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Spreading Objectivism to the Middle East

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There are a number of American Universities in the Middle East that sound rather popular:

  • Lebanese American University
  • American University of Beirut
  • American University in Cairo
  • American University of Sharjah

In addition, there are some private American universities in the Middle East such as the American University in Dubai and Carnegie Mellon University's campus in Qatar.

Given that the Middle East is presently devoid of good philosophy, I think that these universities are potentially fantastic mediums to spread Objectivism. Doing so would provide intellectual ammunition to the individuals who may eventually spearhead political revolutions.

Does anybody know if any such action is taken particularly towards spreading Objectivism to these universities? Does anybody have any ideas for how to go about doing this?

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Because these areas are so rich with people who have so fundamentally rejected reason, I would think it would be a poor place to try to begin a rational dialogue.

Are these universities also corrupt with islamic totalitarianism (or someother really bad nonsense)? Unless if you were just commenting on the Middle East in general, even though I intended the discussion at these Western-influenced universities. I read in the editorial in my first post that:

They are teaching women equally with men; opening programs in Western-style journalism; offering cutting-edge courses in capitalism, science and politics; and providing a refuge for free intellectual and political debate.

It sounds like some decent progress might be made. I am curious about what kind of students are being churned out.

On another note, I also admired the enthusiasm of the Iraqi students at Baghdad University described here.

I am planning to go to the Middle East as a self-appointed Objectivist ambassador.

The Middle East is a pretty big place so I hope that you are making a good effort to understand the complexity, mentality and history of the various inhabitants to help prevent repeating serious foreign policy errors. That being said, do what you can to smash Islamic Fascism.

Edited by DarkWaters
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Interesting, it could very well be a fruitful place to explain Objectivism. I was just going on the fact that the general population is singularly the largest hotbed of irrationality that I know of--but perhaps in Qatar and elsewhere, university students may be receptive. I think, for my money, India sounds like the most promising place, though.

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Many countries have segments of the population that are quite modern in their outlook. It's likely that if one spread Rand's ideas to students in universities such as DW listed, some will be interested. (They might even get more serious about quitting Lebanon and immigrating to the U.S. :huh:) Seriously though, if one could do so without taking time from other activism, or if one had a personal interest in the area, then it would be worth it.

Also, I suppose there is value in "seeding" a world-wide audience at least to some preliminary level, in the hope that a few people in each area may take local activism to the next stage.

I think India is also a good target, because it is turning to free-markets anyway, because most educated Indians know English, and because there's already a small Objectivist presence there, including a Fountainhead essay contest (not regular, but it's been run off and on about 4 times).

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I've been travelling back and forth to Turkey for the past 4 months -- with one stay going over 3 weeks -- and have met a lot of Turks. Although Turkey is not generally considered in the Middle East, it is in the neighborhood, and would be the easiest of the countries with muslim populations to target for Objectivism. There are already some Objectivists there, and there are good translations of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged in Turkish.

However, my guess is that any open advocacy of Objectivism would be tough in Turkey, or in any country with a majority muslim population. Especially if there were any sense that non-local organizations (such as ARI) were involved. It is hard to explain quickly, but my advice is to operate under the radar and to focus on social networking rather than activism. Acting very openly at a university could easily lead to violence, threats against the students, embarassing their family --- and thus pitting the student against their family, etc. It really needs to be handled carefully.

I love the idea of trying to get Objectivist-minded people to immigrant to the US though. That would be terrific. Once a lot of these students/professionals are free from their family, religion and traditions then they could really live life the way they want to --- having social networks would be important in helping these people not give up on their dreams --- the peer pressure and family pressure is immense on them.

Anyway, say what you want about Islam, the truth is that many (I would say 'most') young and well-educated muslims want MORE Islam in their politics and economics, rather than less. If you actually get involved with Islam and/or muslims personally or professionally, then it is easy to see why Islam draws people in. If your experience with Islam is just from reading books or watching the news then you may be surprised why Islam captures the hearts and minds of intelligent young men and women. (Think Marxism capturing the minds of young Western students as a way to give the world a socially just system; not much different with Islam because educated muslims don't see Islam as the Taliban or Al Queda way but rather something more enlightened.)

