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A Great Sorting Out: The Future of Minorities in the Middle East

Joshua Landis is widely recognized as one of the English-speaking world’s foremost experts on Syria and the Levant. Raised in Saudi Arabia and Lebanon, he has also lived in Egypt, Turkey and Syria, and speaks Arabic and French fluently. Professor Landis is currently the head of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma; he taught previously at Sarah Lawrence College, Wake Forest University, and Princeton University. He is a regular analyst on television and radio and is regularly quoted in publications such as the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and Time Magazine. His expertise is regularly sought in Washington DC, where he advises government agencies and has spoken at thing tanks such as Brookings Institute, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Woodrow Wilson Institute. Since 2004, Professor Landis has published the blog Syria Comment, one of the primary online forums for news, commentary and analysis on Syria and its neighbors.

Perhaps no American analyst knows Syria more intimately or personally than Joshua Landis. Fluent in many dialects of Arabic, Landis spent parts of his childhood in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, and has spent over 14 years living in the Middle East. Four of those years were in Syria, where he met his wife and built relationships with government officials and occupation activists alike. His blog Syria Comment, published since 2004, is one of the primary online forums for news, commentary and analysis on Syria and its neighbors. Landis is married to Manar Kachour, who—like President Assad—belongs to the Alawite sect. Her father, Shabaan Kachour, once served as the second highest- ranking admiral in the Syrian Navy. Unsurprisingly, Landis is well-connected with Alawites in Syria, and his analysis is rooted in a deep understanding of the sect’s concerns and motivations. However, these family connections have not prevented Landis from associating with critics of the regime. As early as 2005, his blog was well-known for interview- ing Syrian opposition activists, providing them with a rare outlet for free expression in pre-revolution Syria. On April 8, Professor Landis visited Boston College to deliver a lecture entitled “ISIS, Christians and National Identity.” Following his talk, which is excerpted, he met with members of the Al Noor staff to answer our questions.

Image from OU Outreach Video & Media Services,

To read the full interview, please click here.

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