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How Martin Luther King inspired the Egyptian Revolution--add on your thoughts on peaceful protesting


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How MLK Inspired the Egyptian Revolution … Through a Comic Book

Posted By The Editors | February 15th, 2011 | Category: Feature | 1 Comment » print.gif Print This Post

By TaRessa Stovall

It seems only fitting that just weeks after the national Martin Luther King holiday, and in the midst of Black History Month, the iconic leader’s message helped to power the recent revolution in Egypt. One can only wonder whether King’s legendary dream included an unorthodox organizing tool from the Civil Rights movement being translated and distributed to young people throughout the Middle East.

Martin Luther King and The Montgomery Story is a comic book published in 1958 featuring King’s views on nonviolent civil disobedience relating to the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott. Back then, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, a Christian organization which works for peace, justice and nonviolence, obtained a $5,000 grant to spread information in the battle against Jim Crow segregation. They consulted with King to publish 250,000 copies of a comic book focusing on his nonviolent resistance strategy and Christian beliefs. King used the comic book as part of his campaign for civil and human rights. It is believed that only a few copies remain.

Some historians say the comic book spurred the quartet of African-American students known as the “Greensboro Four†to sit at the whites-only counter of the Woolworth’s in Greensboro, NC and order coffee, returning for several days and inspiring sit-ins in other cities.

montgomery-comic-book.jpgIn 2008, 50 years after the book’s original publication, Dalia Ziada, Egypt Director of the American Islamic Congress (AIC) in Cairo, had Martin Luther King and The Montgomery Story translated into Arabic and Farsi—with the Fellowship of Reconciliation’s endorsement—and distributed some 2,000 copies throughout the Arab world.

But getting the comic printed in Egypt wasn’t easy. As Ziada wrote in a newsletter, “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?’†according to The Boston Globe

“Nonviolent activism is needed in the Middle East more than ever. Martin Luther King’s legacy offers a powerful alternative to violence, and we hope this new Arabic comic book can inspire young Middle Easterners to take responsible action for reform,†Ziada told the Los Angeles Times, which stated that King’s “message speaks to reformers in Arab countries today who have been battling political oppression, corruption, torture, jihadists and abuses against women, including genital circumcision.â€

“The comic has been credited with inspiring young activists in Egypt and the larger region,†Ziada said on WagingNonviolence.org. She distributed copies of the comic book in Tahrir Square during the recent uprisings. “Despite violent attacks and tanks in the street, young people from all walks of life are coming together, organizing food and medical care, and offering a living model of free civil society in action.â€

“The Arabic comic book has now been distributed in print and on-line (PDF) to a network of young activists and bloggers throughout the Middle East, including Algeria, Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Yemen,†reported The Huffington Post. “Feedback has been enthusiastic. A Farsi version (PDF) of the comic was rushed into production in June of 2009 as post-election protests were erupting. Translators in Iran helped put it together in a week, and the comic was soon being distributed digitally. The Montgomery Bus Boycott had resonance in Iran with the 2005 Tehran bus protests, which made headlines when one trade unionist, Mansour Osanloo, had his tongue cut by members of the Islamic Republic for seeking improved working conditions for his fellow bus drivers.â€

With a reported two-thirds of Egypt’s population under age 30, the words of King, who was 26 at the time of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, hold special resonance and power. “We must learn that being young does not mean being weak and apathetic,†Ziada told The Huffington Post. “That is why I thought it would help to introduce ‘Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story‘ in Arabic.â€

Ziada’s group is now running the 2011 Dream Deferred essay contest, for young people who read the comic and write about ways to apply nonviolence in addressing the injustices in their world

TaRessa Stovall is Managing Editor of TheDefendersOnline.

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non-violent activisme. i do wish all problems could be resolved by it. cause its the fairest thing to do. no need to attack people, properties, police even. but it always reminds me of those students on the tiananmen-square. or how peaceful demonstration can still end up in cold blooded murder.

but still worth a try.
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