WASHINGTON, April 12 (UPI) -- The Mideast and North Africa uprisings have "elevated minds as well as aspirations" in the Arab world away from extremism, a Muslim researcher said.
"Manifestations of religious, ideological and cultural extremist behavior [in the Arab world] were essentially a reaction to stagnant political climates imposed by despotic regimes, lack of human rights and absence of any hope in a better future," Anas Altikriti, president and founder of London's Cordoba Foundation, writes in an al-Jazeera commentary.
But now that people in Arab countries see that they have hope and can change the political climate, they are putting their energies and abilities toward rejecting fear, ending corruption, demanding decent governance and affirming human and democratic rights, he said. as a major international conference opens in Washington on the Arab turbulence and its implications for Muslims worldwide.
Arabs' new focus explains why there were no mass protests around the world against the Rev. Terry Jones' March 20 burning of the Koran, the sacred text of Islam, in Florida, Altikriti said.
Aside from Afghanistan, where a mob attacked a U.N. compound and killed 12 people, "not one single demonstration was held, no mass protest was called for, no texts or e-mail messages crisscrossed the ether and no Days of Anger were organized," he said.
This contrasts with "hundreds of thousands [of people who] hit the streets of Cairo, Damascus [Syria], Amman [Jordan], Sanaa [Yemen] and many other Arab cities last summer denouncing Jones, burning effigies and flags and calling for a global campaign to 'protect the Koran'" when Jones threatened to observe the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks by burning more than 200 copies of the Koran at his small church in Gainesville, Fla., Altikriti said.
Why the difference? Altikriti asked.
"Because the 'Arab spring' has elevated minds as well as aspirations, a trend absent still in the contexts of Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries where corruption is still riding a wave," he said.
The Arab spring refers to the revolutionary wave that started in Tunisia Dec. 18.
"What remains to be seen is whether the West will adapt to the new terrain and change its ways too," Altikriti said.
The U.S.-Islamic World Forum, bringing together U.S. and Arab-world experts, "will focus on the rapid, turbulent change in the Middle East and implications for Muslims around the world," organizers said.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be a keynote speaker at Tuesday night's opening dinner, to be attended by high-level representatives of 30 Muslim-majority countries, including Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Indonesia, Nigeria and Sudan.
Other speakers at the three-day event include former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., Qatari Foreign Minister Ahmad Bin Abdullah al-Mahmoud and Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh.