Author, foreign-policy analyst and journalist Robin Wright told an audience Thursday at Pacific Lutheran University that the future of the Middle East will be shaped by trends that will include the rise of varied Islamic political parties.
Wright, author of “Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World,” gave a memorial lecture in honor of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, who was killed Sept. 11 in an attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, at the university’s Lagerquist Concert Hall.
Four Americans died, including the ambassador. Stevens was the first American ambassador to be killed since 1988.
“If there’s one word you take away,” Wright said concerning the Islamic parties, “it’s Salafi.” She spelled the name for the audience before adding that this was the political party that killed Stevens.
Wright said the Salafi are “a new phase of al-Qaida” who “believe in the pursuit of Muslim states.”
Stability in the Middle East, Wright said, will be a steep climb, and Stevens’ death will not be the last.
Though the next decade will be tumultuous for the Middle East, it “doesn’t change what people ultimately want,” something Stevens understood, Wright said.
“He knew the street, as well as the elite,” Wright said. “This country (the United States) lost the most promising diplomat.”
Part of Wright’s book discusses the strong cultural elements that lead to change, such as hip-hop and rap music. “Rap has become the rhythm of resistance,” Wright said, and there are “voices of dissent in music.”
After the lecture, Anne Stevens – the ambassador’s sister and a pediatrician at Seattle Children’s hospital – encouraged PLU students to study abroad.
Christopher Stevens “was comfortable here (in the U.S.), he was comfortable there (in the Middle East),” she said. “He was a man of the international community, and that’s where we all need to be.”
PLU presented the lecture to provide information locally about the Middle East, North Africa and the two regions’ ties to the United States.