Ahmed al-Kibsi, 52, wasn't born when the Truman show went on the air, but his grandfather, Deputy Prime Minister Hussein al-Kibsi, had already been beheaded for participating in the revolution to bring about a constitutional government.
"I was raised in a family that loves democracy," says al-Kibsi, who is in residence at William Jewell College through November 12. The U.S. State Department, in a program called Visiting Fulbright Specialists: Direct Access to the Muslim World, has brought Muslim scholars such as al-Kibsi to American universities to help the schools enhance their international studies programs and to promote understanding of the Muslim world.
Al-Kibsi is a stranger to neither international studies nor the American West. After serving in the Yemeni foreign ministry, he was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to attend graduate school at Denver University. Since finishing his Ph.D. in international politics in 1981, he has worked his way up to become vice president of academic affairs at Sana'a University in Yemen, the largest university on the Arabian Peninsula.
Al-Kibsi cites his own country as an example of the positive power of democracy. One of the most politically unstable countries in the '60s and '70s, Yemen definitely knew terrorism before 9/11. But since democratic rule was established in 1990, al-Kibsi says, "Yemen is now a partner to the U.S. in human rights, free elections and women's participation in society."
His visit to Liberty, Missouri, is timely, to say the least. A specialist in American-Yemeni relations (which al-Kibsi says are in excellent shape), the professor has an informed view of American-Arab relations in general, which -- along with the U.S. government's war on terror -- hinge on a disastrous situation receiving only minimal coverage by the American media: the Israel-Palestine conflict.
"All the instability, terrorism, conflict in the region is a result of the Arab-Israeli conflict," al-Kibsi says. "If that will be solved, then we'll have an island of peace."
Al-Kibsi believes that the U.S. government needs to step up efforts to create separate nations for Israel and Palestine. Unfortunately, the United States is stuck in a quagmire east of the Jordan.
"I sent a letter to the White House to President Bush: 'Don't go to war,'" the scholar says. "I said in my letter to him, 'Thousands of American lives will be lost, and all of them deserve life; and thousands of Iraqis will be killed, and all of them deserve life.'"
Though the Bush administration's rush to war delays the arrival of peace in the Middle East, al-Kibsi says there is hope -- but not until the White House begins to reconsider its stance on foreign relations.
"What we need from the new administration is a real and serious look at American-Arab relations," al-Kibsi says. "Arabs are looking to the states. They are friends of the United States. The United States is a dream in the Arab world."