Middle East PanelSeptember 09, 2013
Interfaith Initiative for Peace and Justice, the panelists considered issues in Egypt, Syria/Lebanon, and Palestine/Israel. The first speaker, Abdelrahman Rabie, talked about Egypt (the first photo is one I took of Rabie). An Egyptian-American who teaches science and technology at James Madison University (JMU), Rabie criticized the military coup that overthrew the democratically-elected government. He added that democratic transitions takes time and so the elected government should have been allowed to continue even with mistakes. Although not completely defending the Muslim Brotherhood (the government removed by the military), Rabie argued that the group should not have been removed from office and that they are being falsely blamed for much of the violence. During the question-and-answer time, some challenged Rabie's perspective. The second speaker, T.J. Fitzgerald, spoke about the situation in Syria and Lebanon. A history professor at JMU, Fitzgerald has traveled several times to both nations as his research focuses on that region. He argued that the current conflicts in the region can be read as part of the continuing decolonization process and noted how many of the political dynamics in Syria and Lebanon were created by the French (the former colonial power) as they left the countries. Pointing to the situation in Lebanon - where many Syrian refugees have fled and where some violence has occurred recently - Fitzgerald argued that the Syrian civil war has grown into a regional conflict. He ended his remarks by criticizing President Barack Obama's plans to use military force against Syria, arguing that will increase human suffering. Fitzgerald also argued that the complexity of the situation in Syria demands more humility and less zeal.