The first IpevLive conversation that took place on May 18 gathered Sari Hanafi (American University of Beirut), Andrew Lebovich (European Council on Foreign Relations) and Mohamed-Ali Adraoui (London School of Economics). They shared their views on the emergence of radicalization within contemporary Islam that further complicates efforts to reduce and eliminate violence in the MENA region.

What needs to be done to better understand salafism and radicalization ? What kind of research should be led in this part of the world ? Will violent movements come to an end ? These are some of the questions raised in this discussion.

Find below the podcast and highlights of the conversation!



  • The necessity to give up the good Muslims / bad muslims construction

The 3 researchers agreed on the importance of giving up the Good Muslims / Bad Muslims rhetoric in order to have a better understanding of Muslim societies. Research as well as governments need to stop looking at Muslim movements as one broad thing. Islamic movements, which are becoming more prominent in these societies, are fragmented and there is, according to Mohamed-Ali Adraoui, a growing disconnection between Salafism and jihadism. 

  • Listening to people in Muslim communities

This part of the world is often referred to as the MENA region. According to Mohamed-Ali Adraoui, “there is no such thing as a MENA region.” He stressed the importance of giving up on the idea of oriented research and on providing empirical research based on data that can be verified in order to understand these societies in a better way. Besides, Sari Hanafi and Andrew Lebovich argued that listening more carefully to people in Muslim societies, and not only religious actors, is important and praised qualitative research in order to really understand the place of religion, or not, in these societies and on the need to take these societies in their own context in order to create space for discussion. On the other hand, Sari Hanafi called for a pluralistic understanding of liberal democratic ideas and the necessity to stop watching these societies through the prism of “hard secularism”. 

  • Giving up mental pictures created by some policy makers

“The reality is different from mental pictures used to build policies, said Mohamed-Ali Adraoui. Being in the field and listening to muslim voices is the best way to get rid of these mental pictures which can be wrong and to offer true facts. Muslim people have grievances that need to be heard. Besides, Sari Hanafi stressed the importance of changing the way we approach religious phenomena and explained how hard secularism can become a “racist religion” and that the focus should be put on how elite formation exercises violence and exclude other actors

  • Is there hope for exiting violence?

“We must look for partners and get a multicultural understanding of this region,” stressed Andrew Lebovich, who insisted on letting people create their own society. Mohamed-Ali Adraoui stressed that, historically, all the violent movements have come to an end or have evolved into something else. 


Photo credit : The Arab Spring uprisings. Photo: Mosa’ab Elshamy (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)