Interview with Muqtedar Khan

3 November 2014, Istanbul

Muqtedar Khan is Associate Professor in the Political Science and International Relations Department at the University of Delaware. He is the founder and the first Director of the Islamic Studies Program at his current university. Khan contributed to many organizations such as, the Association of Muslim Social Scientists, Alwaleed Center and Brookings Institution. He is currently a Fellow at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding.

He has tens of articles, political commentaries in prominent newspapers and books dominantly on Islam in international context.

Melisa Mendoza: What are the intellectual roots of the Arab Spring? Where does extremism, particularly the Islamic State (IS), stand in this intellectual background?

Muqtedar Khan: I am not really sure that there are any intellectual roots that have triggered the Arab Spring. I presume when you talk about the Arab Spring, you are talking about 2011, the year of the fall of dictatorships. Especially what happened in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya and beyond. I do not think they were the consequence of any serious intellectual development. It is best to think of it as a product of a domino effect. I think the Egyptian Arab Spring was primarily triggered by the speed with which Ben Ali left Tunisia. If Ben Ali had crushed the protests in Tunisia, I am not very sure that the people in Egypt would have been so empowered that they could get rid of Mubarak. Therefore, it is not a product of intellectual movement. It started with self- immolation of a Tunisian individual and then it had a domino effect. The Syrians also saw what is happening. Does that mean the conditions for revolution were not there? That is not true the conditions were there. The oppressive nature of the state had become unbearable. This was combined with lack of economic opportunities, low quality of life. And add to that highly educated youth and intellectual middle class whose life was challenged. There was also globalization of this society, which means through the Internet and global media they could see the rest of the world. And the fact that everybody seems to be developing and enjoying the fruits of democracy, freedom and human rights, and economic liberalization; whereas their societies were alone left behind. You can essentially talk about the Arab Spring as a collective cry. These were the conditions, which propelled them to go and call for dignity.

Melisa Mendoza: How do you explain extremism and particularly the IS?

Muqtedar Khan: What is interesting about the Arab Spring is that it was triggered and to a great extent carried by secular, liberal, extremely modernized Westernized youth. If you look at the slogans used in the early days of the Arab Spring, you could see slogans such as, "give me liberty or give me death". They were citing Patrick Henry from the United States. There were a lot of these Westernized, democratic kind of slogans. Unfortunately once these rebellions became successful and dictators were removed, they went to elections and transitions, the Islamists walked away with the prize. In fact, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt neither triggered the Arab Spring nor joined it in its early days. It joined it late but it became the biggest beneficiary of the elimination of dictatorships. People who were primarily responsible for initiating these revolutions were marginalized. The way the revolutions progressed was an upsetting of power. Not only the dictators were pushed aside and marginalized, but even the revolutionaries were marginalized in the post- revolution transition. The Muslim Brotherhood emerged in leadership positions. Except the Libyan election, all the elections that were held after the Arab Spring were won by Muslim Brotherhood and it's affiliates. This triggered new kinds of fears. For example the people who went out in the Tahrir Square, they wanted other things; they were not calling for implementation of Sharia or position of certain rules on Christian minorities. They were not campaigning to establish an Islamic state. That was one reason why it led to polarization in these societies.

Moreover, dictators had repressed their societies as a result of which there was already extremism in the societies, which was retaliating against the oppressive regimes. They used terrorism techniques and extremist violence. They were already there and because of the repressive methods used by the state they were not that visible. As soon as you remove the repressive mechanism there was room for everyone to pursue their politics. The extremists, largely Salafi movements in Tunisia and to some extent in Egypt, emerged. Now some of them are armed and want to transform the region.

Melisa Mendoza: What is the impact of the Arab Spring on the Muslims in Asia and in the Western countries?

Muqtedar Khan: It is very interesting that you are still using the word "Arab Spring". I am not really sure that the term really applies. I must confess that I do not know how to describe this phenomenon of what is happening in the Arab world in the last three years. Arab Spring was this euphoric moment with the collapse of the dictators. Especially the fall of Mubarak was unbelievable. We never thought we could see this. People like us, who are advocates of democracy and who believe Islam and democracy are compatible. Egypt had an opportunity to become a democratic country and not repress its Islamic voices. We were already excited about it.

