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Engaging political Islam and the realities of the new Middle East


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Speaker(s): Wadah Khanfar
Chair: Charlie Beckett

Recorded on 17 January 2012 in New Theatre, East Building.

The recent elections in Tunisia and Egypt have brought Islamist parties to power, a pattern that may very well repeat itself as uprisings turn to elections across the Arab world. In the west, this phenomenon has led to a debate about the 'problem' of the rise of political Islam. In the Arab world, too, there has been mounting tension between Islamists and secularists. As the Arab uprisings began, Wadah Khanfar, a former foreign correspondent in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, was the top executive at Al Jazeera, arguably the leading media source as the protests have unfolded, until he resigned in September 2011. As a former newsman and now CEO of Integral Media Strategies, Khanfar is in touch with some of the greatest thinkers and influential leaders and activists in the Middle East today and will reflect on what he sees as a necessary and long overdue debate about the rise of political Islam and where, politically and economically, he sees the region shifting as the rise continues.

Wadah Khanfar is CEO of Integral Media Strategies and the former director general of the Al Jazeera Network. He began his career with the network in 1997, covering some of the world's key political zones, including South Africa, Afghanistan and Iraq. He was appointed the chief of the Baghdad bureau, and later as the network's managing director. In 2006, he became Al Jazeera's director general. During his 8-year tenure at the helm, the network transformed from a single channel into a media network including Al Jazeera Arabic, Al Jazeera English, Al Jazeera Documentary and the Al Jazeera Center for Studies. During this period, the Arab world witnessed historic transformation including Arab Awakening. Khanfar, who resigned from the network in September 2011, has been named as one of Foreign Policy's Top 100 global thinkers of 2011 as well as one of Fast Company's 'Most Creative People in Business' of the year. Khanfar has a diverse academic background with post-graduate studies in Philosophy, African Studies, and International Politics.

Charlie Beckett is director of POLIS.

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