Beyond the Authority of Religion and the Rule of Family Clans: Interview with Hazem Saghieh

Analysis, posted 04.19.2012, from Egypt, in:
Beyond the Authority of Religion and the Rule of Family Clans: Interview with Hazem Saghieh (Photo: EPA)

Mr. Saghieh, your current book, Killer Issues, begins with an in-depth analysis of three different types of totalitarian regime: National Socialism, Communism and Baathism. You seek to highlight the special features of non-European totalitarianism based on the example of Iraq. How did you become interested in the Iraqi experience?

Hazem Saghieh: After the fall of the Baath regime in Iraq in 2003, I began to study the Baath dictatorship because it seemed to me to be an extremely instructive case. The Iraqi brand of totalitarianism under Saddam Hussein is exemplary of totalitarian forms of rule all over the Arab and Third World.

Furthermore, Iraq is also a prime example of a society made up of various ethnic groups, denominations and religions. But the country also has a deeper significance for me personally, as I have met many Iraqis in London and have witnessed a number of personal and familial tragedies.

With the upheaval now sweeping through the Arab world, do you fear a return to totalitarian forms of rule – this time possibly in religious guise?

Saghieh: I can't rule out that a new form of totalitarian rule cloaked in religion may arise in an Arab nation, especially in view of the catastrophic economic conditions in some of the Arab countries.

But there are a few "guarantees" or reasons that would militate against this happening, namely the interest on the part of the Arab states currently undergoing transformation to cooperate economically with the Western world, an interest that is guiding the new power elites in a different, more politically open, direction.

Besides, the new youth protests and uprisings in the Arab world represent an epochal break with what were formerly declared to be sacred authorities in this region. If the religious parties that have come to power through democratic elections in the post-revolutionary Arab states play by democratic rules, then we will have taken a major step in the direction of democratisation.

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Interview by Rachid Boutayeb; Translated by Jennifer Taylor

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