Martin Luther King, Egypt, and the Fellowship of Reconciliation
The untold story of how an FOR comic book helped inspire Egyptian revolutionaries.
In the midst of this week’s remarkable and inspirational revolution in Egypt have been the voices of a community of young bloggers who have been laying the groundwork for change in their country. While the Egyptian government is now attempting desperately to crack down on all non-state-controlled media outlets, these activists have been using different forms of communications tools to build upon a message of nonviolent change they have been promoting for months and years.
One of the key leaders in that Egyptian blogging community is Dalia Ziada, the Cairo-based North Africa Director for the American Islamic Congress. She was profiled in international media in the spring of 2009 in articles in both Time magazine and the History News Network for her efforts to help develop a democratic voice in her region.
Each article specifically highlighted Ziada’s role in translating into Arabic a comic book titled Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story. In “A Quiet Revolution Grows in the Muslim World,” Time’s well-respected Middle East correspondent Robin Wright (fomerly of the Christian Science Monitor and the Washington Post) said:
She now champions everything from freedom of speech to women’s rights and political prisoners. To promote civil disobedience, Ziada last year translated into Arabic a comic-book history about Martin Luther King Jr. and distributed 2,000 copies from Morocco to Yemen.
In “Can a Comic Book About MLK Change the Middle East (At Least a Little)?”, HNN’s Noah Mendel concluded with a paragraph that foreshadowed the current events being seen throughout the Arab world:
Spreading the message of non-violent resistance throughout the Middle East is ultimately a means to an end for Ziada and the rest of the AIC; that is, to inspire action. “The main message I hope that Arabic readers will take from the MLK comic book is that: change is not impossible. It is time to stop using our muscles blindly. Let’s try using our intellect in innovative, creative ways to pressure decision makers and end dictatorship, tyranny and the suppression practiced against us.”
Given the increasingly violent response of the Egyptian government and its supporters against domestic protesters as well as international journalists, the commitment by Ziada and others to engage in nonviolent action was critical and prescient.
The comic book about Dr. King was published by the Fellowship of Reconciliation in the late 1950s, shortly after the Montgomery Bus Boycott concluded. FOR published it in English and a short while later in Spanish. FOR is thrilled that our work has now been translated into Arabic — as well as Vietnamese and (as I understand it) Korean — and used to further Dr. King’s ideas of nonviolent resistance to oppression.
The comic book is long since out-of-print in its original form, but FOR plans to soon offer electronic PDF copies of the English-language version (and possibly the Spanish-language version) for sale at a modest fee. Contact FOR by e-mail if you are interested in purchasing this resource upon its re-release.