The Deacon of the Faculty for Education at the An Najah University in Nablus, Sami Kilani, is among the most influential advocates of non-violence in the Arab world. He is optimistic that the peaceful form of protest conducted in Tunisia and Egypt is an example that will be followed in other Arab countries
How do you define the term “non-violence”?
Sami Kilani: Non-violence means respect for another person. I reject the notion of degrading another as a person or as a society and thereby regarding them as something less human. This means applying the same standards to another person as you would to yourself. Non-violence doesn’t just mean the absence of violence – just as health doesn’t equate to the absence of illness. Non-violence is humanity, justice and freedom. I reject any method that humiliates and degrades people. Violence means all that.
Over recent months, peaceful revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt have toppled dictators who’d been in power for decades. Demonstrations and peaceful protests are also taking place in other Arab nations. How do you evaluate these movements? Are they spontaneous acts or trends that consciously pursue non-violent strategies?
Kilani: It’s still too early for a conclusive judgement, but several characteristics can be determined. I think these movements are the outcome of arduous efforts to create an awareness of issues affecting civil society. Many dictatorial regimes in the region tried to placate the West by allowing these activities.
Western NGOs supported local organisations working in the fields of democratisation and human rights. The regimes assumed that these efforts would be nothing more than hot air and that they would have no lasting effects. Now they’ve been proven wrong.
Another factor is the dissemination of information via modern channels of communication. Both these factors have resulted in a change in awareness among youngsters. The protests represent a genuine product of the young generation.
How do you explain the largely non-violence nature of the protests in Tunisia and Egypt?
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Interview mit Sami Kilani: ”Das Symbol des Widerstandes ist nicht die Kugel!”