A desire for more freedoms, an overthrow of dictators and a rejection of former traditions were the causes of the Arab Spring, a panel of university professors said to a filled lecture hall Tuesday night.
Manochehr Dorraj, a professor of political science, began the panel discussion with his observations on the political and religious roots of the Arab Spring, and said he felt anti-Americanism was not responsible for the uprisings in the Middle East.
“Anti-westernism and anti-Americanism did not play a major role in the Arab Spring,” he said. “The focus was the toppling of the dictators. The Arab Spring, for the most part, was a peaceful uprising. Whatever violence we saw was instigated by the state and the crowd was engaged in a peaceful resistance.”
Yushau Sodiq, a professor of the religion department, said the Muslim Brotherhood and their perception on the freedom of speech was a primary cause of the uprising.
“From the beginning, the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood tell the community what they should believe and how they should believe,” he said. “And therefore, if anyone goes away from the rules set by the leaders, then that was not going to be accepted.”
Rima Abunasser, a professor of the English department, focused on the women’s involvement in the Arab Spring, noting how Western culture had largely overlooked the debates of gender in the Middle East.
“In order to understand the development of Arab feminist consciousness, we must know beyond modern, Western expectations,” she said. “The act of analyzing and discussing Arab feminism is not merely a recovery of unvisited work by female luminaries, but the recovery of the gender debate that many in the west and in the Arab world have presumed never to have existed.”
Mark Dennis, a professor of religion and the final panelist for the discussion, said everyone should care about the many individual voices that are calling for freedom in the Arab Spring.
“The talk today is motivated by concern over commonly repeated and uninformed images and discourse in the media and popular American culture that is often ignored of the Arab Spring,” Dennis said.
Following the discussion by the panel on each of their topics was a brief Q&A session that many students participated in.
Students respond positively to discussion
Lauren Fowler, a freshman political science major, said the panel did an excellent job of portraying the background of the Arab Spring.
“So much focus is on the violence when instead it should be on the reform that is trying to happen in the Middle East,” Fowler said.
Sophomore biology major Kayla Jackson said she enjoyed the panel discussion, particularly the connection between freedom and women's rights.
Francesca Guadagno, a non-degree student originally from Chile and an English as a Second Language (ESL) student, liked the set-up of the panel discussion because it helped her understand more about the different points discussed with a culturally diverse panel.
“I learned a lot about the women’s position in the Arab Spring,” Guadagno said. “I knew about the Arab Spring, but I didn’t really know what the women’s role were in these protests, so it was surprising how involved they are in it.”
Another ESL student from Venezuela, Denily Acosta, was a journalist back in her home country and closely followed the events of the Arab Spring.
"I followed the Arab Spring when it happened, but I didn’t see the religious point," she said. "This panel discussion allowed me to analyze the process more than when the Arab Spring was happening."