The name Burhan Ghalioun is likely unfamiliar to most Americans. However, on January 22, he made some statements on Al-Jazeera television that should make many politicians and media members in this country sit up and take notice (video available here courtesy of Memri).
The main problem that prevents us from trying to overcome the crisis is that the clerics have become the leading shapers of public opinion. These clerics have no true knowledge of society or politics. Whoever turns on Al-Jazeera TV or any other channel see that the clerics control everything.
He startlingly continued:
Today, the intellectuals and the politicians have no role. Arab societies are held hostage by two authorities: The authority of political dictatorship - arrogant dictators, who are inhuman in their oppression of liberties, and in their crushing and humiliation of the individual. [The other] authority is that of the clerics - even those opposing these regimes - who tyrannize Arab public opinion nowadays. Arab public opinion is held hostage by the clerics of all types, Muslim clerics and Islamists from all groups.
Ghalioun then really went after Islamic leaders:
The leaders of the Islamic movements they are, without a doubt, the ones winning the war. Whoever watches Arab media realizes that they have won the war of culture. The slogan "Islam is the solution" – in my opinion, 90% of Arab public opinion believes nothing else.
Finally, Ghalioun went after Al-Jazeera:
Al-Jazeera, which is the most important TV channel viewed by the Arab public today, is an example of the alliance between the political leaders, who are all dictators and who appear [on TV] every day, and the Islamic movements and thinkers. It is as if there is nobody else – there are no thinkers, intellectuals, authors, or anybody. Sometimes they bring commentators and give them three minutes on the air. We cannot rebuild our society through this struggle.
For those interested, the following is Ghalioun’s bio:
Burhan Ghalioun is presently the Director of the Centre d’Etudes sur l’Orient Contemporain (CEOC) in Paris and a Professor of Political Sociology at the Universite de Paris III (Sorbonne Nouvelle). He obtained his Ph.D. in Political Science from the Sorbonne. He is the author of several authoritative books, such as Le Malaise Arabe: l’Etat contre la Nation; Islam et Politique: la Modernite Trahie; Crise de la Politique: l’Etat et la Religion and La Culture Arabe: Entre Modernisme et Traditionalisme; as well as over a hundred academic articles in various journals on political Islam, Arab political culture and state and society relations in the Arab World