The Arab world today is in a worse situation than what it was prior to the Arab Spring. Now some people are using the word, "winter" to describe this transition. It is difficult to fully understand it. It is safer to say that we are still in the process of transition. There are forces of transformation that have been unleashed with the elimination of the dictatorial regimes.
I am not really sure that the democratic order that has been established in Tunisia or the dictatorial order that is established in Egypt are stable. I think, neither the Tunisian nor Egyptian regimes are stable. We should see this as another moment in the continuing transition of the Arab world. There are also other pressing issues that seem to have dominated the region, especially with the rise of the Islamic State and collapse of these states. What we are seeing now is; first there were collapse of dictators and now failing of the states. These are all rapidly becoming failed states. And interestingly the only thing that seems to be stable in the Middle East is monarchies.

Melisa Mendoza: What about its impact on Asia and Europe?

Muqtedar Khan: There are two impacts of the Arab Spring on Muslims. First impact is that people were thrilled. You should read some of the articles that I wrote in 2011. They were all euphoric, I was so thrilled saying, "Arab world is going to be democratic. One again we can talk about the fact that Islam and democracy are not incompatible". Democracy deficit in the Arab world was so stark especially compared to other parts of the Muslim world. Turkey, Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia had democracy but not the Arab world. Even Iran is to some extent democratic. People were looking up to the Arab Spring, everyone wanted to be part of it, Facebook profiles were thrilled with the fact that the region was finally transforming.

What happened in the Arab world in last one year has shaken Muslims in Asia, Europe and elsewhere. They are frightened from the forces that have been unleashed and they are unsure. They are not clear about what is going on in the Middle East. One day there is democracy, the other day there are terrorist organizations. Even the case of ISIS is so puzzling. It is a transnational organization like Taliban, which operates in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But it is different; it holds territory, it sells oil and it is already calling itself as an established Caliphate. It is inspiring some people to actually go and fight, and convert to Islam. It has an appeal for some Muslims everywhere in some way. But the good news is that vast majority of Muslims have rejected it. Muslim scholars, intellectuals and media say, "this is not Islam." IS in some way united a large segment of global Muslim population against itself. This is the only positive side of it. I think that also the Muslim world has become fully aware of the indigenous extremists movements that exist in the Muslim world that can have a potential to destabilize the states and push them back for decades. Can you imagine, even if IS disappears today, how much time it is going to take to rebuild Iraq and Syria physically as well as socially?

Halil Ibrahim Yenigün: Youth are joining the IS from Europe, the United States, Turkey and believe that what IS is doing is a success.

Muqtedar Khan: I think the IS is a scum magnet, attracting people from the entire Muslim world. There is both a new and an old element to it. The old dimension is just like al-Qaeda. The whole idea that, "I am going to Jihad and to fight against the West." There are still lots of traditional Muslims, extremists or conservative Muslims in Tunisia, Morocco and other places traveling to Iraq and Syria. But it also has become a strange magnet for Muslims in France, Britain, and the rest of the West. It has become a kind of adventure. IS seems to offer something like a Hollywood film: adventure and sex. It is mind-boggling. They are taking prisoners, they have slavery. It is a de-modernization on a large scale in the region.

One of my grad students is exploring a very interesting puzzle. He says, "there are thousands and thousands of Muslims who are literally drowning trying to get to the West. Trying to escape their countries; whether because of oppression or poverty. And the next generation seems to be leaving Europe and going to Iraq to fight." It is very interesting. One generation is disenchanted by the realities of the Muslim world and the next generation is disenchanted by the realities of the Western world. If the Western world as it is today, and the Muslim World as it is today, do not appeal to Muslims, then where will they go? What is it that the IS offers that is very appealing to youth? This is a very important question. These young people will die young.

Melisa Mendoza: Do you think the Arab Spring is over? Where will this mass movement go in the future?

Muqtedar Khan: The Arab Spring is over but the period of transition is not. I do not think that the period of transition is over. It is impossible to predict the future, direction of the Arab World. Who could in 2010 have predicted the collapse of the dictatorships? In 2011 we were very confident that the Muslim Brotherhood is going to win across the board. But who would have predicted by 2013 that Egypt would return to its old status. So I think that predicting the realities and the politics of the Arab world is not a wise thing to do.

I do not think that we will see liberal democracies emerging in the near future. There are clearly some intellectual and political issues and some practical issues that need to be resolved. For example, the nature of governance regardless of whoever is in charge whether they are Islamists or whether they are dictators.

