The Public Square

Mort Brussel on Anthony Shadid’s visit to discuss the Iraq War and U.S./Middle East Relations


My name is Mort Brussel. A member of AWARE, a local peace and justice group. AWARE, the local peace and justice organization, along with a variety of campus and community organizations, has arranged to have Anthony Shadid, the Islamic Affairs correspondent for the Washington Post, come to Urbana-Champaign on Tuesday and Wednesday, March 7th and 8th. Shadid, who won the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting in 2004, will make two public presentations during his stay. Both will feature readings and discussions related to books he has published: First, Legacy of the Prophet: Despots, Democrats, and the New Politics of Islam (2002), and second, Night Draws Near: Iraqi People in the Shadow of America's War (2005). Shadid is an American of Lebanese descent who reads and speaks Arabic and has been covering events in the Middle East since 1996.

Shadid's first presentation will be on Tuesday, March 7 at the First Presbyterian Church in Urbana at 7:00 p.m. He will read selections from Night Draws Near which document the impacts of the conflict in Iraq on the lives of its people through several stages: the prelude to war, the invasion, the immediate aftermath, the occupation, and the insurgency. The book is not written to advance a particular political agenda, but rather to paint a vivid human face on what has transpired at each of these stages. By so accurately describing both the genesis of the conflict and its consequences on all involved, however, including innocent civilians and combatants, Shadid lays the basis for readers to form their own evaluation of the war. The selections read should stimulate meaningful discussion among those who are able to attend.

The same will apply to selections read from Legacy of the Prophet the next evening, March 8th at 7pm in the Chemistry Annex Building 601 S. Mathews on the U of I campus. As terrorism floods our headlines, this book offers a rare but much needed counterpoint: it shows that Islamic activists have increasingly renounced violence in order to form political parties, engage in grassroots work, and enter into civil society to bring about peaceful reform in their authoritarian societies." Shadid brings fresh perspectives to Western readers about organizations such as Hezbolla in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine. He holds up the hope that "the adolescence of yesterday's Islamic militants is yielding to the maturity of today's activists...who are finding a more realistic and potentially more successful future through democratic politics."

Tangentially, it should be observed that Shadid's insights will allow Western readers to better understand what has motivated the strong response among Muslims to the recent cartoon depictions of the Prophet Mohammed.

Please make an effort to come meet Anthony Shadid when he is in the community. Thank you.