300+ Join MPAC For Forum On ‘New Middle East’

February 27, 2011

Earlier today, the Muslim Public Affairs Council held a standing-room only forum on “The New Middle East: Tunisia, Egypt, Libya & Beyond” at the Islamic Center of Southern California to discuss the winds of change spreading across the Middle East and North Africa.

SEE: Full video and full audio of the Forum. You can also click on the play button above to listen to the audio or scroll down the page to watch the video.

More than 300 people attended the forum, which tackled topics from the nonviolent peaceful protests to the power of social media to what the future holds for other countries in the region.

The forum’s speakers were Sarah Eltantawi, a Doctoral Candidate in Islam Studies at Harvard University; Mark LeVine, University of California, Irvine, Professor of Modern Middle Eastern History, Culture and Islamic Studies; Nayereh Tohidi, Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at California State University, Northridge; and Dr. Maher Hathout, MPAC’s Senior Adviser and an expert on Middle Eastern affairs.

Moderated by Jihad Turk, the Director of Religious Affairs at the Islamic Center of Southern California, the forum began with Dr. Maher Hathout’s analysis of the region and the political change coming over the region.

“This is not a movement to achieve better income or because of high prices or lack of food,” Hathout said. “This is belittling the cause for which blood was shed. This is not a desperate movement. These people simply want human dignity and freedom. What awakened the giant all of a sudden? This is the spirit of God in people. We’ve noticed in a few weeks that the voices of extremism and violence have been silenced. There is no market for extremism with exclusive attitudes.”

Eltantawi spoke about how change needs to come from the people and cannot come from foreign aid.

“This particular change has to come from the people of the region,” Eltantawi said. “All 300 million have to stand up and say we are no longer going to be oppressed because of your narrow material interests. We will simply not stop.”

Levine, who was in Tahrir Square during the Egyptian revolution, shared his firsthand experience about the power of social media and the youth.

“The reason this revolution took off was because everyone was in the square,” Levine said. “The people who won it were the 5-year-olds. There were 5-year-old or 6-year-old girls, and boys, with a megaphone chanting. This is [the youth] revolution. They were the ones leading the people. It’s the 5-year-old child as much as Facebook.

Tohidi touched upon the emerging role of woman and the impact they have had on the protests.

“Women have been playing an active role as agents of change,” Tohidi said. “It is spreading. What is happening again is that the image of the Middle East is changing is because of women. Women are in the forefront; they are active in bringing down the government.”

MPAC’s President Salam Al-Marayati closed the event by reminding the audience that to make a difference, they need to reach out to their local congressperson and ask them to support the people’s struggle for liberty, democracy and freedom from these tyrannical regimes.

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