Melisa Mendoza: Related to this question, do you think this is a missed opportunity for good governance in the Arab Spring?

Muqtedar Khan: No. What I am trying to say is that the governance is awful. Nobody is able to provide efficient governance in this part of the world. You can say that the Muslim Brotherhood had only one year and it would have learned from its mistakes if it was given four years. The economic challenges that ordinary people face everyday have not been eliminated either from the Arab Spring or its aftermath. In fact things have gotten worse for everybody. Unemployment rates are hitting 40 percent. Economies are in decline. Tourism, which was a major source for Tunisia and Egypt is also in decline. People are less well off now than they were before. For economic reasons they are wishing that they were back in the past. As for democratic issues to be of concern these people have not solved their economic issues. What do they want? Do they want equality? Do they want equality of Muslims and non-Muslims? Are we really looking for democracy as we understand it in the profoundest sense or democracy just a way of bringing the party of choice to the power and impose its values?

Halil İbrahim Yenigün: Going back to the first question; the intellectual dimension was missing from the Arab Spring. Is this lack of intellectual dimension partly responsible for the subsequent failures of the Arab Spring?

Muqtedar Khan: The Arab civil society has some intellectuals. There are few Islamists who have some interesting ideas and there are few seculars who have some interesting critiques of Islamism. There are some in the middle who advocate both Islam and democracy. They are few. But these ideas have not circulated down to the masses. So when people are voting, for example for the Muslim Brotherhood, they are voting for the Sharia. They are voting for Islam. They are not voting for a particular model of governance or particular vision of democracy. So when people are voting against them they just do not like the Muslim Brotherhood. I do not know whether they can even coherently define what they mean by a secular society or democracy.

I think that it is inaccurate and it is misleading to classify the demand in the Arab world as the demand for democracy. What I really think the masses in the Arab world really want is to be treated with dignity and to have economic and physical security. They want economic and physical security and they want some kind of basic human rights. But they are also demonstrating the potential to be manipulated by big ideas. So they are voting for parties, which are promising them security. They are becoming gullible to trends of extremism in Egypt. I think what we need to see is that first the security situation has to improve. You cannot expect Tunisia to enjoy a stable democracy if there is continuous violence like ISIL in Iraq because Tunisians are volunteering to fight in Iraq. What happens when this jihadi groups go back? Are they just going to drop their guns and say that, "okay I am going to open up a think-tank and write policy papers rather than shooting with a machine gun?" I am not very sure how this de-radicalization of the society will take place.

I expect there to be more turmoil, more chaos and more conflict in that region for some time until there is a moment of sheer fatigue. In that moment I hope that something comes up and people will be able to grasp if there is visionary leadership around. For example the Tunisian model is now projecting itself once again as the future of the Arab World.

Melisa Mendoza: My next question was actually about Tunisia. What do you see in the future of Tunisia? What prospects like ahead? Do you think that it is a success story?

Muqtedar Khan: When I saw Tunisia for the first time -I never went to Tunisia before the Arab Spring- the first thing that struck me was how developed and more advanced it looked compared to Egypt. Tunisia looks like a more beautiful place; at least it is cleaner with less population with access to the sea and beach. It was very developed. I was so surprised as to why has the revolution taken place in one of the most developed cities or states of the Arab world. That was kind of surprising to see. I do not think that Tunisia is a model. Tunisia's experience with secularization is unique in the Arab world. It is more like Turkey than Egypt. Tunisia has tremendous experience with secularism. When you meet Egyptians and when you meet Tunisians, Egyptian secularists look and sound more conservative than Tunisian Islamists. Tunisian Islamists are clean-shaven no beards. It is like talking to a French individual Whereas when you go to Egypt they have long beards, they have religious look on them.

What I am trying to say is that Tunisia is also an outlier in the Arab world. Tunisian Islamists at least have shown the capacity to learn, the adjustment after seeing what has happened in Egypt. Now they are claiming it is a virtue and foresight. I do not think that the Tunisian Islamists would have changed if Egypt had not fallen down. All of the transition, the national reconciliation that the Ennahda made is the direct consequence of the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Tunisian Islamists were afraid that they would see a similar military takeover in Tunisia. They are not trying to grab and monopolize power like the Muslim Brotherhood did. Muslim Brotherhood tried to monopolize power in every part of society and that is why they were opposed .
I think that the Tunisian Islamists are learning in order not to make the same mistake. I think that the biggest danger of extremism, radicalism that is emerging out of the Arab Spring is that not only will it delay stabilization and democratization of the Arab world but it will also de-stabilize the existing countries, which are quite stable and democratic like Iran and Turkey.

