The Arab Students for Peace and World Change (ASPAWC) club held their first The Doha Debates-style discussion with UTM professor Jens Hanssen at the Student Centre last Wednesday.
The first debate was titled “Doha Debates: The Arab Awaking” and revolved around the Arab Spring, which is the series of uprisings, protests, and strikes across the Middle East.
“We want to get some kind of understanding of how UTM perceives the Arab Spring,” said Hassan.
The Arab Spring began on December 17 last year in Tunisia, and it continues today in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and many other countries.
Hassan opened the debate by taking a poll of the 25 participants, determining who supported the motion: “The Arab Spring benefits all of the Middle East.” In total, 32% agreed with the motion, 40% thought the Arab Spring only benefited some Middle Eastern states, and 28% said it benefited none of them.
The discussion rotated between Hanssen, an assistant professor of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean History at UTM, and the body of attendees at the forum.
“You can’t call a revolution successful until the revolutionary spirit makes it into the constitution. You can’t call it complete until it’s on paper. It’s too soon for Tunisia; Libya is the most complete revolution,” Hanssen said.
Hanssen offered his expert opinion, but said that rather than direct the debate, he wanted to focus on pushing students to unearth their assumptions behind the controversial topics and to try and define the terms they were debating over.
The discourse covered what the revolutions hope to achieve, also touching on unity in the Middle East, hegemony, harmony, democracy, the Muslim Brotherhood, and religion.
Hassan retook the poll at the end of the debate. Now, 36% still thought the Arab Spring was selectively beneficial (down from 40%), 52% agreed with the motion that the Arab Spring benefited all of the Middle East, and 12% abstained, favouring neither motion.
“The Arab Spring started off good, but hasn’t reached a state we wanted it to,” said Zahra Rahal, a third-year UTM biology and history student.
ASPAWC based the forum on The Doha Debates, an award-winning free speech forum in Doha, Qatar. Debates on controversial and topical issues in Qatar and the surrounding regions are broadcast around the world, airing on BBC World News in
U.K. and Europe and on Real News Network in Canada.
The next ASPAWC debate is scheduled for next semester and will be held in the same style.