Intervention by PM Fuad Siniora Held by Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’Homme
Intervention by PM Fuad Siniora
at the International Panel on exiting violence (IPEV) Held by Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’Homme
(Paris) and the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs
The American university of Beirut- June 20, 2018
First, I would like first to convey to you the greetings and the good wishes for a successful debate and deleberation in your conference from His Excellency PM Saad Al-Hariri.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Young men and young women
Thank you for giving me this opportunity to address this distinguished group of researchers. I understand that you aim at making the theme of Exiting Violence a new field of research. That is indeed a noble cause in a world where violence that is driven by populism, and extremism is on the rise.
But, if we really want to exit violence, we need to understand that, just like violence, extremism is often a symptom of a problem rather than a root of a problem.
Quite often, and whenever they speak about Islamic violence, politicians and journalists and the media in general, do not make clear distinctions between various groups, and even less between concepts, or quasi-concepts. Terms like Islamic, Islamist, radical Muslim, Salafist, Jihadist and terrorist are used interchangeably. And this is not correct. It is hoped that your research, and this international conference, will bring more precision and provide the proper tools for a better understanding of the extremist phenomenon.
Actually political violence has many root-causes and could not be reduced to the influence of specific Islamic literature and jurisprudence.
In my opinion, we cannot exit violence without addressing the political, the social and the economic root causes, and consequently offering concrete alternatives to young people whose grievances, and meaningless life provide a fertile ground for their acceptance of radical ideas.
The unsolved problems like the just Palestinian cause, the several political setbacks in the Arab World that happened during the past several decades, including the unresolved Syrian war, and the wars in Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Somalya, and as well the oppression, injustice and marginalization caused by decades of authoritarian regimes, have led to feelings of disappointments, frustrations, and unfulfilled promises of dignity (in its wide meaning) by large portions of the Arab and Islamic population. All of these provided then a fertile land for some Arabs to take the wrong alternatives in their quest for finding solutions to the pressing problems that they are facing, and for some others who are sick minded and who used religion to leverage these negative feelings and turned them into violence and terror.
Meanwhile, and since the beginning of the eighties of the last century, the Iranian intervention in the internal affairs of several Arab states, in its quest to export its revolution based on the theological version of the Wilayet-Al-Faqih type across national frontiers has added more reason to the strengthening of the extremism on the other side as a natural response, as all extremism needs opposite extremism to self-feed and sustain. The Iranian revolution has effectively led to further violence in the region in the past years. Instead of promoting peace, open minded thinking and better understanding of Islam among moslems and in the World. Islam that is based on the principle of mercy:
«وما أرسلناك إلاً رحمة للعالمين»
«And we Have not sent you (O Muhammad) except as an equaled mercy to all the Worlds»
«وكتب على نفسه الرحمة»
«Your Lord has decreed upon Himself mercy»
Ladies and Gentlemen,
There is no inherent problem with Islam that makes it more susceptible to violence than other religions. But there is a serious problem with the Muslim world due to decades of unsolved problems that have also led to a lack of progress on political and socio-economic fronts. The road to Jerusalem has proved to be a costly one while diverging further from Jerusalem, the just capital of Palestine. Now the roads to Damascus, Sanaa, or Baghdad seem as elusive and complex as the road to Jerusalem.
That said, as moderate liberal Muslims and Arabs, i.e. as the silent yet overwhelming majority of the Arab and Muslim world, we refuse to be put in a choice between Islamic fundamentalism and authoritarian regimes.
The Arabs, as proven by their short-lived but highly expressive and vivid Spring, long to a peaceful life of dignity in a civil society that respects their freedom of thought, faith and expression and equality among all components of their societies irrespective of their differences of ethnicity or religion. They refuse to go back to an era of fear, oppression, injustice, and marginalization under the pretext of escaping fundamentalism. A third way is not just possible, it is also necessary for the sake of the world and not just for the sake of the people of the Arab region.
To put it very clearly, we refuse to be back to a pre-Arab Spring Arab world even as we saw it turn into a dark long winter.
Daesh and Nusra and their many sisters are directly or indirectly the children of these authoritarian regimes that have deprived us from human development at all levels under the pretext of reclaiming our lost lands and restoring our dignity and ended up delivering nothing but more wars and deprivation. And surely even less land and less dignity.
Unless fair and sustainable solutions are found to the problems that have been left simmering for too long, new problems will continue to emerge including further radicalization in the region with repercussions that go way beyond the Middle East.
Building the peace and the democratization process in the Middle East calls for international cooperation, from the United States of America as well as from the leading powers in Europe, and the world at large, who are expected to do a bigger and more effective effort to ensure stability in the Middle East by promoting moderation and in maintaining global peace while looking for more effective measures, and means of cooperation with the Islamic world to face together and to stand up to the threat of violence, extremism and Islamophobia.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Exiting violence should not be at the expense of our rights, our values, our hopes and our dreams of a free, democratic and liberal Arab world where all are equal in rights and obligations and where solely the strong civil State is the guarantor of these rights.
That said, this does not mean that we do not urgently need a major modernization and upgrading of the religious discourse in our Islamic society.
No effective de-radicalization can succeed if it is limited to the good advice and sermons. Many extremists are in fact prey to political propaganda or victims of manipulation. While the inculcation of an understanding of Islam as a religion that rejects blind violence, and as a part of a durable re-education alone, is not sufficient. It has to be enhanced by providing alternatives, inspired from the Muslim faith and pointing to possibility of changing society through peaceful means.
We need an approach that highlights the values of hard work, discipline and productivity, and that encourages critical thinking. We need a religious discourse that rises up to the level of our fast changing world, a discourse that is adapting instead of regressing, and that opens the door to our new generations to be at peace with others through correcting the misconceptions about Islam that have been planted in their heads by diabolic minds. In brief, we don’t want to scare the world but as well we don’t want to be scared of it.
Only then, with these joint efforts at the political, socio-economic and religious levels can we talk about a sustainable exit of violence, and not a temporary one that carries in its seeds new viruses of marginalization and inequality that turn into roots of extremism and violence.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Allow me, to addess our young men and women in our societies. You young generation should also believe in your ability to make a change in your countries and your region, as you are the generation of the future that can fight extremism from its roots by spreading global awareness about this disease issue and by defending and maintaining a civilized image of your society.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
All these goals seem to be further away than ever. I will not lie to you and tell you it is within our reach. But the fact that they are more difficult, more elusive more challenging, does not make them less right.
Throughout our history, hope was not our only ally. But also the courage in facing reality and drawing the right lessons from the mistakes of the past. So we shall not be desperate, or discouraged, or turn to negative and violent thinking or accept our will to be broken as a destiny.
I strongly believe that there are great opportunities to our region and to the world in restoring moderation, restoring the proper thinking of problem solving, and in turn restoring stability and peace to the Arab world, and to the world at large. That should be based on promoting common interest within the Arab world and with the world at large in making this important journey towards the future. It is our only hope, our only choice, our only redemption.