Well, I think that when we looked at the Arab Spring and the way some populations of the region have been able to get rid of their authoritarian leaders we thought that this meant too that we could directly engage positive steps with the confirmation of state building, with the fulfilling of the needs of the populations and so on. But what occurred is that even though it was, I mean it is always good to get rid of an authoritarian leader, at the same time there have been other forces that strengthened in the region and that have made it possible for them to develop their own agenda.
So, on the one hand, if we talk about Libya for example, it is sure that we have some liberal and progressive parties and movements and ideologists that are prevailing, but at the same time we underestimated the strength of all these other forces that sticking much more to an Islamist or a conservative agenda. And so, taken as a whole I think that Libya is a perfect example of a country in which everything has been done and developed in order to get rid of the former leader Muammar Gaddafi but at the same time the following steps and the post fall of Gaddafi the transition process hasn’t been watched closely or hasn’t been considered seriously.
And the result is that we have today a prevailing situation in which some radical elements try to make the difference and try to have a maximum of potential in order for them to achieve both violence and confirmation of their own individual agenda.
But Mr. Mikail, as far as I understand their ultimate agenda would at least seem to be the creation of the caliphate. Is that correct?
When we look at Salafis and their different orientations we know that part of their project is to create a widespread caliphate that would include the Muslim world and even go beyond it. But at the same time I think that we shouldn’t exaggerate both the potential of this idea and the credibility that the Salafis give to this idea. What I mean is that their agenda and their close priority is just I would say to hit some targets, to try to achieve some symbolic aims and so try to convince other people that it wouldn’t be good for them to follow closely any kind of Western led agenda.
And this is why for example the killing of the US Ambassador in Libya is a perfect example that we have some forces which consider that the US remains a symbol of imperialism and occupation and this is why they want to hit hard and achieve a strategy that would allow, as they think, the majority of Libyans to adore their own ideology and promote chasing or hurting any Western interest, both in Libya and in the rest of the region.
Now, taking into account that similar events, though on a lesser scale, have been taking place in Egypt, do you think that what we are now witnessing is a general trend in the Arab Spring countries?
Well, we shouldn’t consider that what goes on in Libya or Egypt would be the beginning for a series of widespread terrorist operations in the region. We should just keep in mind that there are two important elements. The one is that frustration still exists in the region and Egyptians remain mostly anti-American, as well as the Libyans remain anti-American and anti-Western too. This is one point. The other point is that even though this frustration prevails, that doesn’t mean that we are at the eve of creation of a new Middle East that would be led by pro-Al Qaeda affiliates, I mean you can express frustration on the one hand but on the other hand that doesn’t mean that you will see every single citizen of the region promote bombings and harming the Western interests and so on.
So, that’s why I think that, to say it in short, I would say that of course it is better for everybody to have a democratic process that takes place in the Arab world. But at the same time if you want a democracy, you will have openness to a wide range of ideological trends and this is why I think we won’t be able to build on the democratic process if we consider that only the so called moderate and pro-Western forces are the ones that should grab the elections and should be the leaders for all the new process that are taking place in the region.
The news about a film that has been treating the Prophet in an undue way has become the trigger of the recent unrest. But the question is just why do we always run into similar stories? Remember there was the cartoon scandal, now the film controversy and those are not isolated episodes. Why would people in the Western community try to shake the delicate balance?
When it comes to the film that has been the trigger for this situation both in Egypt and in Libya, I would say that we shouldn’t forget that these are some ultra people that has developed this film in order for them to express their hatred of Islam and the fact that they would like Muslims either to change their trends or be ready to consider a fight with their opponents. But I would say that we have a really tricky situation here because on the one hand when we look at the Western countries, most of them consider that it is not a blasphemy to criticize Islam and harm and criticize its main symbols.
But on the other hand it looks like they don’t understand that even though they may be right in their countries but that doesn’t mean that the Muslim people will adore this same idea. So, this is why I wouldn’t say that most people that are based in Western countries are keen on developing such films or such ideas. But a minority that is keen on that is the minority that brings to it the reaction of another minority in the Middle East which are the other Islamist extremists.
So, this is why I would keep trustful when it comes to talking about the future of the Western countries and Muslim and Arab countries and their ways of cooperation. We shouldn’t forget that liberal and progressive ideas still exist and we remain in the Middle Eastern and North African region. But at the same time we are also in a very sensitive moment. And this is why I think we should understand too that with the transitions processes that have been opened in the Middle East and North Africa we need more time and less provocations if we really want people to be able to achieve political systems and a situation that would be much better for their own future.
You said that this is a minority which would like to express their hate of Islam. But doesn’t that fall under the article of religious hate which is prosecuted in most Western societies?
For sure! I mean such a film expresses hatred for Islam that is a kind of discrimination against another religion. But at the same time I would say that when you look at the global frame a lot of people will tell you that by criticizing Islam they are not criticizing Muslims and this comes as a difference. From this point of view the necessity would be to go into every possible legal process or every possible article of law that exists in the Western countries in order to check the compatibility with the law and to see if this same film should be condemned or not.
But even if we do that, that doesn’t mean that we would solve the issue, I mean however, legal or not, these trends or these productions would be considered, it shouldn’t allow us to forget that in Muslim countries in general even Muslims by themselves don’t really criticize symbols of Islam. So, how do you want them to allow Westerners or people that are external to the region to do what they consider to be a blasphemy.