Police harassing the citizens of the Muslim nations helped to spark the uprisings and leadership being overthrown during the Arab Spring of 2011, according to history professor Juan Cole.
A panel discussion, The Arab Spring: Five Years Later, was held Thursday evening at the Hanson Hall of Science, Augustana College, 726 35th St..
Juan Cole, a history professor at the University of Michigan, and Maytha Alhassen, a University of Southern California provost Ph.D. fellow in American Studies and Ethnicity, led the panel discussion.
On Dec. 18, 2010, a wave of riots, demonstrations and civil wars ensued in the Middle East. By February 2012, several countries in the region had their governments thrown out of power, including Egypt, Yemen, Tunisia and Libya. In Syria, civil uprisings occurred.
Mistrust of the West in the Muslim nations dates back to issues of occupancy during the colonial days. Mr. Cole noted the "Europeans were not there for their health."
"My own view is that democracy was given a bad name in colonial societies because it was brought by the colonial occupiers," Mr. Cole said. "You know those nice, bicycle-riding, pot-smoking, long-haired Dutch? We think of them as harmless, but they were really mean in Egypt. They killed a lot of people to get the oil."
Mr. Cole said the uprisings stemmed from corruption of the governments in the Muslim nations.
"It was one thing to be ruled by the colonels and the generals if they were standing against colonial domination and if they were actually, you know, improving their lives," Mr. Cole said. "It's another thing if they are like living in castles and having private jets and exploiting people, and ordinary people stopped getting raises."
Ms. Alhassen also has been a writer for CNN and contributed an essay called "I Speak For Myself" to a book published about American Muslim women's stories.
For her part of the panel, she analyzed how the colonial period had played a part in the uprisings in Syria and what life was like for her father who grew up there.
Mr. Cole has published many books about the Middle East and North Africa. His most recent book, published in 2014, is titled "The New Arabs: How the Millennial Generation is Changing the Middle East."
The departments of political science and religion made the event possible through the Schalk Lectureship in Political Science established in 1989.