Though many Americans only learn about Muslim issues through their television screens, Thursday’s World Fellows lecture offered Yalies some fresh perspectives from — and predictions for — Iran, Morocco and Kosovo.
The panel, held in the Sterling Memorial Library, featured Emran Razzaghi, the Iranian government’s director of the Bureau of Youth Health; Ilir Dugolli, a policy adviser to the prime minister of Kosovo, and Aboubakr Jamai, publisher of Morocco’s primary business newspaper. Rather than representing their respective countries, the speakers mainly referred to their own opinions and perceptions of their Muslim communities.
Razzaghi blamed what he characterized as a history of American meddling for the current antagonism between the United States and Iran. Razzaghi said Iranian distrust of America began with a 1953 coup in which the Central Intelligence Agency supported a movement to overthrow Iran’s leader, Mohammad Mossadeq. He said this demonstrated that American interests were “hostile to the will of Iranians.”
But he said he believes that reconciliation is now possible, pointing out that the United States has acknowledged its involvement in the 1953 coup.
In a question-and-answer session following the lectures, Razzaghi was asked about the prospects of the United States invading Iran.
“If they are going to invade Iran,” he responded, “it’s not because we have done something wrong. It’s because they want to control it.”
Dugolli depicted a more optimistic situation in Kosovo, a former region of Yugoslavia that is 81 percent Muslim. In 1998, Christian Orthodox Serbs carried out “ethnic cleansing” against Kosovo’s Ethnic Albanians. In response, the United States spearheaded a NATO bombing campaign to win independence for Kosovo. Dugolli explained that Kosovars are grateful for the American help, saying that “Kosovars are acutely aware that they owe their survival to the West and the decisive role that the U.S. played.”
Jamai offered a fractured Moroccan perspective of the United States. Though on a governmental level, Morocco is among the “most pro-American” Muslim countries, he said, public opinion currently hostile. Sixty-six percent of the public opposes America’s war on terror, and more Moroccans view Osama bin Laden favorably than unfavorably, he said. Jamai attributed anti-American sentiment more to aggressive U.S. foreign policy, including its support of Israel, than to religious differences.
Imane El Andaloussi ’07 said she was pleased with Jamai’s approach.
“He explained why views in Morocco are the way they are instead of just presenting the data,” she said.
Each year, the World Fellows Program hosts 16 to 18 leaders of institutions around the world for a semester of customized academic study and discussion of their perspectives with the Yale community.
Xizhou Zhou ’05 said the World Fellows are a valuable addition to the community.
“The most important thing in the World Fellows Program, for the students, would be the Fellows’ experience in their respective countries and their ability to voice out fresh ideas,” he said. “It’s very different from the kind of academic teaching we usually get at Yale.”