The privately owned Egyptian TV channel, Dream2, hosted two Arab liberals, Dr. Shamlan 'Issa, head of the Center for Strategic Studies at Kuwait University, and Nabil Sharaf Al-Din, an Egyptian journalist who specializes in radical Islam. Following are excerpts from the debate:
Dr. Shamlan ‘Issa: The Muslim Brotherhood is the best-organized body in the Arab world. What is their position regarding the terror movements? Occasionally they publish communiques. I am speaking about the Muslim Brotherhood in Kuwait. In most cases the condemnation comes from Europe. The Kuwaiti Islamists did not issue condemnations of the terrorist attacks in Spain and other places. This points to the fact that they hold contradicting positions on terrorism. Sometimes they embrace the attack and other times they condemn it.
Nabil Sharaf Al-Din: I believe that this is an issue of division of labor, but in fact it is all the same. In my opinion, there is a division of labor. I believe that the so-called moderate Islamic movements are nothing more than the political wing of the armed organizations.
‘Issa: In all honesty, I am very much discouraged by any Arab-Islamic (reform) attempt. For 50 years we have been talking of economic and political reforms, but in reality nothing practical was done in the Arab arena. The Arabs, Allah be praised, kept silent for 50 years and there were no economic reforms, no political reforms, there was nothing. But when the American initiative came up, after September 11, they all said, "No, no, no, we don't want it." Among them were the Arab intellectuals who oppose the Arab regimes, from all different factions, Islamic, secular, right or left, call it as you wish. They all said, "We do not want the American initiative." All right, but what is your alternative? They have nothing. What prevented you from making changes? Begin! Begin! Fifty years we're talking of reforms but nothing happens. Our economic situation is deteriorating from bad to worse.
Sharaf Al-Din: There is a widespread myth that reform should not come from outside and should not be imposed. This is not true. Throughout history, reforms took place only when cultures came in contact with other cultures. Only then did reform and social development take place in societies.
‘Issa: Look at India, China, the "Asian Tigers" – they all came in under the American hegemony and benefited from it. Now they can battle America with a strong economy. They created real growth. What are we basing our struggle against America on? We have nothing. We are weak.