Reforming Islam: How many ways to crack an egg? - A conversation with Andrew March.

 By James M. Dorsey

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James M. Dorsey (00:06):

Hi, and welcome to the Turbulent World with me, James M. Dorsey as your host,

Islamic Law is at the centre of debates about what constitutes moderate Islam and what it would take to reform Islam. Essentially two schools of thought dominate the discussion. Islam's traditional approach simply picks and chooses which elements of Sharia it opts to ignore. That is the approach adopted by autocratic rulers like Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and United Arab Emirates. President Mohamed bin Zayed.

Indonesia's, Nahdlatul Ulama, the world's largest and most moderate civil society movement challenges the traditional approach. It insists that removal of outdated, obsolete, and supremacist concepts in Sharia is the only way to fortify Islam against religious and political extremism and promote political, social, and religious pluralism, religious tolerance, and democracy. My guest today, Andrew March, a University of Massachusetts Amherst professor is an Islam scholar and author of several books published last month.


Andrew's last book on Muslim democracy is a translation of essays by Rached Ghannouchi, a Tunisian politician, public intellectual, religious thinker, and founder of a political party that evolved from Islamism to Muslim democracy in many ways comparable to Christian democratic parties. The book is also a philosophical discussion between the two.

Mr. Ghannouchi was named one of Time's 100 most influential people in the world in 2012 and Foreign Policy’s top 100 global thinkers. Eighty-two years old, Mr. Ghannouchi is the latest high- profile figure to have been arrested on charges of incitement against state authorities by the autocratic regime of President Kais Saied. Ghannouchi went on hunger strike this week.

Ghannouchi is a middle ground figure in the debate about what constitutes moderate Islam and how to reform the faith. Reform of Sharia may be one step too far for him. Yet, his evolution from Islamism or political Islam to Muslim democracy positions him as a democratic reformer.

It raises the question of whether Mr. Ghannouchi and  his Ennahda Party are models for groups like the Muslim Brotherhood or the exception that confirms the rule that political Islam is inflexible, rigid, and opposed to moderate interpretations of Islam and a threat to secularism. Andrew March joins me to discuss all of this.

Andrew, welcome to the show and congratulations on the publication of your latest book. Thanks

Andrew March (03:15):

Thank you so much for having me. I'm very, very happy to be here.

James M. Dorsey (03:18):

It's a pleasure and an honour to have you.

Let's kick off with your intellectual journey, if I may. What drove you to the study of Islam? How did you come to know Rached Ghannouchi and what is your relationship with it?

Andrew March (03:33):

Well, I have been studying Arabic and Islam for almost 27 years now. I started as an undergraduate doing Arabic and Middle Eastern studies. I did my PhD in political theory, but because I was so passionate about the study of Arabic and Islamic intellectual traditions, my dissertation and my first book was on Islamic thought related to the moral and ethical position of Muslim minorities living in non-Muslim liberal democracies. So that was a study of an Islamic legal discourse called Fiqh al-Aqalliyyat or the Jurisprudence of Muslim minorities. My second book published in 2019 called ‘The Caliphate of Man: Popular Sovereignty in Modern Islamic Thought’ is a study of the development of a certain kind of commitment to popular sovereignty and a certain kind of ideal theory of an Islamic democracy in 20th and 21st century Islamic thought. The thought of Ghannouchi is very central to that, and in fact, in that book, I sort of argue that the modern project of imagining a state that is both equally faithful to divine sovereignty and yet fully democratic and supportive of the idea of the people as sovereign culminates in Ghannouchi’s sort of writings in the 1980s and 90s, particularly his book Public Freedoms in the Islamic State.

I came to know him and his family in around 2013 or 14 I believe. I was editing a translation series with Yale University Press, and we wanted to translate his book Public Freedoms in the Islamic State. So I came to know him and his family that way, and then through visiting Tunisia and visiting him in his home, we conceived of the idea of doing this book, which consists in a translation of ten of his essays and speeches and writings on themes related to pluralism and democracy and Muslim democracy, which is a kind of turn from Islamic democracy to a different conception of politics, combined with a lengthy sort of week-long dialogue between him and me as a kind of an Islamic political philosopher and a western political philosopher discussing issues related to law, pluralism, democracy, and his own intellectual trajectory. I came to know him and a number of members of his family quite closely over those years. Of course, now he's a political prisoner since April, very unfortunately, and so all we can hope is that somehow through international pressure or the Tunisian legal system, he'll be released before it's too late.

