When you speak of the Arab uprising, you oppose what you call the "idealistic" assessment that the movement either came from nowhere or was born out of the spontaneous actions of young people. Why?
Tariq Ramadan: It is quite clear that when George W. Bush spoke about democratisation in the Middle East, he was serious about it. Many American institutions started to train people. For example, Popovic is someone who trained people in Serbia to oppose Milosevic (Srdja Popovic, co-founder of the non-violent Serbian youth protest movement "Otpor!" – ed.). So we have cyber dissidents and people who were trained. The movement was, therefore, supported from the beginning.
When you support a movement which is a mass demonstration, you can't push people to demonstrate; you can't control the outcome. This is exactly what I'm trying to say. I explained this in two chapters of my book The Arab Awakening. Islam and the new Middle East; we can't go as far as to say that it is a conspiracy or an American conspiracy, because it is not. It is a push towards democracy that was needed for many reasons that were not political but economic, and because of the role that China and India played.
In my book, I analyse how much the United States and the countries of Europe had to change their policies in the region in order not to lose the market. So they changed and pushed.
What we are witnessing at the moment is something in between; we don't know yet how it is going to work out. One of the countries where it was quite clear that things did not go as the United States or Europe had hoped is Syria. Initially, they wanted Bashar al-Assad to stay and reform the country from within. But with the courage of the people, their determination and the commitment, we see now that they have no choice but to go for change. So we have to be cautious not to go as far as to think it's a conspiracy. By the same token, we shouldn't be naïve enough to think that it is coming from nowhere.
But still, you won't deny that this is an indigenous movement…?
Ramadan: There is an indigenous aspect. The young people were really in favour of the movement. The point is that the strength of the movement was that it was a movement without leadership. But that was also its weakness. And now we are seeing that it is scattered.
Interview by Ceyda Nurtsch
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