دراسات الشرق الأوسط وشمال أفريقيا

مطالعات خاورمیانه و شمال آفریقا

המזרח התיכון וצפון אפריקה

Orta Doğu ve Kuzey Afrika Çalışmaları

Despite its global significance, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) remains one of the most poorly understood regions for Americans. Instructors at K-12 and university levels are all acutely aware that many students come into courses with pre-conceived notions, inaccurate knowledge, and biases about the MENA. Over the past decade, events and political developments such as 9/11, the American invasion of Iraq, the rise of the Islamic State, and the Syrian refugee crisis have added to the strength of these biases. These beliefs not only tend to be persistent, they also may be unconscious and subtle, and therefore difficult for instructors to identify. Nevertheless, whether they are overt or covert, these biases significantly disrupt the learning process and act as psychological blocks against understanding the region and its issues. In addition, as our classrooms grow ever more diverse, these biases harm and exclude our Muslim and/or MENA identifying students, and they go against the precepts of acceptance and inclusivity.

This site aims to provide resources for educators in the United States and the West who wish to combat the spread of harmful stereotypes and misinformation about the MENA region. It builds on the content of "Challenging Student Perceptions of the Middle East," a workshop for K-12 educators held at Colorado State University in the summer of 2018 and funded by the Carl A. Bimson endowment for the humanities.

Deconstructing Bias

MENA Culture and Identity

MENA Politics and Society

MENA Environment and Geography

MENA History


This website grew out of a seminar funded by the Carl A. Bimson Endowment for the Humanities, a charitable gift to the College of Liberal Arts at Colorado State University to promote community engagement on key issues. The seminar, "Challenging Student Perceptions of the Middle East and North Africa," took place from June 18th through June 22nd, 2018, on the campus of Colorado State University (CSU) in Fort Collins, Colorado. It was facilitated and led by three CSU faculty members: Dr. Gamze Çavdar, Associate Professor of Political Science, Dr. Andrea Duffy, Special Assistant Professor of History, and Dr. Mary Vogl, Associate Professor of French.

This initiative was originally inspired by a study conducted by Dr. Çavdar designed to identify and target student biases regarding the Middle East / North Africa (MENA) region. The study took a total of three years and involved 142 students from three sections of a Colorado State University (CSU) course, POLS241-Introduction to Government and Politics, a course in the all-university core curriculum, and a prerequisite for all Political Science and International Studies majors at CSU. The research revealed that many students share the following misconceptions about MENA: that the region is fundamentally different from the rest of the word; that it does not make progress; that Islam determines every aspect of Muslims’ lives; and that no diversity exists among Muslims. Comparative survey questions found that students consider MENA is unique and holds stronger biases compared to our regions. The study also found that the lectures that directly targeted these biases were effective in lowering them. Along with her co-facilitators, Dr. Çavdar believed that a concerted effort by K-12 teachers and university professors, with input from regional experts, would more effectively target these biases.

The seminar "Challenging Student Perceptions of MENA" hosted eleven K-12 teachers from across the U.S., who had the opportunity to learn from and engage with the seminar leaders as well as various guest speakers, panelists, and facilitators. They also toured the Fort Collins Islamic Center. Throughout the seminar, small group discussions were organized to discuss ways of transferring the acquired knowledge into a K-12 classroom. At the end, participants presented final projects on a classroom activity related to MENA. This website represents an ongoing effort to build on the momentum of that seminar and to provide students and educators outside of MENA with resources that will better inform them about this diverse, complex, critical, and commonly misunderstood world region.