How the West Stole Democracy from the Arabs: 
The Syrian Arab Congress of 1920 and the Destruction of its Historic Liberal-Islamic Alliance

About The Webinar

Date: 16th of July 2020
Time: 17:00 pm BST/London time, 12:00 pm EST time

This event is part of our celebration of the centenary of state building attempts in the Levant.

​​​​​​​In this webinar Elizabeth F. Thompson will speak about her recent book “How the West Stole Democracy from the Arabs” which presents a new perspective on the history of democracy in the Middle East and reasons for its weakness today.  It tells the story of the Syrian Arab Congress of 1920, which drafted and ratified what she calls the most democratic constitution to date in the Arab world.  Inspired by Woodrow Wilson’s 14 Points and fearing occupation by France, the Congress forged a historic alliance between liberals and conservative Muslim leaders.  In the name of freedom and equality, and with the blessings of Muslim clerics, the Congress disestablished Islam years before the secularist Turkish republic did.

​​​​​​​Thompson argues that European colonists feared Arab democracy as a threat to their rule in North Africa and to their access to oil in Iraq and the Gulf.   Leaders of the Paris Peace Conference, with the cooperation of the new League of Nations, therefore decided to destroy the democratic regime at Damascus.  France’s occupation of Syria discredited liberalism in the Arab world.  Under these circumstances, secular elites and Islamic populists parted ways, opening a political cleavage between Islamists and liberals that continues to weaken struggles against dictatorship a century later. 

This event is part of the Legitimacy and Citizenship in the Arab World which is funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

This broadcast is co-sponsored by Status/الوضع Podcast, www.StatusHour.com

  • Prof. Elizabeth F. Thompson


  • Dr. Rim Turkmani


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