Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

MFSA Opens Muslim Understanding Series in Des Moines

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

MFSA Opens Muslim Understanding Series in Des Moines

Article excerpt

The Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA) Iowa opened its Spring Regional Gatherings series, "Understanding our Muslim Brothers and Sisters," with a March 6 discussion of current events at Drake University in Des Moines. Hugh Stone, minister at Osceola United Methodist Church, introduced the speakers.

"This is the first social revolution in Egypt in 5,000 years," said Mahmoud Hamad, assistant professor of politics and international relations at Drake. A former Fulbright scholar from Egypt, Hamad returned from Egypt only 10 days before the recent popular uprising there began.

"If you compare political and economic rights in Middle Eastern countries with other countries you will see that, except for Turkey for the last few years and in Israel for the Jewish population, there is no Middle Eastern country that is democratic," added Hamad, who noted that there are many explanations for this.

Citing the colonial experience as the most important factor, Hamad explained that most of the countries of the Middle East were created by Western colonial powers-and too often, he said, when democracy has developed, it has been thwarted by Western intervention, as in Iran in 1953, and, more recently, in Palestine, following the 2006 legislative elections.

"The colonial powers had one interest, to keep the power in place, and that is why they empowered the political and military establishments," Hamad stated. "So, even after independence, the only part of the state that was actually functioning was the security and military apparatus. That's why, in many countries, when democracy began to develop, the generals would take over. Pakistan is an example. Algeria is an example. Syria is another example."

Following independence, the colonial powers continued to exert influence on behalf of those interests and often intervened on the side of authoritarian leaders, thwarting democratic impulses and movements and overthrowing democratic governments, Hamad explained.

"The most important example is the experience in Iran. [Mohammad] Mosadegh was a nationalist leader, not Islamic, not communist, nothing of that sort. He became the first democratically elected prime minister of Iran," said Hamad, who noted that the CIA collaborated with the Iranian military at the behest of Britain's MI-6 to overthrow Mosadegh, who had instituted a number of progressive social reforms and had nationalized the oil industry in Iran, which had been under the control of the British since 1913. …

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