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However, my guess is that any open advocacy of Objectivism would be tough in Turkey, or in any country with a majority muslim population. Especially if there were any sense that non-local organizations (such as ARI) were involved. It is hard to explain quickly, but my advice is to operate under the radar and to focus on social networking rather than activism. Acting very openly at a university could easily lead to violence, threats against the students, embarassing their family --- and thus pitting the student against their family, etc. It really needs to be handled carefully.

I think you have a good point about social networking over open advocacy at this point. Do you think that open advocacy would invite scorn from peers even in Istanbul?

Anyway, say what you want about Islam, the truth is that many (I would say 'most') young and well-educated muslims want MORE Islam in their politics and economics, rather than less. If you actually get involved with Islam and/or muslims personally or professionally, then it is easy to see why Islam draws people in. If your experience with Islam is just from reading books or watching the news then you may be surprised why Islam captures the hearts and minds of intelligent young men and women. (Think Marxism capturing the minds of young Western students as a way to give the world a socially just system; not much different with Islam because educated muslims don't see Islam as the Taliban or Al Queda way but rather something more enlightened.)

Unfortunately, I fear most of this mentality stems from what is taught in Middle Eastern Universities. Most of the people I have interacted with extensively (good friends, professors I have worked with, roommates) who are from Turkey are very secular. I have a met a decent number of students from other generally Muslim nations (Saudia Arabia, Iran, Egypt, Lebanon, etc.) Most of them appeared to be pretty secular too although I have had limited interaction with these. However, given that I am meeting this people in the United States and most of them are close to my age, I certainly have met a biased sample.

More specifically, why do you think Islam captures the hearts and minds of the "intelligent" young men and women in the Middle East? Under what circumstances have you visited Turkey (if you wish to share)?

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I think you have a good point about social networking over open advocacy at this point. Do you think that open advocacy would invite scorn from peers even in Istanbul?

Depends on who the peers are, and which part of Istanbul.

Parts of Istanbul are rather conservative -- and quite pro Islamic. Don't forget that the current Prime Minister (basically, an Islamist) was the Mayor of Istanbul. There has been huge rural to urban migration in Turkey over the past 20+ years, so Istanbul is really a mixed bag. Think Mexico City.

With respect to peers, the most receptive group I think are going to be entrpreneurs involved in technology (and maybe tourism or real estate). Likewise, entrepreneurs, rather than students, I think are also the best target audience for marketing Objectivism. Also, with a narrow target audience, you are less likely to attract attention from other quarters.

All the Turks I've met at universities in the USA tended to be liberal (left wing) and secular too. The arabs (non-Christian) have been more mixed, but most have been socially conservative, and, even if secular, they would like to see the social conservatism of Islam in the law (like our Christian conservatives - secular but want Christian morals embedded in the law).

FWIW, I'm half-Turkish (on my mother's side - her father was a successful Turkish industrialist) and I was born in Turkey, have been visiting Turkey all my life, and my girlfriend is Turkish. So, I have many Turkish ties along with extended family there. We also have Pakistani connections in the family by marriage.

I'm going to write on the global Islamic movement (and Islamic finance) shortly on a blog connected to an upcoming website, so I'll save the juicy stuff on why Islam is winning for when I set up my blog. Start learning arabic !!!! [ha ha !]

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Quick final note -- I actually don't like identifying myself too much with Turkey or Turkish traditions and don't participate in Turkish American associations, etc. but do keep track of things. For professional reasons, I'm involved in some Islamic organizations pertaining to Islamic banking though.

For those who want to keep up on Turkish news in English, the following site is the most comprehensive I think:

www.turkishdailynews.com.tr

The editorials from TDN are often leftist, but you can get a feel for the dynamics between secular right, secular left and Islamists that are playing out in Turkey.

-------

I'm in LA now but will be back in Turkey off and on during the summer; so if anyone is planning on going and wants to hook up in Istanbul then let me know.

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