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How the West Stole Democracy from the Arabs:…
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How the West Stole Democracy from the Arabs: The Syrian Congress of 1920 and the Destruction of its Historic Liberal-Islamic Alliance (edition 2020)

by Elizabeth F. Thompson (Author)

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671399,863 (4.63)None
"When Europe's Great War engulfed the Ottoman Empire, Arab nationalists rose in revolt against their Turkish rulers and allied with the British on the promise of an independent Arab state. In October 1918, the Arabs' military leader, Prince Faisal, victoriously entered Damascus and proclaimed a constitutional government in an independent Greater Syria. Faisal won American support for self-determination at the Paris Peace Conference, but other Entente powers plotted to protect their colonial interests. Under threat of European occupation, the Syrian-Arab Congress declared independence on March 8, 1920 and crowned Faisal king of a "civil representative monarchy." Sheikh Rashid Rida, the most prominent Islamic thinker of the day, became Congress president and supervised the drafting of a constitution that established the world's first Arab democracy and guaranteed equal rights for all citizens, including non-Muslims. But France and Britain refused to recognize the Damascus government and instead imposed a system of mandates on the pretext that Arabs were not yet ready for self-government. In July 1920, the French invaded and crushed the Syrian state. The fragile coalition of secular modernizers and Islamic reformers that had established democracy was destroyed, with profound consequences that reverberate still. Using previously untapped primary sources, including contemporary newspaper accounts, reports of the Syrian-Arab Congress, and letters and diaries from participants, How the West Stole Democracy from the Arabs is a groundbreaking account of an extraordinary, brief moment of unity and hope-and of its destruction"--… (more)
Member:paulcoltrin
Title:How the West Stole Democracy from the Arabs: The Syrian Congress of 1920 and the Destruction of its Historic Liberal-Islamic Alliance
Authors:Elizabeth F. Thompson (Author)
Info:Atlantic Monthly Press (2020), Edition: Illustrated, 496 pages
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How the West Stole Democracy from the Arabs: The Syrian Arab Congress of 1920 and the Destruction of its Historic Liberal-Islamic Alliance by Elizabeth F. Thompson

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I would say that this is a 3.5 star upgraded to a 4 star. On principle this story is quite fascinating. I feel like generally speaking we in the Western world tend to believe that the Middle East has always been an area deeply conflicted and a region where aggression toward Western countries was expected. So to learn of a time when this wasn’t the case is quite interesting. This covers a long forgotten time in the history of Syria where after years of conflict, the appointed King Faisal, undertakes the process of building a democratic system inside Syria. A system that in context looked a lot like our own democracy here in the US. Repeated snubs and sabotage largely at the hands of the French and the British, the ruling system ultimately collapsed in 1920 or so, but not before the democratic Syrian Congress produced a remarkable document in the form of the Syrian Government Constitution of 1920. 100 years later it is hard to fathom what Syria once could have been. It is only through studious preservation that this rare document exists to be translated for our understanding. While many events have subsequently occurred across the Middle East that has resulted in much instability and friction, this book certainly begs the question, what would the world look like now if the Western Allied Countries had supported the Syrian Government and then left them to rule as a sovereign nation without interference? Given the debauchery of the French Government, I certainly came to have an understanding of the context of the frustrations of many of the Arab people. This is certainly eye opening, but may not appeal across the board to all people. It may be for more of a targeted audience. Story appears to be rigorously researched. Information can be a little dry at times, and the rather complex native Syrian names do not help with tracking the story. If you are interested in middle eastern policy or history this is certainly worth a read. Thank you to Netgalley for the early copy in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  hana321 | Apr 26, 2020 |
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"When Europe's Great War engulfed the Ottoman Empire, Arab nationalists rose in revolt against their Turkish rulers and allied with the British on the promise of an independent Arab state. In October 1918, the Arabs' military leader, Prince Faisal, victoriously entered Damascus and proclaimed a constitutional government in an independent Greater Syria. Faisal won American support for self-determination at the Paris Peace Conference, but other Entente powers plotted to protect their colonial interests. Under threat of European occupation, the Syrian-Arab Congress declared independence on March 8, 1920 and crowned Faisal king of a "civil representative monarchy." Sheikh Rashid Rida, the most prominent Islamic thinker of the day, became Congress president and supervised the drafting of a constitution that established the world's first Arab democracy and guaranteed equal rights for all citizens, including non-Muslims. But France and Britain refused to recognize the Damascus government and instead imposed a system of mandates on the pretext that Arabs were not yet ready for self-government. In July 1920, the French invaded and crushed the Syrian state. The fragile coalition of secular modernizers and Islamic reformers that had established democracy was destroyed, with profound consequences that reverberate still. Using previously untapped primary sources, including contemporary newspaper accounts, reports of the Syrian-Arab Congress, and letters and diaries from participants, How the West Stole Democracy from the Arabs is a groundbreaking account of an extraordinary, brief moment of unity and hope-and of its destruction"--

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