Arab youth as global citizens

At Foreign Policy, Ashraf Zeitoon writes that Arab youth (18-24) are actually much more optimistic and globally minded, according to a recent survey, than Western experts tend to expect.  They tend to be optimistic about their countries, especially those living in Gulf Cooperation Council Countries (Egyptian and Lebanese youth did not share these sentiments about their own countries).

They also tended to think of themselves as global citizens and supported democracy, and also affirmed that religion was important in their lives.

As far as role models,

Another expected finding of the survey was that Arab youth generally admire political, religious and business leaders. When asked who they looked up to, 31 percent of those interviewed named religious leaders and 30 percent cited government leaders. This was in direct contrast to the answers by their peers in Western countries who cited 9 percent for religious leaders and just 5 percent for government leaders.

I’m not sure what this means for the region or the rest of the world, but I thought I would note it for my own teaching about the Middle East and pass it along via the blog.



  1. Fascinating article. I have a much lower opinion of middle east politicians than US politicians, and that’s a pretty low bar, so I wonder what it is, specifically, that they see in their politicians? The article doesn’t seem to shed any light on that. Also, with such high marks being given youth to value living in a democracy, the middle east is not a terribly democratic region. Do youth admire anti-establishment politicians? That wouldn’t seem to sit well with their overall optimism. Overall, I find this study very puzzling.


  2. Those are good questions. Perhaps since the more optimistic youth tended to be from the GCC (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE) it reflects that those countries are a bit more open. I think that Al Jazeerah, which has something of a democratic agenda, is based in Qatar, and the UAE seems to be a bit more stable than many other countries. Overall, I’m not sure how to explain it.

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