For example how can you be so sure that there is no spillover effect of ISIS in Turkey and Iran? So what is going to happen with the spillover consequences of ISIS on Turkey? Is it going to have an impact on Turkish society? Will it radicalize elements in Turkey? Would it lead to jeopardizing the experiment that Turkey has had with the Islamic leaning politics and also democracy. That is, to me, far more dangerous than just expecting the Arab World to once again flower. The question is: is really the crisis and chaos contained in the Arab World or will it also spread to the non-Arab World like Iran, Turkey as well as to Arab states like Morocco and Jordan, which at the moment seem to be stable.

Halil İbrahim Yenigün:  Back to the idealization of the Tunisian experience, as Ghannushi wrote just before the elections that Tunisia proves to be a living proof for Islam's consistency with democracy. Many others single out Tunisia as a success story for the Arab Spring as opposed to the other ones. People often attribute it to the political leadership of Ghannushi, Ennahda as opposed to how Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi behaved during their term. Actually in the Arab Spring and in our recent history political leadership has arguably been the determining factor for political change. Do you agree with that? The Ghannushi factor, the intellectual aspect of the Tunisian experience or success if you want to call...

Muqtedar Khan: Since the beginning of the Arab Spring, Ghannushi appeared less and less as an intellectual and more and more as a politician. I remember meeting him at Doha and there, to me, he was like a traditional religious leader. His appearance, the way he dressed, the length of his beard. When I met him after the Arab Spring in Tunis I actually did not recognize him. He was wearing a suit, his beard was thin. He was like a car salesman, it was quite strange. I do not know why the Tunisians are so interested in the image abroad when they should be worried about the politics inside. This projection of Tunisia as the success, the only success of the Arab Spring and therefore the rest of the Arab world will be successful with the Tunisian model of Islam and democracy. I think these are pragmatic steps. When Ghannushi was in charge, the Arab Spring was at its peak. He did not show pragmatism and the willingness to restrain himself. He introduced elements to the constitution which would have made Tunisia more Islamist and less democratic. It was later withdrawn when there was opposition from the public. He opened the door to Salafi extremists. There was this famous video in which he told them, "don't worry I have the same goals as you do but our means are different." In that sense he kind of gave too much freedom and power. Then subsequently he said "I have learned and changed," but nevertheless that pragmatism and that prioritization of democracy over Islamism was not there in the early days of the Arab Spring. To be fair, the Tunisian Islamic movement really has shown the capacity to learn. It is not making the same mistakes that Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt made. Clearly it was the number one political party in 2012 when the last elections took place. But now it is not. That also should be a sobering consequence. Two things have happened. Since then the secular parties have had the opportunity to organize themselves and also mobilize support. Most people have had the opportunity to see the Islamists in power and see what they do. In spite of all this democracy propaganda, Ennahda lost, in the sense that it is not a dominant party in Tunisia today. In that sense you could argue that the fact that they still have a transition to democracy. I do not know whether you can argue that it is a "model" for the rest of the Arab World, but you can say that Tunisia is lucky to not to have receded into the chaos as the rest of the region. Tunisia still has its challenges. There are economic problems that need to be solved for which they will need good governance. If there is continuous tension on values and discussion on the architecture of the state they will never get the time to address the economic challenges. So, I think it is going to be interesting to watch what people will learn from what the Tunisian public has learned from what is happening in the rest of the Arab world.

Halil İbrahim Yenigün: In that case, that secularists have come to power might be a good thing for the prospects of the Tunisian experience with democracy?

Muqtedar Khan: It is quite possible that it might also be beneficial for the Islamists. It is quite possible that nobody can solve the economic problems so quickly. If Ennahda in Tunisia plays its cards well, it can be in a very strong position to win elections the next time. What also might happen by then is that the current constitution may become stabilized. If Ennahda wins elections it may continue to play in the game based on the current constitution of Tunisia, which is quite democratic, and become another political party. If it once again starts problems, tries to change the constitution when political parties try to shape the parliamentary values of the country like messing around with constitutions, this will necessarily trigger a political crisis combined with other conditions could cause chaos and unrest in societies.

Halil İbrahim Yenigün: Coming back to the spillover effects of ISIS in Turkey and Iran, it has been quite significant in the recent years that the geography is suffering from sectarianism more than ever. How do you see Sunni- Shia divide in the aftermath of the Arab Spring? Would you see sectarianism more and more worrisome?

Muqtedar Khan: One of the things that ISIS has done is not only exacerbate the Sunni-Shia sectarian divide, but also shown light on it. Shia-Sunni sectarian conflict has been studied in the last few years but the emergence of ISIS has literally spotlighted these issues much more than other issues. Shia Sunni strife has been ripe in the last few years. It is also an pportunity for Shias and Sunnis to work together and eliminate the ISIS who is a threat to both of them. ISIS is a threat to Saudi Arabia and Iran. ISIS is massacring Shias in Iraq and is going to destabilize the rest of the region and the next target will be Saudi Arabia. It is an opportunity for Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey to work in Shia-Sunni partnership to deal with such an extremist group as ISIS. But this is not happening, people are missing the opportunities, as we have missed the Arab Spring as an opportunity to democratize the region. We are missing this ISIS opportunity to unite Shia and Sunni nations to fight against a cancer that is going to attack both of them. So, there are opportunities and challenges. In the absence of visionary leadership in the region, the problems will continue to fester. As far as Shia-Sunni conflict is concerned, I think it is high time Shia and Sunnis start an intrafaith dialogue. We have been engaging in interfaith dialogue with Jews and Christians so extensively in the last twenty years. I think it is a travesty that we are not also engaged in an intrafaith dialogue. Sectarianism is also having a spillover effect, there are anti-Shia protests in Pakistan, there is repression of Shiites in Malaysia, violence against Sunnis by Shias, and Hezbollah is all over the place these days. There is both hot and cold Shia-Sunni war. So, this is a challenge to intellectuals and scholars on both sides to perhaps use this as an opportunity to have one major Shia- Sunni dialogue, which can perhaps permanently solve some of the festering issues we have.

Halil İbrahim Yenigün: Can a dialogue even be possible when the Syrian conflict is going on? The Syrian crisis was also one of the major reasons behind the deepening of Shia and Sunni sectarianism, especially in Turkey.

Muqtedar Khan: Well, Shia and Sunni sectarianism is clearly highlighted and exacerbated by the Syrian crisis. If the dialogue does not start before the end of the conflict, I fear how the conflict is going to end. It is going to end with many atrocities on both sides. It could probably get more severe, looking at the genocide and violence one after another. What happens if the Syrian state collapses? What will happen to Alawites in Syria? It is a minority that could suffer significant casualties. Or the Syrian state could use biological weapons. But for right now, people have enough to be concerned, and if not arrested at this point in time, it can become even worse in the future. I think it is a good time to call for a very serious theological and historical dialogue between Shias and Sunnis that go back at the issues and trying to find common ground. We actually know what the theological solutions are; think of Shia as the fifth legal school of Islam. So, the tools and windows are available; all we need to do is to discuss them and disseminate the ideas in both communities.

Melisa Mendoza: Who will represent the Sunni part?

Muqtedar Khan: The answer is very simple because when we look at the conflict, who is representing the Shia side? Because of the smallness of Shia community and largeness of Iran, Iran's religious leaders and intellectuals can represent the Shia community to a great extent. In the Sunni world, it would have to be a coalition from all parts of the world -- Muslim intellectuals and leaders from the Arab world; Turkey, South Asia, East Asia even Muslims from the Western part of the world. So you need to have a comprehensive mix of the leaders from the Muslim world because Sunni world is far more globalized than Shias. There are minorities in India but largely contained in the periphery of the part of Iraq.

Melisa Mendoza: Do you think there is a crisis in the understanding of Islam?