James M. Dorsey (06:42):

Indeed. Maybe it's a good thing to sort of describe Ronin, not so much in terms of his politics, but who is he as a person?

Andrew March (06:53):

Well, separating him from his politics is very difficult. He's been sort of a full-time leader of the Ennahda Party for I guess almost 45 years now, including during a lengthy period of exile in England. Personally, he is a very reserved, deliberate, quiet, non-sort of flamboyant personality. He is not somebody that seeks out attention for himself. He is not somebody that is known for kind of over the top pronouncements. He's very calm, he's very systematic. He, of course, is very, very close to his family, very committed to his family, and a very thoughtful person who I think is usually happiest reading and writing and was sort of thrust into high politics because of the vagaries of history.

James M. Dorsey (08:06):

Ghannouchi and his Ennahada Party played a key role in what long seemed to be the Arab world's only post-2011 popular revolts, successful transition from autocracy to democracy. Can you describe what his and the party's contribution was and maybe some of the debates that took place?

Andrew March (08:28):

Of course, Tunisia had first a long transitional period, a long constitutive period of drafting the post authoritarian constitution between 2011 and 2014, and so we need to divide the period of Tunisian democracy up into a number of period. The first 2011, perhaps to what we call the crisis year of 2013 and 14, and then the period of 2014 to 2019 during the presidency of Beji Caid Essebsi, and then the period 2019 to 2021, which resulted in the coup by Kais Saied. At at the beginning, in the first election to the National Constituent Assembly in 2011. The Ennahada Party won 41 per cent of the vote, and so had the dominant role in the National Constituent Assembly, but not enough of a role to dictate the terms of the transition or to dictate the terms of the new constitution. So, the first thing to note, before we discuss anything related to their ideology or their own political priorities, is that their structural situation was very different from that of the Muslim brotherhood in Egypt where the combined Islamist forces of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafi parties had closer to 70 per cent of the seats in the constituent assembly.

So, from the beginning, Ennahada preferred to and had to adopt a kind of conciliatory position by entering into coalitions with other parties during the first period during the National Constituent Assembly. This was with certain more pro-democratic revolutionary forces like Moncef Marzouki’s Congress of the Republic. Marzouki, of course, was the first democratic president of Tunisia between 2011 and 2014, and so the long period of drafting a constitution was remarkable because it was a constitution that was drafted in radically democratic conditions, more democratic even than I would say Egypt, which of course had a open democratic process, but was kind of overseen and supervised by the institutions of the old regime, the Supreme Court, the judiciary, and, of course, the army. In the case of Tunisia, the situation was much more democratic and there was a strong argument that the constitution that came out in 2014 represented a constitution that reflected the actual demographic and ideological reality of the country.

And so the first thing to note is that while Ennahada has always been a kind of moderate party willing to enter into coalitions and compromises with a wide range of political actors. The most important thing was the electoral situation of the country, which dictated governance by consensus, by coalition by agreement. No political party was able to dictate the shape or contours of the post-authoritarian system. And then the next big event there was the crisis year of 2013 and 14 when you had the coup in Egypt, you had a number of high-profile assassinations in Tunisia, and there was a real concern that something similar could happen in Tunisia as happened in Egypt with regards to a counter revolutionary coup. And the response of Ghannouchi and Ennahda at that time was sort of out of necessity to make a kind of deal with the party of the ancien regime, particularly in the figure of Beji Caid Essebsi who became president in 2014, resulting in a kind of five-year informal period of alliance between Ennahda and Essebsi’s Nidaa Tounes party.

James M. Dorsey (13:02):

You've talked a bit about the comparison with Egypt in structural terms. To what degree, if at all, did personality play a role in the way that Egypt developed on the one hand and Tunisia on the other?

Andrew March (13:23):

It's hard to know too much about that. It's hard to know unless you're really an insider, what the actual room for maneuvering is, how much personality or personal ties played a role? Many people do believe that because the Tunisian opposition had developed ties over decades in exile between London and Paris, that there were personal relationships and a kind of groundwork for what a post-authoritarian system might look like, and I take that very seriously. I do also believe that Ghannouchi has a kind of risk averse personality and political strategy, was very, very concerned above all to prevent essentially what did happen in 2011, which was a coup and a criminalization of Ennahda and widespread imprisonment of its activists. So, I think his strategy was manifold during this period to advance Tunisian democracy to try to create a stable constitutional democratic system, including on the base of consensus with ideological rivals, but also to avoid situations in which Ennahda overreached and allowed for a pretext of justifying authoritarian backlash. So it's very, very hard to know how you isolate the role of personality apart from what other kinds of structural and institutional pressures that political actors have. So. I don't really have anything particularly insightful to say about a comparison, let's say between Ghannouchi and Mohamed Morsi or other figures in the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.

