Through Twitter, Facebook and blogs, Weddady helped train a core group of activists who led last year’s Arab Spring.
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Marco Werman: One of the many places where there have been anti-American protests this week is Mauritania. Nasser Weddadyi is a native of Mauritania though he grew up in Libya and Syria. Weddady came to the US as a refugee in 2000. He’s now with the Islamic American Congress’ Hands Across the Mideast Support Alliance or HAMSA. Through Twitter, Facebook, and blogs Weddady helped train a core group of activists who led last year’s Arab Spring. That work has led some to describe him as the museful philosopher of the uprisings. Now Weddady says he feels deeply connected to the events unfolding in the Middle East and North Africa.
Nasser Weddady: When the events started it was a very emotional moment for me because finally everything that I had aspired for trained for was finally materializing. Arabs across the region and non-Arabs for that matter are rising against these dictatorships. So it was very personal for me and on a side note I came to the United States as a political asylee because of my political opinions back home and everything clicked all of a sudden.
Werman: So given the recent violence in Libya and Egypt and elsewhere this week is that personal for you too then?
Weddady: Absolutely and let me share with you a story. In 1977 my father was the Mortatainian ambassador in Libya and Monif Calefiya at the time had basically incited a mob to go over and protest at the US Embassy. And they started smashing it, and they were in the process actually some people go it. So my father offered the US ambassador at the time Richard Murphy and his staff refuge in our compound. And I ended up getting myself asylum ironically and seeing that the Islamic rabble-rousers were taking advantage of people’s religious fervor to score political points and ultimately ruined the people to people relationship that was finally going back on track after the Arab uprisings between the peoples of the region and the United States. That was deeply hurtful. Given especially my other than my extracurricular activities on twitter, my professional activities as the outreach director for the Islamic American Congress.
Werman: So I’d like to know what your sense is of what’s happening right now. I mean have these riots this week put the Arab Spring or the Arab uprising or whatever you want to call it off track?
Weddady: I do believe that these events this week are stark reminder that the real challenge that we are facing is not so much the wave of violence but the mindset behind that will take another generation to change. And I think more importantly what needs to be stated very clearly is that we know who whipped up this frenzy. There was no news for two months until an Egyptian satellite channel started whipping frenzy. Those are the responsible parties for this and they need to be held accountable.
Werman: And yet those people really as many people have said are of small minority, so how do you counter the influence of a small minority?
Weddady: I think that the most effective way in the short term, we need TV channels to do exactly the same thing that they’re doing but in the opposite direction. To check the religious course and provide an alternative point of view. It’s not the lack for enlightened and liberal Arabs. They’re out there by the bucket load. What is lacking is the funding and the resources to allow these people to mount these kinds of responses.
Werman: So I imagine you’ve been in contact with the people in the region this week after the violence has erupted. What are you telling them? What advice are you sharing with them? Are they saying to you Nasser Weddady you told us this was going to be a great bright future and now look what’s happening. What do we do now?
Weddady: I actually heard voices like that and more than anything I am encouraged despite all the doom and gloom by the voices coming out of the region, and there are a lot of them condemning the actions. The bright future lies in people’s willingness and ability to stand for these very freedoms.
Werman: Nasser any regret at all over helping to let the Democracy genie out of the bottle?
Weddady: In the words of one of the companions of Ibid Amin peace be upon him before the battle of Karbala knowing that he was facing death and Horse said that if he were to be killed that day and resurrected he would do it again, all over again. I say the same. I will do it all over again and I do not regret one bit of it because history is on our side.
Werman: Nasser Weddady is outreach director with the group HAMSA or Hands Across the Mideast Support Alliance. It’s an initiative of the Islamic American Congress. Nasser thank you very much for coming to the studio.
Weddady: It’s a pleasure to be with you Marco today.
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— weddady (@weddady) September 14, 2012