Indiana University Bloomington
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Welcome to the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures (NELC). The department was founded half a century ago, making it one of the oldest such departments in the nation. Its founding father was Professor Wadie Elias Jwaideh, a native of Iraq and an expert on the modern history of the Kurds who joined the faculty of IU in 1960. He served as chair of the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures with exemplary dedication for over two decades, building a department with strengths in Arabic language and linguistics, Hebrew and Jewish studies, and Middle Eastern and Islamic history, culture, and religions. We are thus justifiably proud of belonging to one of the oldest and most venerable departments of its kind in the nation.

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Professor Stephen Katz, Departmental Chair


NELC Professor Asma Afsaruddin: Here & Now and Newsweek!

On Here & Now, a radio show dedicated to breaking world news, Professor Asma Afsaruddin discusses the history of Islam and ISIS as a political movement alongside Jonathan Brown, director of the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University.

Professor Afsaruddin also recently wrote an article published in Newsweek addressesing modernity, religion, and their interwoven relationship. Read her article here.

NELC Ph.D. Student Yasser Sultan Wins College Travel Award!

Sultan will be presenting his paper entitled "What If She Were the Exegete? A Feminist Critique of the Classical Tafsirs on the Issue of Interfaith Marriage" at the MESA Annual Meeting in Denver, CO this year.

Says Sultan about this paper, "Writing this paper was prompted by a question that was directed to me by a NELC graduate student, who wanted to know whether Muslim women are allowed to marry non-Muslim men. The mainstream view on this issue is that this kind of marriage is not permitted. In my paper, I question the claim that the Quran prohibits the marriage between Muslim women and men from the People of the Book (Ahl al-Kitab). I argue that the assumed prohibition is a result of patriarchal readings of the Qur'an by male Muslim exegetes. I also suggest that perpetuation of these unequal rulings between men and women comes from the works of exegesis and jurisprudence, and not from the Qur'an itself."

Says he about his research interests, "I focus mainly on the issues of divorce in Hanafii fiqh. I approach these issues from a faith-based perspective. Therefore, I am interested not only in analyzing how Islamic jurisprudence and law interacted, but I also propose certain reforms based on my analysis of how the legal rulings were deduced and also on the ramifications of their application on the people, especially women. Overall, my research could be placed under the general umbrella of reforming Muslim thought." Yasser Sultan first came to Indiana University as a Fulbright scholar in 2012. He received his B.A. in Islamic Studies from the prestigious al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt. He also holds an M.A. from IU NELC. Congratulations, Yasser!

NELC Ph.D. Student Seyed Asghari wins NELC Travel Award and Graduate Professional Student Government Travel Award!

Asghari's research interests focus on Islamic studies with specific attention to Islamic intellectual tradition and Shi'a mystical theology. He will be traveling to the Islam and Contemporary Challenges Conference in Tehran, Iran, later this year. He will discuss the ways in which Sadra, a Muslim philosopher of 16th century Iran, interprets scripture and tradition to reconcile revelation and intellect.

Mr. Asghari says about his research, "I would like to assess the methodology of Muslim intellectuals when they dealt with revelation and produced a huge heritage of philosophy and Sufism which is in contrast with some of the contemporary extremist movements especially in Middle eastern societies and their disasters effects both for Muslims and non-Muslims."

NELC Egyptology Student Hilo Sugita Wins NELC Travel Award!

We have moved! We are no longer in Goodbody Hall, our home of many years. Our office is in the east wing of the brand new Global and International Studies Building, office space 3050: take the elevator to the third floor, and we are on the right.

Our beautiful new home!

The NELC office has been busy settling into our new spaces at the Global and International Studies Building. We are thankful to our faculty and students for providing the office with wonderful decorative pieces from all over the Middle East. Come vist us and say "Marhaba"!

The Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2015 with a slew of cultural activities and lectures being held throughout the spring semester. Click here for a full schedule of events.

News Release

As we look back in time to the establishment of the department, we fondly remember its founder, Professor Wadie Jwaideh, who was not only an academic but also a consultant to President Carter and a globe-trotter. For more details, read the special news release on the occasion of our 50th anniversary prepared by the IU Communications Office.

Check out our Fall 2015 course listings!


The Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures is excited to spotlight Richard Solomon (2018), one of NELC's undergraduate students. Solomon is a Wells Scholar and spent the summer doing research overseas; his research has been published in two online journals.

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Upcoming Events

Looking for some great films to kill time and boost your Arabic language skills? The Department of NELC is excited to present the Arabic Film Series taking place througout the fall semester of 2015. Come for Arabic-language fun!

On Thursday, December 3 at 6:30pm, NELC will be thrilled to host the annual Arabic dinner in the President's Room in the Indiana Memorial Union. The event is a potluck, so please be sure to prepare and bring your favorite Arabic dishes for everyone to share and enjoy! See our flyer for further information!


Read the 2015 NELC Newsletter

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