Palestinian youth and the Arab Spring. Learning to think critically: a case study
Contemporary Arab Affairs
Taylor and Francis
The subject of this paper is a case study based on evidence gathered informally through delivery of a course at Birzeit University, titled ‘Modern and Contemporary European Civilization’ and from end-of-semester evaluations, which asked students to reflect on the impact of the course on their lives. The author is, naturally, aware of the limitation of the methodology used in this study, and does not claim that its findings can be generalized authoritatively to a wider group of people in the Arab world. What is clear, however, if one considers reviews of internet blogs and media program debates, is that extrapolations from this evidence have wider reference, revealing commonalities and similarities between Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories and Arab youth involved in the Arab Spring on the subject of political reform. The discussions engaged in by my students actually parallel the debates generated by traditionalists and secularists in post-revolution Egypt and Tunisia. These debates revolve around what it means to live in a civil, democratic state that grants social justice and freedoms, and crucially, at present led by scholars and politicians, address the possibility of reconciling the concept of modernity with Islam and the legislative framework of Islamic Law (Shari’ah) It could be argued that the data collected is specific to this one case study, since Palestinians living under Israeli occupation form a unique group in the Arab world and probably are more concerned with basic issues of daily life and more sensitive to Western concepts of modernity. The significance of this data is, however, that gathered during the Arab Spring, it was based on reactions to material covered in a class which related to issues raised by the Arab revolutions, such as democracy, liberalism and revolution. Furthermore, these tentative findings suggest that more research is needed into issues such as the role of education, gender, tolerance and the reconciliation of Islam with Modernity – areas of interest which are of particular importance at a time when Islamic groups are winning elections and debates on concepts of authority, democracy and liberalism occupy the foreground of media programs in countries such as Egypt and Tunisia.
2012 ed., Vol. 5