The role of oil and islamism in the political structure of the Middle East

In her talk to the City Club of Cleveland, Jamal devotes a lengthy portion of her time to a question and answer period, a valuable contribution to the continuing education of her listeners and the opening of a dialogue, something which should be considered in both the Arab and Western worlds. Two important questions centered on the role of oil and natural gas in the political structure of the region and the use of large-scale violence in the region and the conception of Islamists as violent. Jamal discusses at length the role oil plays in the geo-strategic interests in the region of Western nations such as the United States. This issue has a large political impact, as can be seen in the foreign policy of the United States when compared to the level of energy dependence on foreign nation relationships.

She also speaks at length about the Western conception of Islamists as a group to be confronted and contained; something Jamal argues would “only inflame sensibilities and win them more supporters.” However, this idea has its basis in a false assumption, which is that all Muslims are Islamist, and draws the distinction between Islamist ideologues, the small portion of the population which have a “political and theological agenda,” and the Islamist supporters who support the movement because they cannot find a “better or more organized” group that is attempting to solve the practical problems of the nation. From a Western conception, there seems to be no distinction between Islamist supporters who are seeking to improve the infrastructure, economy, and quality of life experienced by Arab citizens, and the Islamist ideologues who are using violence as a tool for seeing their agenda realized, but this important distinction is one that would do much to further the education and understanding of the issues. Instead, the idea that a condemnation of these actions should not necessarily be a condemnation of Islamism and Islamist conceptions of democracy should be advanced, as to not would only serve to further anti-American sentiment and inhibit the democratic progression being seen throughout the region.

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