Zahar: If 9/11 defined the last decade, will the Arab Spring define the next?

By: /
11 September, 2011
By: Marie-Joëlle Zahar
Professor of political science, Université de Montréal

It is way too early to make such a determination as events in the Arab world are still unfolding. However, if both were momentous events in their own right, there are important differences between 9/11 and the Arab Spring that are worth underlining. One can think about the nature of the event (terrorist attack vs. mass mobilization for regime change), the intended target (a democratic society vs. authoritarian regimes) and the actor responsible for bringing it about (a transnational non-state terrorist organization vs. dissatisfied citizens). Most importantly, 9/11 targeted a major power and as such its ripple effects went around the world. Although the Arab Spring will likely change politics in (parts of) the Arab world, it is not clear that it will have a worldwide impact. Thinking about relations between Muslims and non-Muslims in the West, for example, these are likely to continue to be affected mostly by domestic politics around immigration, employment and the like. Democracy in the Arab World might have a marginal effect on these relations; it will not fundamentally be a game changer.

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