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

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

by Elizabeth F. Thompson
How the West Stole Democracy from the Arabs: The Syrian Congress of 1920 and the Destruction of its Historic Liberal-Islamic Alliance

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

by Elizabeth F. Thompson

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Overview

The story of a pivotal moment in modern world history, when Arabs established a representative democracy—and how the West crushed it

When Europe’s Great War engulfed the Ottoman Empire, Arab nationalists rose in revolt against their Turkish rulers and allied with the British on the promise of an independent Arab state. In October 1918, the Arabs’ military leader, Prince Faisal, victoriously entered Damascus and proclaimed a constitutional government in an independent Greater Syria.

Faisal won American support for self-determination at the Paris Peace Conference, but other Entente powers plotted to protect their colonial interests. Under threat of European occupation, the Syrian-Arab Congress declared independence on March 8, 1920 and crowned Faisal king of a “civil representative monarchy.” Sheikh Rashid Rida, the most prominent Islamic thinker of the day, became Congress president and supervised the drafting of a constitution that established the world’s first Arab democracy and guaranteed equal rights for all citizens, including non-Muslims.

But France and Britain refused to recognize the Damascus government and instead imposed a system of mandates on the pretext that Arabs were not yet ready for self-government. In July 1920, the French invaded and crushed the Syrian state. The fragile coalition of secular modernizers and Islamic reformers that had established democracy was destroyed, with profound consequences that reverberate still.

Using previously untapped primary sources, including contemporary newspaper accounts, reports of the Syrian-Arab Congress, and letters and diaries from participants, How the West Stole Democracy from the Arabs is a groundbreaking account of an extraordinary, brief moment of unity and hope—and of its destruction.



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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780802148209
Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date: 04/21/2020
Pages: 496
Sales rank: 1,162,045
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.80(d)

About the Author

Elizabeth F. Thompson is a leading historian of the modern Middle East and Mohamed S. Farsi Chair of Islamic Peace at American University’s School of International Service. She is the author of two previous books, Colonial Citizens: Republican Rights, Paternal Privilege and Gender in French Syria and Lebanon, winner of two national book prizes, and Justice Interrupted: The Struggle for Constitutional Government in the Middle East.

Table of Contents

Photo Credits viii

Preface xi

The Setting xxi

The Players xxiii

Note on Nomenclature, Spelling, and Transliteration xxvii

Abbreviations Used for Archival Sources xxix

Part I An Arab State in Syria

1 Damascus: Enter the Prince 3

2 Aleppo: A Government and Justice for All 20

3 Cairo: A Sheikh Prays to an American President 40

Part II A Chilly Peace at Paris

4 Wooing Woodrow Wilson 59

5 The Covenant and the Colonial Color Line 75

6 A Sip of Champagne, with a Sour Aftertaste 97

Part III Syria's Declaration of Independence

7 The Syrian Congress and the American Commission 107

8 A Democratic Uprising in Damascus 130

9 Revolution at the Quai d'Orsay 147

10 The Prince, the Sheikh, and "The Day of Resurrection" 158

11 Wilsonism Colonized at San Remo 179

Part IV The Constitution: A Civil Weapon Against Colonization

12 The Sheikh versus the King: A Parliamentary Revolution 199

13 Women's Suffrage and the Limits of Islamic Law 213

14 A Democratic Constitution for Christians and Muslims 226

Part V Syria's Expulsion from the Civilized World

15 Battle Plans for Syria 249

16 The French Ultimatum and Faisal's Dissolution of Congress 264

17 Maysalun: The Arab State's Last Stand 281

18 Wilson's Ghost in Geneva 295

Epilogue: Parting of Ways-The Liberal, the Sheikh, and the King 315

Appendices

A Members of Congress in March 1920 339

B The Syrian Declaration of Independence, March 8, 1920 347

C The Syrian Constitution of July 19, 1920 351

Acknowledgments 371

For Further Reading 375

Notes 379

Index 451

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