Editor’s Note: Tarik Yousef appeared on BBC World News America to speak with chief anchor
Matt Frei about the recent Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship and how economic ties and entrepreneurial innovation can become a foundation for strengthening relations between the U.S. and Muslim world. Yousef is a nonresident senior fellow with the Middle East Youth Initiative, which just released a report on social entrepreneurship in the Middle East.
Matt Frei: I’m now joined by Tarik Yousef, dean of the Dubai School of Government and senior fellow at the Middle East Youth Initiative at the Brookings Institution. Great to have you on the program, Tarik. The point of this conference isn’t just to try to see how people might make money in the Middle East, it’s also to try and bring democracy – the marriage between freedom and entrepreneurship, between business and democracy. Is that a link that’s pie in the sky, or do you think it might actually happen?
Tarik Yousef: It might actually happen. Incidentally, the word democracy was used perhaps only once or twice in the entire two days of deliberations.
Frei: Why do you think that is?
Yousef: Because I think people were cognizant on both sides of the legacy of the previous administration and how the rhetoric of democratization and the practice of foreign policy behind it had created so much distrust.
Frei: So democracy, in an American context, is a dirty word in the Middle East?
Yousef: I would say it carries excess baggage and it reminds people of what happened post-9/11 during two terms for President Bush. What was emphasized in the last two days was economic opportunity, individual opportunity, freedom, partnership, civic engagement – a new sort of a beginning between the Muslim world and the United States of America based on mutual respect and mutual trust. I thought by the end of two days of this, people were beginning to buy into the notion that this could very well be a new beginning. After all, the administration was full force there; everyone committed themselves to the idea of a partnership.