Muqtedar Khan: I have a problem with everybody's understanding of Islam whether it is Western intelligentsia, academia, whether it is Sunnis or Shias. So, yes! It sounds pretty arrogant and horrible to say that but this is an issue; the point is that Islam is suffering from a crisis of legitimacy. Because of the crisis of legitimacy, there are no authoritative voices that can speak of Islam that are universally acceptable. There is no Sunni Pope, and Shias may have large leaders (Marja-i Taqlid) and followers but even then there is no coalition of voices or the single voice that can appeal to their community and the leader. In the Muslim world, the common manifestations of Islam sometimes look far apart from the way American Muslims see Islam and interpret the sources of Islam. I am horrified by some of the things that Imams in Europe say and I cannot even relate to their experiences. And then now we see that the way ISIS is interpreting Islam, practicing slavery, violence, and killing innocent people. There is no way that I would ever associate these practices, with my religious beliefs. But these practices are authenticated and legitimized using Islamic sources. I can find texts from the Qur'an and the Hadith to support the war ISIS is doing. I can make the case for them. I cannot say what they are doing is entirely unIslamic and a lie. . So, that is the problem. There are multiple ways that Islam can be interpreted from the same sources. It is very important for us to revisit them. I have sad news for you. Until we fix the usul (essentials) and the way we define Islamic law, until we go back and revisit this issue, we will continue to have these problems. We had the Khawarij, now, we have ISIS and al-Qaeda. You can militarily crush ISIS but that does not mean that it will not happen again ten or fifteen years later. What we really need to do is not only come up with an understanding of Islam which is clearly consistent with its practices, but also finding an Islamic argument to delegitimize ISIS- like interpretations. This is more important. You keep giving alternative interpretations and hope that they will prevail like for example, people will come out and give alternative interpretations from Ibn Taymiyya or Abdulwahhab in their understanding of Islam without either condemning the two or challenging them. So you just leave two alternative explanations out there and people take either political or geopolitical reasons to pick one or the another. So politics often dictates which interpretation of Islam will be used. So it is important to critique and delegitimize these interpretations of Islam. Unfortunately these issues have been glamorized, while the West is demonized, so violence against the West will look justified, violence against the friends of the West will look justified, and friends of the West is almost everybody in the Muslim world. People say Muslims are suffering from occupation, violence; Muslim youth in the West are suffering from alienation, etc., and therefore resorting to violence, but to be honest, there are also other communities who are suffering from occupation. Tibetans are occupied, but they are not resorting to suicide bombing. There are other immigrant communities in Europe who have suffered from racism, marginalization, like Muslims do; and they are not all becoming terrorists; so Muslims have to acknowledge that there is a role of Islamic thought in Muslim radicalism. If they deny it we will not be able to solve it. We did deny this throughout the 1990s, we called everybody who did that Islamophobes. And we continue to do that today. If Muslims continue to deny there is some culpability of at least some part of the Muslim thought in extremism we will not able to identify the source of cancer and fix it. There are of course other things than ideas; there are of course geopolitical issues, the role of the US foreign policy, which is not very helpful; it was not consistent in the Arab Spring. It was not consistent during the demise of Mubarak, not supportive of the Arab Spring in Bahrain; so the US's inconsistencies in the area are also exacerbating the situation. But also the material conditions are bad: lack of basic needs, unemployment, high inflation, etc. But then again, Jordan also suffers from all of this. But you don't see that kind of extremism, even though you see constant protests. But nevertheless the role of the West has to be recalibrated, Muslims have to address the sources of Islamic thought, which empower the extremist views, and three they have to address the material conditions. In fact the best role the West can play, is not military but material. If the West stops uses its millions of dollars to stop bombing, and to build things; this will make people less amenable to violence and radical action, no doubt about it. But this does not mean, as Bin Laden was a rich man, that it is enough. Not just material conditions but ideas. Some of the upper middle class in the West is joining ISIS.

Halil Ibrahim Yenigün: At the beginning we said the ideas were not what sparked the Arab Spring, but we have come to a point where perhaps the solution is with the ideas and theology.

Muqtedar Khan: There are only two and a half ideas in the Arab world: Arab socialism, and Political Islam. Arab socialism led to authoritarianism; both Saddam Hussein and Bashar Assad are heirs to it. Then we have witnessed Islamism. Some of them were violent, some pursued peaceful means. But their politics led to division in society. And the half is those who want to prove that Islam and democracy are compatible. And Tunisia is taking on the effort to prove that. But these ideas have to be brought down. I have been here to participate in two such brilliant conferences; one that IDE organized on Islamism, one that is hosted by Marmara University. But the halls were empty. But the ideas are not percolating down. But you check YouTube for religious scholars from the Gulf with extremist speeches and you see millions of hits. So there are ideas percolating down but not with positive consequences. So you could argue that there is a vacuum among the large part of society, vacuum of ideas. Ideas, which have positive and transformative values. Right now you have regressive ideas and they are occupying too much space and sucking too much oxygen.