James M. Dorsey (15:17):

Right. You talked sort of structurally about the need for Ennahda and for Ghannouchi, to, if you wish, compromise work with forces it may not necessarily be ideologically aligned with. Perhaps you can walk us through some of the sort of concessions or moves that Ghannouchi and Ennahda had made, which resulted ultimately in them redefining themselves no longer as an Islamist party, but as a Muslim Democracy party. Walk us through some of those compromises and steps that they took.

Andrew March (16:04):

Well, at the ideological level, the best-known areas in which Ennahda had to compromise in the drafting of the Constitution was first in agreeing to no inclusion of any reference to the Islamic Sharia in the Constitution. So, as you and your listeners will surely know, many constitutions of Muslim majority states have some clause in their constitution that makes reference to something about the role of the Islamic Sharia in the legal system that could be defined positively, like traditionally in Egypt, that all legislation must be based on the Islamic Sharia or its principles or its objectives, or that no legislation may be repugnant to the Islamic Sharia. So that exists in constitutions like Pakistan, Iraq, Egypt, so on and so forth. And that historically never existed in Tunisia. Of course, under the secularist rule of Habib Bourguiba, and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, and some activists and participants in the constituent assembly were hoping that there may be some kind of reference to this in the Tunisian constitution, and that was something that they had to compromise on.

Second, traditionally, Ennahda preferred a more radical parliamentary system as opposed to a mixed parliamentary and presidential system. Now, whether that is because they genuinely thought that it would be more democratic, some scholars say that this is a sign of principle because they also advocated for a lower parliamentary threshold such that would allow the inclusion of political parties that may be hostile to Ennahda. Others might claim that they thought that in free parliamentary elections based on proportional representation that Ennahda would always do well but might not be able to win an open presidential contest. Nonetheless, they also conceded on that and agreed to the mixed parliamentary presidential system that existed between 2014 and 2021. And then people often talk about this famous issue around speaking about gender relations in the Constitution and not to propose a certain kind of language in which it said that men and women have something called tekamul in Arabic, which is sometimes an English translated as complementarity, suggesting that there was a kind of lack of equality that women are complimentary to men.

Ghannouchi will sometimes say that that's a kind of misunderstanding, that it's a mutual completion to tekamul from the Arabic route kamala, to complete something. But nonetheless, many in Tunisia, there's a strong secular and feminist tradition in Tunisia, preferred to remove that ambiguity and stress, the equality of the genders and Ennahda compromised on that. So, at the level of ideology and principle, those are the things that people talk about a lot to sort of give evidence of a Ennahda’s willingness to kind of enter into a more secular constitution than they may have ideally wished for. Another thing that Ghannouchi himself writes about is the language by which the 2014 Constitution refers to human rights. So, it not only endorses the idea of human rights, but refers to the universality of human rights norms, and of course, accepting some of these human rights principles is one thing. Endorsing them as universal could be seen as somewhat epistemically controversial because it raises the question of the independence and authority of independent Islamic norms. And Ghannouchi defends this on the grounds that Islamists can't be opposed to human rights. There's nothing in human rights that we don't endorse or benefit from, and so there's no harm in endorsing them as universal. So, there was a number of both substantive and symbolic ideological areas on which they either agreed with their secular colleagues or acquiesced in order to bring about the 2014 constitution.

James M. Dorsey (20:46):

Sticking for a moment with the human rights issue, would the conclusion of what you were just describing be that Ghannouchi and Ennahda unambiguously endorsed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is something that most Islamic groups and states have actually refused to do. They've done it conditionally, excluding certain articles, not Nahdlatul Ulama,, the Indonesian group being the exception. So, would that be a correct description?

