In a recent Al-Jazeera TV interview, Syrian actor Jamal Soliman talked about the role of culture and education in preventing terrorism and extremism, saying that security measures, although necessary, were not sufficient. "This is a matter of education and culture," he said. It is a "dangerous matter" when the citizen-state relationship becomes "distorted and shattered" and "hostile," as it has in the Arab world, he said. On the issue of democracy, Soliman said that although it is not a magic solution and does not boil down to elections alone, "we need to begin to establish democracy tomorrow, so that in 20 years, we will be living in a real country." The interview aired on January 5.
Jamal Soliman: "We are talking about a conspiracy against the Arab region. Sir, I believe in conspiracy theories and know that such conspiracies exist. But in my view, we are the ones who conspire the most against ourselves. We help conspiracies thrive. We roll out red carpets for them. (It's like) somebody wanting to burn down my home, and me preparing a heap of dry firewood outside my door for him, so that the fire will spread quickly and be lethal. I believe that culture plays a major role in what has happened and is happening in the Arab world. The rhetoric in the Arab world today talks about the fight against extremism and the extremist ideology, which leads to violence, killings, takfir, and so on. How are we to fight extremism and violence? Are we to fight extremism only through the intelligence agencies?
"I understand full well that when there is a terrorist cell that is planning to blow some place up and kill innocent people, it is of course necessary to raid the place and arrest them, and to shoot them if necessary. There is no argument about this, because this is the duty of the state. But how are we to prevent the emergence of more terrorists and extremists? This is a matter of education and culture. Social development in the Arab world is almost non-existent, because people do not have the means to become enlightened. Even the relationship between the Arab citizen and the state has become distorted and shattered, and even appears to be hostile. This is a dangerous matter. True, this is connected to justice, to decency, to life in reasonable economic and humane conditions, and to human dignity, but it is also connected to culture, to the fact that this is my country, my homeland, in which I am a partner and which I defend, just as I criticize it when it is wrong. I believe that even the democracy to which we aspire in our beloved, precious Syria...
"Many people ask me whether democracy will resolve the problems. No. We need to begin to establish democracy tomorrow, so that in 20 years, we will be living in a real country. Democracy is not a magic recipe, and it does not mean just the ballot box - because (if it did), I would be able to buy votes for the price of a shawarma. People would vote according to their sectarian, tribal, or geographical affiliation, and this would be lethal to democracy. That's why (elections) can be lethal, and then people yearn for the days of dictatorship. Democracy is a culture, a way of life. We need to reinforce this, through books, through plays, through films, and through TV series - especially TV series, because they have the most impact on the Arab viewer."