In a February 10 Al-Jazeera interview, former Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki tackled the root causes of backwardness in Arab society, saying that what was needed was "an ideological revolution before a political one" in order to abandon the mindset of tribalism, which viewed the rule as war booty, in favor of the notion that the state is meant to serve the public. We need to embrace heterogeneity as an asset and establish a democratic regime, said Marzouki.
Interviewer: “You have had extensive experience. What is your answer to the question: Why are we backward?”
Moncef Marzouki: “This may be the most difficult question I have ever asked myself. To this day, I ask myself this question. There are some causes for which we are responsible, and some for which we are not responsible. We are backward because…”
Interviewer: “Along with the structural, historical, and environmental factors, what are the factors for which we bear responsibility?”
Marzouki: “We are responsible for the fact that to this day, we’ve been unable to establish an effective political framework in which we can coexist. We do not accept the fact that we constitute heterogeneous peoples. All the Arab peoples are heterogeneous, and our entire nation is heterogeneous. When the Arabs accept that they can be Christian, white, black…”
Interviewer: “Amazigh, Arab, Kurdish…”
Marzouki: “Yes. When we reach the realization that this heterogeneity is an asset, not a liability, we will be able to make progress. Moreover, we have not yet accepted that our heterogeneity must be dealt with in a peaceful manner, that our political system must be democratic, that the ruler is… We still adhere to the notion of tribalism, whereby the rule constitutes booty of war, to which the ruler and his family cling. It becomes their booty, and they divide it as they see fit. It is this tribal mindset, which we have maintained since bygone times, that has destroyed our societies. The West has abandoned this mentality of tribalism, according to which the state is war booty belonging to some individual or group, in favor of the notion that the state is meant to serve the public. So we are in need of an ideological revolution before a political one. What good will come of a political revolution if we only repeat the same pattern?”