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Panel discusses Islamic politics

President of the Saudi Students Association Sami Aldejwi, Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Hussam Ayloush, and Professor of Political Science Jason Neidleman, speak at the Muslim Student Association’s “Political Islam” event May 3 on the past, present and future of the political and religious aspects of the Middle East. / photo by Cassandra Egan

Alex Forbess
Staff Writer

After embarrassment, torture and manipulation from governments that have ruled for decades, citizens across the Middle East had one response to this oppression: enough. This sentiment was echoed by the Muslim Student Association in a panel on May 3 in the Campus Center Ballroom.

MSA informed approximately 40 people on the current accomplishments and obstacles that come with forming a democracy in the Middle East.

MSA President Rasha Dubuni, a junior chemistry major, held “Political Islam” to discuss the events that led to the Arab Spring, a series of demonstrations and protests led by citizens to fight for freedom and basic human rights from unstable governments.

Dubuni also wanted to explain the clear definition of Islam and the politics in these countries, rather than connect the two.

“People are in need to learn from Islam with current events and more relevant scenarios,” Dubuni said.

A panel of experts, such as executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Hussam Ayloush, was present to help explain the role of Islam in Arab Spring.

In short, there was no role.

“The Arab Spring was a non-ideological revolution, an attempt to be free,” Ayloush said. “None of these protests were religious revolutions.”

Whether it was harassment or oppression, MSA Secretary Tahil Sharma said the response that sparked the Arab Spring started because they were exhausted from the cruelty they faced.

“They realized they had enough of this,” Sharma said. “The Arabic Spring has helped the world to understand what it means for people to stand up for themselves.”

Alyoush also said the American media has not helped set a positive image of the Arab Spring, sometimes referring to the demonstrators as “Islamists” rather than revolutionaries.

“The amount of Islam bigotry is alarming,” Alyoush said.

From the acts of former dictators, whether Hosni Mubarak or Muammar Gaddaffi, western viewers have mistakenly assumed Islam promoted this chaos. Instead, it was the politics that influenced these dictators for excessive control.

“Like any religion, Islam is about spreading peace,” Dubuni said.

The MSA presented specific scripts from the Quran that were related to the events that were taking place, Dubuni said. While some of these regimes claim to be faithful to their religion, audience members found it ironic they were anything but loyal to Allah.

Audience members were stunned to see the videos being presented which showed images of citizens being attacked and sometimes murdered, by the regime that was supposed to protect them.

“I was hurt when I even saw young people being hurt, all because they wanted basic rights,” George Khoury, an information technology consultant from Ontario, said. “It went straight to my heart.”

Regardless of citizen’s religious background, Alyoush said, citizens are tired of being ruled by a single, manipulative party, and are ready to start a new government that works better.

“You can see everyone in Tahrir Square come together,” Alyoush said about the protestors. “Right now, their biggest role is to be free.”

Alex Forbess can be reached at alex.forbess@laverne.edu.

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