Last Friday, the president of the United States issued an executive order to place a travel ban on Muslims entering from 7 countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA): Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Some have argued that the ban is against all travelers and not only Muslims, however the president said soon after the ban that Christians would be allowed safe passage.
This Muslim ban is not only unconstitutional, the United States was founded on religious freedom, but it creates confusion for the citizens who actually live in these countries that fall under the ban: Muslims, Christians, Arabs, Persians, Kurds, etc.
Here at A Crafty Arab, my daughters and I have been trying to craft our way through the MENA region, learning about each country individually. Other than some countries in the region tied by the Arabic language, each country has it’s own rich history, foods, culture and people. The citizens may borrow from their neighbors, but most are proud of the ground on which they, their parents, and their grandparents were born.
To help kids learn about the 7 banned countries, I’ve compiled a list of activities, along with some book choices you can buy or request the next time you are at the library. Some of the books are for children, some for adults. I’m only listing a couple, but please visit my Pinterest boards for hundreds more. It’s important for Americans to read the narratives of those that have been plunged into a political war they did not start.
Iran is not an Arab country since they do not speak Arabic, they speak Persian. There are some Muslims in Iran, with Arabic and Assyrian being the two Semitic languages spoken by them. Iranians celebrate Nowruz and we did a tutorial on how to make one of the items needed for the festival table, a sib.
Iraq is the western neighbor of Iran, also situated in western Asia. It’s official languages are Arabic and Kurdish and it’s citizens are primarily Muslim. The United States and it’s allies attacked Iraq in 2003 and overthrew it’s government. The American presence in Iraq ended in 2011, but the Iraqi insurgency has continued due to the invasion. We talked about Iraq and American history while we learned about the flag.
Libya is in the middle of North Africa, has the Mediterranean Ocean as it’s northern border and is comprised of mostly dessert. The country was inhabited by the Amazigh before the Arabs arrived in the 7th century. As a Libyan myself, I have shared many recipes for food: mubatan, sharmoula and recently sharba. We have also learned about Libya and it’s revolution of 2011 when we made this hanging flag.
Somalia is in the horn of eastern Africa, bordered by water on two of it’s sides, giving it the longest coastline on Africa’s mainland. With Somalia’s proximity to the equator, there is not much seasonal variation in its climate. Islam was introduced to the area early on from the Arabian peninsula and the official languages of Somalia are Somali and Arabic. We learned about Somalia during our 3rd Annual Crafty Ramadan 30 Day Challenge when we made a flag pennant.
Sudan, also known as North Sudan, is a land locked country southeast of Libya and northwest of Somalia in Africa. Sudan used to be the largest country in Africa, before South Sudan broke off into it’s own country in 2011. Its predominant religion is Islam and the official languages are Arabic and English. We learned about Sudan when we made a flag lantern.
Syria is in western Asia, boarded by Iraq to the east and the Mediterranean Sea to the west. The official language is Arabic and it’s inhabitants are mostly Arabs with Kurds, Armenian and Turkmen minorities. Syria has been in a civil war since 2011. When we first talked about Syria, we created a pinwheel flag then we created a necklace of the opposition to place Syria in our hearts. Since then, we have also done no sew pillows for the refugees created from the civil unrest.
Yemen is in the southern Arabian Penuisula, and similar to Somalia, is boarded on two sides by water. Islam arrived in the 7th century and the ethnic groups are mostly Arab, followed by Afro-Arabs, South Asians and Europeans. Yemen has been caught in civil unrest since 2011 and it’s official language is Arabic. We learned about Yemen when we made a trivet for our tiny tea set.
There are 22 countries in the Arab League and we are learning about all of them. To see the activities we’ve made already, visit ACraftyArab on Pinterest. To learn more about the Arab League and who is on it, download this word search.