Andrew March (21:23):

Yeah, I think it's a correct description. I also think that you have to keep in mind that there's a distinction between political context in which these things are worked out as political problems versus context in which they are discussed as intellectual or religious or ideological or epistemic problems. And so ,in his writings, Ghannouchi will still say that religious foundations for human rights are still superior to secular foundations because of their origin, because of their grounding, because of their moral motivation, and because human beings as creatures need some kind of orientation to the divine. He'll also say that the ultimately authoritative interpretation of human rights is given by religion. And so, I think we need to make a distinction between these things as political decisions versus the way they're debated in extra political ideological debates.

James M. Dorsey (22:29):

Would that also be a distinction in terms of how you define language that is used in the universal declaration where you…

Andrew March (22:42):

Yeah, I mean, so there's two ways in which Islamist thinkers often approach this. One, they go through human rights declarations, and they say, here are these things that we also value, freedom of conscience, social freedoms, freedom of religion, et cetera, et cetera. But Islam has its own interpretation of these things. And the other is to say, here is how these things are interpreted today. And because certain things like tyranny or authoritarianism are greater enemies, we do not prioritise a conflict with human rights norms because that's much greater priority. It's a much greater priority to overturn authoritarianism and despotism than to insist on our own interpretation in every particular context.

James M. Dorsey (23:43):

As one looks at the trajectory of Ghannouchi and Ennahda, what does it tell us or does it tell us anything about the potential evolution of non-violent Islamist groups more generally, like the Muslim Brotherhood?

Andrew March (24:00):

Yeah, I think it tells us a lot, and again, I think what it says is that focusing on internal ideological debates, focusing on intellectual moderation, focusing on these parties’ own internal trajectories or journeys is one thing, but focusing on the particular political conditions in which they're operating can be a lot more important. And so again, I've already said this, but think about the difference in the ideological contours of the constituent assemblies in Tunisia versus Egypt. And so, you had an overwhelming Islamist majority, a super majority in the Egyptian constituent assembly. And so, the Muslim Brotherhood, which was still the largest group, is both concerned about different kinds of secular or democratic parties, but also about the Salafis who are coming at them from the right, and they're concerned about the deep state and the security services in the army and so on and so forth.

And so their decisions are not only ideological, but they're also tactical and strategic, and they're based on judgments about the political terrain or look at the trajectory of something like Erdogan's AKP party in Turkey over the past 20 to 25 years. The language of Muslim democracy was also mobilised there, but you have to consider the various kinds of political and institutional rivals that they have faced over the past 25 years. Nationalist parties, the Turkish state, the judiciary, the army. And so, the emphasis on democracy or the emphasis on ideological agreement comes as a result of the immediate and medium-term political contest context. So, I would say where you have an Islamist or a post-Islamist party that's dealing in a relatively democratic transitional period that is one that's not curated or supervised by an army or an occupying force or the security services, the question is what is the overall kind of ideological scene? If they are counterbalanced by parties that have significant electoral weight, that will be a reality. And so, I think ideology and politics sort of move hand in hand in those situations.

James M. Dorsey (26:46):

Do you have a sense of how other Islamist or Muslim brotherhood inspired groups responded to the path travelled by Nahdlatul Ulama?

Andrew March (26:58):

Well, I think on the one hand there was a sense that good for them for avoiding a coup for participating in power. On the other hand, there was this sense, look how much they gave up. They had to give up everything about their ideology. They had to declare that they were no longer Islamist. They had to compromise on everything, and they were still regarded as unacceptable by many secular political activists and were still sort of subject to a coup. I think a lot of the lesson is not so much that Ennahda provides a path for us to political inclusion or participation or power. I think Erdogan is much, much more a symbol of that. But I think the lesson that you hear a lot from Islamists is we were told that democracy and compromise will be a path towards inclusion, but look at Tunisia, they compromised on everything and then they lost everything.

This is something that's stressed a lot when people talk about why Europe and why the United States should have done a lot more to prevent or to undo the coup, because there is a sense that if you want Islamist parties to believe that there is some incentive in democratic participation, you have to protect and reward those parties that go down that path. So, a lot of people, not unreasonably say the path towards inclusion and participation when you are not an overwhelming majority is a trap, and unless you're able to get rid of the deep state, get rid of the existing judiciary or army, you're just going to be sort of sitting there like a sitting duck waiting for them to res springing the trap.

James M. Dorsey (28:51):

It seems to me that post-2011 Ghannouchi was focused on Tunisian politics and his role and that of his party in the transition rather than on religious reform. As such, was his notion of a separation of religion and politics, a separation of mosque and state? And perhaps you can also talk to us about his acceptance of the principle of popular sovereignty alongside divine sovereignty and the significance of that.

