Not too easy. Not too difficult.
This course will open your mind to so much of what the Western world and media does not tell you about the people in the Middle East. Professor Lalor is from Northern Ireland, and he serves as a consultant to the Northern Irish government regarding Middle Eastern issues, so you would have a difficult time finding a better person to teach you the subject matter. He has lived in the Middle East, speaks Arabic fluently, and he and his wife regularly crusade for women's rights in northern Africa. I guarantee that you will come out of this class with a more compassionate understanding of the culture, history, and background of the Middle Eastern people than you could ever have imagined. You might hear some truths that are difficult to swallow, both about the Middle Eastern people, and America and its Western Allies, but it only serves to heighten your awareness and rationality when it comes to issues of the Middle East. You will be presented with facts instead of the sensational patriotic rhetoric of politics. Sometimes it will make you extremely uncomfortable to come face to face with information that the American media (and, on occasion, the education system) has not revealed to us in full. But you will become a far wiser, better-educated, open-minded, loving person because of it. And it will arm you to fight misconceptions in many other areas of life.
One highlight of this course was learning the roots of all the modern conflicts in the Middle East, in Syria, Israel, Iran, and Iraq in particular. Studying the Balfour Declaration, which established Israel as a state, was particularly striking and applicable to tracing back and understanding the origins of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Another area of study that was very intriguing was the professor's use of both Western and Middle Eastern film to show the difference in how the Western world and the Middle Eastern world perceive the realities of Middle Eastern religion and life. In our final presentations, we were also permitted to explore any area of Middle Eastern politics that appealed to us, and I was able to dig into the largely contentious topic of women in the Middle East, reading passages of the Qur'an, researching the history of the hijab and other types of covering for women, and learning more about activists for women's rights in the region. As I took this class at Pepperdine's London International Program, I was able to travel to Jordan on an Educational Field Trip supported by the program and witness the culture and history firsthand, which was the most major highlight of all.
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Advice for students:
I would say that Professor Lalor is extremely indimidating at first -- he looks, acts, and sounds like Mad-Eye Moody from the Harry Potter series, and everyone is a bit terrified of him to start with. But once you get to know him, you'll find that he's quite gooey on the inside, and he'll do anything for you if you become his friend. It should be noted that his viewpoints tend to seem very anti-American or ant-Western, but that's just because he's trying to get you to think. He's trying to remove the patriotism from your rational analysis of situations so that you can really think about the people of the Middle East in a less biased manner, so don't take it personally. You should know that the final paper is rather a rigorous one, and should not be left for the last minute. He is not an easy grader.