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Did a Martin Luther King comic book help inspire the Egyptian revolution?

Posted by Jesse Singal  February 11, 2011 03:29 PM

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The Comics Alliance has a cool blog post tracing "The Montgomery Story," a comic book that relates Martin Luther King Jr.'s philosophy of nonviolent civil disobedience (particularly as it pertained to the Montgomery bus strike), from its 1958 origins to Tahrir Square.

Dalia Ziada, Egypt Director of the American Islamic Congress, arranged to have the comic book translated into Arabic and distributed 2,000 copies across the Middle East. In a newsletter, Ziada described what happened when she tried to get the book printed in Egypt:

When, at first, we went to print the comic book, a security officer blocked publication. So we called him and demanded a meeting. He agreed, and we read through the comic book over coffee to address his concerns. At the end, he granted permission to print and then asked: "Could I have a few extra copies for my kids?"

Some are giving the comic book credit for helping to inspire the revolution. And recently, Tahrir wrote, she has been handing out copies in Tahrir Square.

This isn't the first time a group has tried to get important American stories related to justice in government into the Muslim world. The Global Americana Institute has ambitious goals in that regard:

We intend to have all the founding fathers translated — Madison, Franklin, Washington, Paine, and so on. We would also like to see works that treat issues in democracy and multi-culturalism, as well as engaging histories of the United States. We cannot find in OCLC, an electronic catalogue of over 40 million books held in participating libraries, any Arabic translation of the major speeches and letters of Martin Luther King or of the works of Susan B. Anthony. Eventually it would be nice to see in Arabic a good solid book about, e.g., the history of the American Jewish community, and other important minority groups about which most most Arab readers would find it difficult to get solid knowledge from the sources now available to them.

Likewise, it would be nice to put into Arabic Western books about, e.g., Iraq. Our Middle East Studies programs and university presses publish a great deal of interest to the Arab world, and yet little of it gets translated, and even where books are translated they sometimes take a long time to get into print.

This presents a much more encouraging view than the one we sometimes get of the Middle East: that of a distant, closed-off place thoroughly uninterested — if not inherently opposed to — "Western" ideals of democracy and freedom.

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ABOUT THE ANGLE Online commentary and news analysis from the Boston Globe. The Angle is produced by Rob Anderson and Alan Wirzbicki. You can follow Rob on Twitter at @rcand.

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