KS: TEACHER OF ARABIC CONNECTS WICHITANS
Teaching Arabic is Yassin Shourbaji's method of building bridges between communities.
Shourbaji, a retired engineer and member of the Islamic Society of Wichita and the Islamic Association of Mid-Kansas, has been teaching Arabic to English-speakers for four years.
He expanded his course offerings in March to include an introductory course for high school and college students.
His passion has resulted in a group of diverse people meeting at a west-side mosque to learn the intricacies of a language that looks and sounds nothing like English.
And, in turn, the students are gaining first-hand insight into a culture that is often portrayed as everything but American.
"Language contributes to cultural enhancement and, hence, it will build better mutual understanding in our diverse, multiethnic society," said Shourbaji, whose wife, Judy, is also learning Arabic.
One more slot has to be filled to reach the class's 12-student capacity.
Cherry McCord, who is Muslim, said she's taking the class to build her knowledge base for her 3-year-old son.
"I want to raise him as a Muslim," she said.
Kate Witsman, a Wichita State University senior, said learning Arabic will help her as she pursues a career in political psychology.
"Arabic is integral to the field," said Witsman, based on the religion's growth.
There are roughly 5,000 Muslims in Wichita, according to Hussam Madi, spokesman for the Islamic Society of Wichita.