be made up of people who did not see or understand the world as I did. Since the Middle East is home to me, most of my conversations always lead back to Beirut’s political fragmentation or a Marxist critique of anything and everything. I met Charlotte in my first-year and I have admired her since then. Our friendship really blossomed in second year, when I found myself always wanting to hear her take on all things from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to secularism. When you can strengthen a friendship despite your differences, you know you are in it for more than just the messy and embarrassing week of Freshers. My hope is for this column to reflect what I believe to be mine and Charlotte’s most valuable quality in our friendship: compassion. There are so many things that the student body at Queen Mary gets wrong about my home and so many things that they are ill-informed about. I am excited to use CUB as a platform to denounce any stereotypes and misconceptions about me and Charlotte’s backgrounds and homes as well providing a safe space for anybody looking to share what they have to say about the turbulent state of the region.
Hello there, I’m Charlotte, and I’m a third-year Law & Politics student. I was born and raised in Antwerp, Belgium. Belgium, in the heart of Europe, is about as Western as it gets, and as such, probably the polar opposite of Tracy’s Beirut in many ways. As a kid, I was sent to a Jewish primary school. Since at home, we are not very religious, this is where I was introduced to the Jewish religion, the Hebrew language and Zionism. After primary school, I switched schools to a Belgian state school, where I was the only Jewish kid in my grade. I was a member of an international Jewish (and Zionist) scouting group for about eight years. This is where my interest in the Middle East was really stimulated, especially after spending the summer of 2014 there during Operation Protective Edge and then coming back to a controversial and deeply divided home environment. These experiences indirectly led me to the decision of studying abroad, and I have not looked back since. My time at Queen Mary and my friendship with people like Tracy have taught me how vital it is, in our modern and highly fragmented society, to educate yourself, and most importantly inform yourself before speaking and/or fighting for a cause, be it the UK university’s pension scheme or the Iran nuclear deal.
Evidently, the two of us have diverse backgrounds. We were brought together at university against all (or at least against most) odds, but nonetheless, we became friends. University is a place to grow and learn. A place where your ideas should and will be disputed. A place for new encounters that will challenge your view and understanding of the world. It is a place for open and safe dialogue, which is exactly what we hope to bring by launching this column.