Proud students of the Fletcher School gathered in front of TVs as the night got colder in Boston, to praise and honor the Daily Show’s guest on September 22. Born in Iran, Vali Nasr accumulates the titles of professor at Fletcher, adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, senior fellow of The Dubai Initiative at Harvard University’s JFK and advisor to Richard Holbrooke, a key US diplomat.
Author of “Forces of Fortune”, Prof. Nasr believes that a prosperous Muslim middle class will bring stability and democracy to the Middle East, mirroring the transformations that took place in the modern West. Worried about future terrorist attacks, this leading thinker about the Middle East and the Islamic world brings into the main state a religious, but capitalist middleclass-based force. According to him, the rise of capitalism and trade were responsible for the success of modernity and democracy and market-based economies in the West. He believes that these same forces will also transform the Muslim world.
Vali Nasr cites the example of Turkey, where a religious businessman is directly doing trades with European manufactures and knows that jihad might have negative effects on his business. The market and self economic interest exert important pressures into this powerful emerging class. However, in order for them to obtain reasonable tariffs and be able to negotiate internationally, the American Congress must cooperate. It is necessary to sacrifice things and provide open markets for goods that would encourage economic growth in the Muslim region.
The modern Iranian businessman, be it a religious person or not, is willing to play by the rules of the market. In past generations, the West was a synonym of morals and values, and this thinking has given way to a more money centered ideology. The decision to modernize now is completely business and economic oriented. Being westernized does not mean that secularism is good or bad, or that the Western is cool. It is simply the way by which they can have a more active presence in the economic field. Important to remember that they are not necessarily our friends, but they are willing participants in the economic global order.
Prof. Nasr has contributed to The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Time and he has appeared on Anderson Cooper 360, The Situation Room, Fareed Zakaria GPS, The Today Show, and Charlie Rose. Also written by him, “The Shia Revival” was a New York Times bestseller.