A panel of experts convened at Georgetown last night to talk about the United States' involvement in the Middle East and the future of Muslim-Western relations after the "Arab Spring" revolutions.
Georgetown's Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (CMCU) and the British Council sponsored the event, called "Deconstructing the 'Clash of Civilizations': Towards a New Paradigm."
The panel included CMCU founding director John Esposito and a number of others knowledgeable in the field.
Panelist Mohamed Younis, a senior analyst at the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, drew parallels between the Arab Spring revolts and the United States' own political history.
"[The Egyptian revolution]," he said, "was a movement with the soul of the 1960s civil rights movement in the U.S. in a 2011 approach at getting the message out and organizing."
Younis noted Gallup's most recent data, which polled populations in 38 Muslim-majority countries, including Egypt, found that there are many more similarities than differences between Muslim and Western nations.
"These societies are negotiating a new balance between religious identities and values that they hold dear," Younis said, "with an admiration and a demand for freedoms for individuals, [as well as] social, civil and political liberties that that we here in the West value greatly."
Deborah Amos, a foreign correspondent for NPR who also spoke at the event, has spent most of this year reporting on Muslim youth, who make up 60 percent of the population in the Middle East.
She believes the 'clash of civilizations' discourse, which has dominated coverage about Muslim-Western relations for the past 10 years, will change in the wake of the uprisings taking place all over the Middle East and North Africa.
"If there's one thing that the Arab Spring has shown, it's the commonality of our values," she said.
Esposito, also a professor of religion and international affairs and of Islamic studies at Georgetown, spoke about the need for the Muslim world and Western nations to recognize their commonalties while respecting the value of their differences going forward.
"The panel attracted an audience of some 220-plus people and addressed many of the key questions that affect Muslim-West relations, from the polarizing language and actions which demonize and threaten Muslim civil liberties in America Europe to issues of security," Esposito noted after the conference.