Andrew March (29:24):

Right. Well, I think those are two separate questions. The first is that Islamist movements will sometimes speak about a political project which involves pushing for democratic elections or competing in democratic elections, or pressuring the state for certain compromises or using the courts or the judiciary for certain kinds of projects, and a preaching or dawa project in which you are trying to preach to people in your society about Islam, trying to persuade people to adopt a more pious lifestyle, who are trying to influence the public sphere in that way. So, technically what Ennahda said is that they separated their Dawa activities from their party activities. So, the party is not a comprehensive dawa and electoral apparatus. Those activities are separate. The metaphor of mosque and state doesn't really make any sense in Islamic countries because just the way that it might not make sense in Protestant countries because the metaphor of church and state is something I think is heavily influenced by a Catholic context in which the church is a corporate entity.

The church has a certain kind of hierarchy. The church has authority, the church may have land, it may have property, it may have certain kinds of legal privileges, and in certain kinds of Catholic context, it may have certain claims on an affiliation with the state. Now, in the Islamic context, it's not so much that there's a mosque that is there to participate in the state. It's that the state has an obligation to consult with religious scholars or to make the legal system look more like Islamic law or to create a kind of body like a Supreme Court, maybe partly composed of religious scholars to supervise the legal system. So, the metaphor of mosque and state I think is a bit of a distraction. What I would say in that regard is that Muslim democracy, in my opinion, amounts to is that everything is political, and so there's no extra political authority like a set of religious scholars or a body of such authorities that is set up to supervise the political institution.

But it also does not mean that elected officials have an obligation to not be religious or not to advocate for laws on a religious basis. Everything is kind of contested and worked out through politics rather than through extra political means. As to your second question, in my reading, the question of popular sovereignty underwent a kind of radical transformation of traditional theory as expressed in public freedoms. In the Islamic state, the people is sovereign because the people is pious. And so, the way that the duality of divine and popular sovereignty is worked out is that God is sovereign ultimately but has delegated all of his authority and the obligation to interpret and implement the Sharia to the ummah, to the people. But the people is qualified to do this because we assume that the essence of the people, at least in its overwhelming majority, is believing in pious and committed to this.

And so there's a kind of moral unity and moral identity to the people where it's a Muslim people that can be sovereign. By contrast, the turn to Muslim democracy recognises that the actually existing people is diverse. It's not only composed of pious Muslims. It's not only composed people that want to act as God's divinely appointed caliph on earth. It's composed of secular people and communists and feminist and nationalists. It begins with the fact that you have to accept that the actually existing ideological diversity in whatever society you're operating is a constraint on politics, and you accept that because you're committed to democracy at the expense of authoritarianism more than you're committed to the immediate triumph of your religious worldview. So, it's a kind of a commitment to agonistic pluralism where you say, we don't need to agree with everybody, and they don't need to prove their ideological legitimacy on Islamic grounds. They just need to prove that they're democrats, and then we can focus on what kinds of things we might have in common. So. it's a genuinely transformative shift in how you understand the nature of the people.

James M. Dorsey (34:28):

And in that sense, so from Ghannouchi or Ennahda’s point of view, would a country like Indonesia, which is essentially a secular state, would that qualify as a Muslim democracy in the sense or in the definition that Ghannouchi applies?

Andrew March (34:47):

I mean, as you probably know, Ghannouchi was quite popular in Malaysia and Indonesia, and he visited there and spoke on a number of occasions, and his thought I think had a lot of resonance there where there's an idea that certain aspects of politics ought to have an Islamic orientation or identity, but it's not completely monopolised by a kind of juridical framework. And so, scholars often talk about Malaysia, I think more than Indonesia, but possibly both as areas, where certain kinds of parties and movements saw themselves as simultaneously committed to democracy and to kind of having a place for Islam in the public sphere without believing that this is articulated through a kind of morally unified or homogenous Islamic state.

James M. Dorsey (35:42):

I realise this is a bit of a speculative question, but if we stay with Indonesia for a moment, and you look at a group like Nahdlatul Ulama, they advocate, I mean their fundamental position is that one needs to reform Sharia. If one wanted to really truly reform Islam, do you have a sense of what Ghannouchi’s response to that would be?

