West Virginia University students interested in Muslim culture can participate in a free Arabic language and Islam religion class.
The class is offered by the Muslim Student Association and aims to introduce a language and religion that is foreign to American students, said Sohail Chaudhry, professor of the class.
The class began eight years ago to help tear down some of the myths regarding Islam and Muslims that began after Sept. 11, 2001, he said.
"The American media propagates and promotes these misconceptions," Chaudhry said. "The Arabic and Islam class started as an effort to bring light and knowledge regarding Islam's peaceful disposition."
Bob Jones, a student in the class, said it gives students a chance to see the misconceptions of the religion and culture.
Jones agrees with Chaudhry that the media misinformed the public about the religion and culture.
"I wanted to have accurate information on these Islamic views," Jones said.
The class is conducted like normal college courses and graded as such, Chaudhry said.
Students are asked to complete short homework assignments, memorize letters and short phrases as well as put together Arabic sentences, he said.
The Arabic language portion of the class is divided into two parts, he said.
"The first part deals with pronouncing, reading and writing Arabic," Chaudhry said. "The second part is learning short phrases and learning to speak the language with proper grammar."
During the class, students also learn Arabic phrases that are related to the culture and religion of Islam, he said.
"It is the most misunderstood religion in the world," Chaudhry said. "It helps them see that there are other points of view out there which need to be explored."
Jones said he was surprised to see that WVU offered the class since it is a controversial topic.
"I think that some universities might have been frightened off, so I'm pleased to see that West Virginia University offers it," Jones said.
The class is an opportunity for students, faculty and staff to learn about the culture, language and religion, he said.
On average, Chaudhry has eight to 10 students in the class. This semester he has nine and hopes that the class will give them a chance to relate to their Arabic friends.
The classes are offered every Thursday in the Shenandoah Room of the Mountainlair in two parts. From 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. is the Arabic language portion and from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. is the Islam portion.
Students have the option of moving onto advanced sections after completing the semester-long class.