One year after an uprising of protests began a phenomenon that rippled across the world, American-Muslim educator and activist Suhaib Webb and Dr. Reza Aslan, founder of the Middle East and world news and entertainment journal AslanMedia.com, spoke on Arab Spring’s origins and aftereffects in Northwestern’s Ryan Auditorium Thursday. The event opened with a speech from Northwestern Ph.D. candidate Laila Ballout, followed by Aslan and Webb. At the end, the floor was opened to questions from the audience.
Ballout, a Ph.D. candidate in history, researches American interventions in the modern Middle East. Her introductory speech reflected on this tumultuous past year of violence, demonstration and victory over corruption. She also looked to the future: “In the coming year, the differences among nations will become more apparent” as they construct their new nations from the ground up, she said of the countries that were part of Arab Spring.
During the discussion, Aslan outlined five widespread Arab Spring myths: The unrest was a surprise, people who participated just wanted jobs and did not care about democracy, it basically constituted a Muslim takeover and it negatively affected Israel, as well as America. "What is good for America is a bunch of dictators that do whatever we tell them to do," he said.
Webb, who was named one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center, described his experience visiting Cairo during the upheaval, after having lived there for seven years and working for the Egyptian government.
An audience of over 200 listened intently as Aslan spoke on the US’s role in the movement, quipping “…the Egyptian Democracy, brought to you by Starbucks” in reference to Americans’ tendencies towards labeling, e.g. Arab Spring as the “Twitter Revolution.”