Interterm project blends Arabic, caligraphy

By Anna Wright

Students learned the entire Arabic alphabet, researched the cultural ties of calligraphy to Islam, and developed basic techniques of working with bamboo pens and inks.
Students learned the entire Arabic alphabet, researched the cultural ties of calligraphy to Islam, and developed basic techniques of working with bamboo pens and inks.

Assistant Professor of Religion and Islamic Studies Nassima Neggaz led students through an intensive study of the Arabic alphabet and complementary artform, calligraphy, during the January Interterm.

“Arabic is absolutely necessary to study, if you want to do anything with the region,” explains Neggaz, who teaches courses in Islamic Movements and Islamic History this Spring.

In three weeks, students learned the entire Arabic alphabet, researched the cultural ties of calligraphy to Islam, and developed basic techniques of working with bamboo pens and inks. Students designed final projects showcasing all of their newly-acquired skills with individual coaching from a calligrapher.

Amid grammar studies and dictations, Dr. Neggaz and students discuss how speakers at the language’s hearth are shifting focus.

“There’s concern that we’re losing Arabic,” says Neggaz. “It’s more cool to learn English – and that’s a dangerous perception.”

The political climate in the modern Arab world has led to some concern that cultural significance of preserving semantic languages is declining, especially among youths.

“The most important challenge -and the most difficult to face- is that people in the Arab world don’t think Arabic will help them in the future,” explains Neggaz.

New College currently offers courses in elementary and intermediate Hebrew, but Dr. Neggaz and students hope to see growth of additional language courses to complement the Religion and International Studies areas of concentration.

“To study the text in its own language -it’s very important.”

Dr. Neggaz intends to offer a similar ISP next January.

–Anna Wright is an intern in the Office of Communications and Marketing.


Located in Sarasota, New College of Florida has educated intellectually curious students for lives of great achievement since its founding in 1960. As the State of Florida’s designated honors college, New College provides an exceptional education that transforms students’ intellectual curiosity into personal accomplishment. The 110-acre campus on Sarasota Bay is home to more than 800 students and 80 full-time faculty engaged in interdisciplinary research and collaborative learning. New College offers nearly 40 areas of concentration for undergraduates and a master’s degree program in Data Science.

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