Interpreting the Arab Spring
On December 13, 2011, the Center on the United States and Europe at Brookings hosted Olivier Roy to deliver the eighth annual Raymond Aron Lecture. A leading French scholar of Islam and Middle East politics, Dr. Roy urged Western governments in January 2011 to support the movements for democratic change in Tunisia, Egypt and other Arab countries. Now, nearly a year after the turmoil in the Middle East began, he offered an assessment of the present and future of the Arab Spring, at the intersection of democracy, religion and politics.
Dr. Roy is a professor at the European University Institute in Florence and directs its Mediterranean program. He has served as a consultant for the French policy planning staff for 24 years. His books include The Failure of Political Islam (Harvard University Press, 1994), Globalized Islam (Columbia University Press, 2004), and more recently Holy Ignorance: When Religion and Culture Part Ways (Columbia University Press, 2010). Following Dr. Roy’s remarks, New York Times columnist and author Thomas L. Friedman offered a response. Tom Friedman served as the New York Times bureau chief in Beirut and then Jerusalem in the 1980s, winning two Pulitzer Prizes for his reporting. Since 1995, Friedman has been the Times‘s foreign affairs columnist, maintaining a strong interest in the Middle East region and covering the Arab Spring extensively.
Martin Indyk, vice president director of Foreign Policy at Brookings, provided introductory remarks and moderated the discussion. After the program, panelists took audience questions. The Raymond Aron lecture series, named after the renowned scholar of post-war France, annually features leading French and American scholars and statesmen speaking on critical issues affecting the transatlantic relationship.