Oak Bay’s Terri Hunter leads locals on an exploration of Palestine and Islam in two coming sessions through Monterey Rec Centre.
Coming up March 15 from 7 to 9 p.m. is The Palestinians, part of the Travels with Terri series.
Exploring the culture and traditions of the Palestinians, the illustrated session will touch on a wide variety of topics, from traditional town and village life, architecture and folk costumes to modern art, literature and music. “With an emphasis on society and customs, come and meet the Palestinian people,” says Hunter, an anthropologist and architectural historian who lived in the Middle East for several years, including in Gaza.
Also on the calendar is Understanding Islam, a four-session program running Mondays, Feb. 15 to March 7 from 10 to 11:30 a.m. and Wednesdays, Feb. 24 to March 16 from 7 to 8:30 p.m.
“This series of illustrated talks is a short introduction to the history, beliefs and practices of traditional Islam. With a focus on the social lives of families before and after the upheavals of the last few decades, this course will help you see the world behind the headlines.”
Hunter has been offering programs exploring the Middle East for about a decade. “It continues to be popular because of all the things going on in the Middle East,” she says. “I do these to help people understand.”
Looking back, at first people came without a lot of knowledge about the region, particularly about treatment of women, she recalls.
For example, she says, in the mid-1980s, it was women who chose to re-veil, responding to what they saw as a collapse of Middle Eastern society, under a lot of pressure from economic challenges and few jobs. Without economic resources or prospects, young people couldn’t get married.
“The women became very, very disillusioned with society and the fact that things were going nowhere.”
With many countries in the region living under dictatorships, little opportunity existed for dissent, so women turned to what they change they could effect, Hunter says. “The men were really confounded by this at first.”
The topic of women remains of interest to those attending Hunter’s class today. “It’s always about women. People want to know about women’s role in society and women’s role in Islam,” she says, noting that the reality is often very different from what people hear.
In the Palestinian class, history provides some context to current conflicts.
“There’s so little knowledge here about the background of the country that existed in the 1920s and ‘30s,” prior to the establishment of the state of Israel.
However, “the course is not about the politics, it’s about who those people were and who they are.” Hunter says.
“Mainly what I try to teach, is these are just people, just like us.”
To register for either program, call Monterey Rec Centre at 250-370-7300.