Short on certainties, a Harvard panel convenes nearly two years after the start of the Arab Spring to offer perspectives on the past, present, and future.
'In the absence of certainties, the panel of lawyers, political scientists, and historians supplied perspective. Only one thing is sure: The Arab Spring rose from deep in the past, and the issues it stirred up may be resolved only far in the future. “It’s only two years into the process,” said Khalidi. “It’s far too early,” added Owen, in reference to constitution making. “Let’s come back in 10 years’ time.”'
'Three main Islamist trends now thread through the Arab Spring, adding to its complexity, said Khalidi. At one end is a “tiny minority” of Jihadist fighters with no respect for the political process, but whose influence belies their numbers. After all, they are armed, organized, combat-hardened, and ruthless, qualities that are prized in, say, Syria. He called that war-wracked country “the most fraught consequence of the Arab Spring.”
On the other end of Islamist political trends stands the Muslim Brotherhood, now most prominently in power in Egypt. Its members are neoliberal and favor making money above all, said Khalidi, because “The profit motive outweighs the prophet motive.” Between these two trends are the Salafists, ultraconservative Islamists whose aim is to impose Sharia law, even in societies, such as in Egypt, where secular liberals remain a potent force.'