Andrew March (36:13):

Ghannouchi writes about that a lot. On the one hand, he will very often say that the Sharia is timeless and it's authoritative and it's obligatory, but what's timeless and authoritative and obligatory in the Sharia is its principles and its objectives, not its particular rules. And so, that's one point. He's very, very open to the idea that what the Sharia is, is constantly subject to renegotiation based on the interpretive position of certain communities, the worldly needs of certain communities at particular times, and an interpretation of the way that general principles are transformed into particulars. On the other hand, he will say that particularly in the turn to Muslim democracy, that politics has a certain kind of priority to the law in a traditional Islamic conception of politics, law precedes politics. We know what the Sharia is, even if there's some room for flexibility or reinterpretation that precedes politics, it gives politics its shape, and then politics is about the application of law.

Ghannouchi kind of flips that and says that politics is characterised by things like the need for stability, the need for consensus, the need for worldly prosperity, the need for worldly goods, and that prior to any kind of application of the law. But it may occur within that political context by political actors. And so, he's not necessarily giving a new jurisprudence where he says, here's a new version of family law or criminal law or a contract law based on my ijtihad (interpretation), he's sort of saying, we ought to see Sharia in these terms and then leave it to the democratic process in particular places to see how that might be articulated.

James M. Dorsey (38:23):

Articulated in terms of a change in Islamic jurisprudence or articulated in terms of articulating that in civil law?

Andrew March (38:38):

Well, both. So, the point is, if a particular country or context has a public deliberative process in which they debate the meaning of family law or polygamy or inheritance, and that is incorporated into the civil law, but based on let's say, debates around the Qur’an or Islamic jurisprudential tradition, then in that context you can say that there was an interpretation of Sharia that made its way into the civil law, but that's different from saying their reinterpretation or ijtihad is a new kind of fiqh that ought to be valid for other contexts.

James M. Dorsey (39:29):

If one takes the example of Ennahda for a second, again, in terms of their call for jurisprudential reform of Sharia, you've had two instances so far. One was in 2019, a fatwa by 20,000 Indonesian Muslim scholars that eradicated the concept of the kafir or the infidel in Islamic jurisprudence and replaced it with the concept of the citizen with equal rights irrespective of religion, ethnicity, gender, whatever. And you had a second pronouncement earlier this year, which was the elimination of the concept of a caliphate as such and replacing it with the notion of the nation state. What is your sense of what Ghannouchi’s response to that would've been? Is that something he would've embraced?

Andrew March (40:43):

Well, Ghannouchi takes the fact of the nation state as a kind of existing fact on the ground and a constraint, and so, they were very much a Tunisian political party committed to the idea of Tunisian nationality, and very often would use concepts like a Tunisian particularity or Tunisiyya based on the idea of a tradition of reform since the 19th century. Now, it doesn't follow from that the idea of worldwide Islamic unity perhaps under a single institution would be declared religiously defunct or something like that. It's simply not the level at which they operate.

James M. Dorsey (41:31):

Is there a reason for that or is that just simply the way things are?

Andrew March (41:36):

I mean, why would you bring that up? I mean, they're a political party that's trying to be successful in Tunisia. What do they stand to gain from entering into arcane debates about the fundamental status or validity of the nation state? It's just not relevant to their political activism.

James M. Dorsey (41:59):

Right. Andrew, this has been a fascinating conversation. I wish that we had more time to follow through on that, but I'm sure there will be future occasions for that. Thank you for joining the show today. Congratulations on the book, and I wish you all the best.

Andrew March (42:20):

Thanks so much for having me. I really enjoyed the conversation, and best of luck with the podcast in your newsletter.

James M. Dorsey (42:26):

Thank you, and all the best. Bye-bye.

James M. Dorsey (42:30):

Thank you for joining me today. I hope you enjoyed today's column and podcast. The Turbulent World with James M. Dorsey depends on the support of its readers. For the past 12 years, I have maintained free distribution as a way of maximising impact. I am determined to keep it that way. However, to avoid putting up a paywall, I need the support of a core of voluntary paid subscribers to cover the cost of producing the column in podcast. If you believe that the column in podcast add value to your understanding and that of the broader public, please consider becoming a paid subscriber. You can do so by clicking on Substack on the subscription button at and choosing one of the subscription options.

Thank you. Take care and best wishes.

Dr. James M. Dorsey is an Honorary Fellow at Singapore’s Middle East Institute-NUS, an Adjunct Senior Fellow at Nanyang Technological University’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, and the author of the syndicated column and podcast, The Turbulent World with James M. Dorsey.


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