Undoubtedly, the first two decades of this millennium will be recorded as the Arab Spring era. The first sixty days of the Arab Spring unleashed a wave of social protest that removed two powerful, Western-favored, authoritarian rulers, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak of Tunisia and Egypt, respectively. Almost all other Arab countries were affected as well. Libya fell into a bloody civil war that resulted in the brutal killing of Muammar Qaddafi. Yemen was paralyzed by peaceful protest that continued until President Ali Abduallah Saleh was forced out. Bahraini rulers accused protesters of being agents of a sectarian foreign country and invited the Saudi army into their country to crush a peaceful protest movement. Jordan and Morocco amended their constitutions to partially meet some of the protesters’ demands. Low-intensity protest movements appeared in Qatar, Oman, Mauritania, Algeria, Sudan, and Saudi Arabia. Iraq continued to struggle after being destabilized by the U.S. invasion that killed thousands of people and amplified sectarian and ethnic tension. Syria became a battle ground for a destructive proxy war that divided the entire world community into pro- and anti-Assad factions.
In the context of this disarray, the widespread availability of new forms of communication technology has empowered the various actors to write often-competing narratives justifying their actions. Some analysts went as far as to blame (or credit) the occurrence of the Arab Spring on (or to) the existence of Twitter and Facebook. Similarly, some Islamist groups who capitalized on these resources and their ability to mobilize public support attempted to take credit for the success of some of these revolutions.
Providing an accurate account of these events—some of which are still underway—is a daunting task that requires focused persistence, deliberate approaches, and good grasp of the facts. This research project archive is limited to the role of two institutions: media and religion.
In the first part of this project, we will attempt to quantify and qualify the slant of media outlets in their coverage of events of the Arab Spring. To that end, we rely on a longitudinal study of global media. The data collected will span at least ten years, from 2011 onward. From this data, we then determine how stories are selected and edited by various media outlets, and how those editorial choices alter public perception of events. Ultimately, this research project will provide an accurate portrayal of the functions of the media and religion in modern Islamic societies and explain how these two institutions are employed to shape and document critical events.
Scholars and students interested in contributing to this research and archiving project are invited to reach out. Participation can take the form of contributing essays, articles, images, videos, data analysis, proposing book proposals, sharing of resources, providing comments and suggestions.
The Arab Spring >