Globe reporter lectures on Islam

Leslie Combs

Anthony Shadid knows firsthand just how intense and vulnerable the situation is in the Middle East today. Last March, despite being clearly marked as a journalist from all sides, the Israeli Army stationed in Ramallah shot him in the back.

“[Being shot] is the biggest fear of any journalist,” Shadid, the Boston Globe’s foreign affairs correspondent in Washington, said. “You are not off limits. There is no place more dangerous than dealing with Israel’s Army, and it is not worth it in my eyes.”

Although Shadid has not returned to Israel since his shooting, he still travels throughout the Middle East as a journalist. Just days before addressing University students and faculty on Monday, he had returned from a month-long stay in Middle East hotbed Iraq.

Shadid began his presentation “Islam’s New Politics: Dissent, Democracy and a Changing World” with his own interpretation and observations of what direction Islam is taking post-Sept. 11. Referring often to passages in his book on the area, “Legacy of the Prophet,” Shadid explained how dissension among different Islamic groups has grown, alongside the growth of exterior dissent towards the Islamic people. Shadid observed that prior to Sept. 11, the West was helping the Islam nations to establish democratic institution, but in the past year has revoked such pressure.

“Where the West once pushed for democracy, since Sept. 11 it now has its own agenda,” Shadid explained. “A region without democracy serves the interest of the West now.”

For the Islamic people, this means that all efforts to become democratic must come from grassroots organizations.

These many groups are not cohesive and have different reasons for wanting to become a democratic nation. Shadid highlighted the violent radical groups rooted in both Islam and Judaism, which according to him pose the most resistance to the process of democratization.

Following his dissertation, Shadid opened the floor for questions and answered candidly about his own unique and varied experiences as a journalist in the Middle East. The questions began to gravitate toward the current headlines and the topic of Iraq. Having just returned from the area, Shadid was able to provide an inside look into the current troubles plaguing Saddam Hussein’s regime, most specifically Hussein’s plans to empty entire prisons, retaining only specific prisoners, including Americans and British. The liberation soon turned into an emptying of entire prisons after civilians overran the guards.

“The prison release itself was dramatic and sweeping,” Shadid explained. “It was the most dramatic moment I have ever covered in the Middle East. The guards didn’t dare mess with them [civilian family members] because they knew they would have been overwhelmed. [The prisons] was a house of horrors; no question were the missing executed.”

Shadid described the anguish and emotion he saw on the faces of the women, who while exalting Hussein in front of the Information Embassy in Baghdad, were protesting the likely execution of their sons ordered by the same man. Shadid’s story showed the audience how intertwined and confusing the politics of the region are.

Discussing the event, John Huxford, first year communication professor, said, “Anthony Shadid has a formidable reputation as a foreign correspondent and is an expert on the Middle East. His talk showed the sort of objectivity that you would expect from a journalist at the top of his profession.”

He continued, “You came away seeing the current crisis there in a whole new light.”