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Arab League ambassador shares perspectives on Middle East politics with Wayne State audience

September 27, 2013

A key Arab world statesman visited Wayne State’s campus on Sept. 23 to share with students and faculty his perspectives on the Arab Spring and other political developments in the Middle East.

Speaking to an audience in the university’s Community Arts Center, Mohammed Al Hussaini Al Sharif, ambassador to the United States for the Arab League of Nations, acknowledged that attempts at democratization in the five main Arab Spring nations – Libya, Yemen, Tunisia, Egypt and Syria – have not been “promising.” However, he said the three-year wave of demonstrations and protests has indirectly benefited citizens of other Arab nations – namely Morocco, Algeria, and Jordan – by prompting their leaders to make political concessions and fund infrastructural enhancements to stave off similar public unrest. Al Hussaini Al Sharif also spoke about the Arab League’s “unprecedented” decision to support international action against the Syrian government for its use of chemical weapons, and expressed support for certain U.S. policy decisions in the wake of the Arab Spring, such as its founding role in the Open Government Partnership and its creation of the Atrocities Prevention Board.

The ambassador’s talk, which ventured into the contentious issue of Israeli-Arab conflict, was organized by Wayne State’s Office of International Programs in partnership with the Center for the Study of Citizenship and the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies, both of the university’s College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. Political science and history faculty brought scores of students to the event to take part in what Center for Peace and Conflict Studies Director Frederic Pearson called “an important dialogue” that reflects the “lively learning and opinion on campus.”

Saeed Khan, a lecturer in Wayne State’s Department of Near East & Asian Studies who attended Al Hussaini Al Sharif’s talk with students from his graduate course on the history of Islamic political thought, embraced the opportunity “to get out of the antiseptic setting of the classroom and hear directly from someone who’s involved in shaping the historical narrative” of the Middle East. Khan said his students are “looking at the region’s politics from their historical development to their contemporary expression and trying to intellectualize these concepts rather than politicize them,” adding that the ambassador’s talk gave them a perspective to deliberate.

Ahmad Ezzeddine, Wayne State’s associate vice president for educational outreach and international programs, said Al Hussaini Al Sharif’s visit reflects the university’s commitment to engaging students in challenging and timely discourse.

“The politics of the Middle East are complex and ever-changing, but there’s no question that historic events are occurring in the region,” Ezzeddine said. “These developments become more real and relevant to students when they have access to thought leaders who are directly involved in them.”