This month, the Middle East Forum hosted two luminaries of media and art to discuss the roles of their respective fields in a region that has seen much recent change and media coverage. Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha Center, and Naif Al-Mutawa, creator of The 99, recently sat down with the NYUAD student organization, which meets biweekly as an environment to discuss Middle East politics and current events, analyze issues related to the region, and receive special access to notable academics in the field.
Working prominently at the Middle East branch of one of the foremost think tanks in the world, Hamid has emerged as one of the leading expert voices on the current situation in Egypt, with extensive coverage in both print and television media, including a recent piece in The New York Times. He spoke with MEF members a fortnight after the initial protests broke out in Egypt to discuss his take on the situation in an event entitled "Egypt and Beyond: The Causes and Implications of Current Civil Unrest."
Following Hamid, the MEF also hosted Al-Mutawa, creator of The 99, a comic series that, having been translated into eight languages, has become an international phenomenon and spawned countless successes including a theme park in Kuwait, an upcoming animated series, and a comic book mini-series in which The 99 joins forces with DC Comic's Justice League. Al-Mutawa shared his challenges and triumphs surrounding The 99 and discussed the exciting process of his comic's progression onto the small screen.
To prepare for each forum, MEF members were asked to watch short media appearances of the speakers and formulate questions based on the opinions presented in each. The first, a piece featuring Hamid on the popular politics site Bloggingheads, was filmed amidst the events in Tunisia and included his perspective on the future of other regimes in the region. The second was Al-Mutawa's speech for Technology Entertainment and Design (TED), a series of global conferences committed to "ideas worth spreading" that have become viral hits online.
New member Alistair Blacklock, NYUAD Class of 2014 (pictured second from right with classmate Charlotte Wang and Shadi Hamid), was grateful for the intimate setting and the unique opportunity. "Given how much we talk here," he joked, "it's nice to be able to ground some of our discussion in reality by directly talking to an expert…MEF presents that kind of forum." Nearly two dozen members turned out for the two events, just the second and third of the academic year. At the end of the fall semester, MEF hosted acclaimed writer and contributing editor for The Daily Beast Reza Aslan.
Both Hamid and Al-Mutawa were also part of recent public events for the NYUAD Institute. Hamid discussed the events in Egypt on an Institute panel that included Tarik Yousef, founding dean of the Dubai School of Government, and Nasr Arif, the executive director of Islamic World Studies at Zayed University. Al-Mutawa gave an Institute lecture presented in conjunction with The Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation entitled "Repositioning Islam Through The 99."