Judyth: Welcome Gabriel to the show.
Gabriel: Thank you Judyth, I am delighted to be on your show.
Judyth: You are British citizen originally from Lebanon why do you chose to live in London?
Gabriel: In the seventies when the war in Lebanon started, a lot of media institutions moved to Europe, and most of them to London or Paris. So the publishing company with which I was working decided to move from Beirut to London in 1979, so I moved with it. In reality it was always an ambition to work in London because for me it is a leading global city, so for a political journalist point of vu, it was the ideal place to be and for a man who loves arts, education, theatre and history it was the place to settle in and live.
Judyth: How and when did you know that you would be a journalist or an author?
Gabriel: I still remember that when I was little boy, about 10 years old, I used to see my dad reading a newspaper called al-Hayat (Life), it is an influential political and independent daily pan-Arab newspaper, and always he used to call me to sit near him so he could read to me some news. I think from that moment something toward writing and journalism was built in my head. As I progressed through my education it became clear what my strengths were and things progressed from there.
For example, when I finished my high school my late father asked me what I wanted to do as a career. My reply was a journalist. And after several years on my graduation in political and economic sciences and working as reporter, journalist, correspondent, assistant manager editor, I became the managing editor in Dar al-Hayat in London the most important newspaper for my father. At that moment he told me “my son you made me proud you have realized your dream and mine”.
Judyth: Who are some of your mentors?
Gabriel: I have couple of mentors but the most important one who affected my journalistic life was a very well-known Lebanese journalist named Salim Lozi. He was the publisher of two magazines Al-Hawadess and The Events, where I started my journalistic life. Sadly he was killed by the Syrians because of his independence and liberalism. He taught me that to be a good journalist, be fair and balanced and don’t be afraid to be with the truth whatever the consequences; he paid with his life because of that credo.
Judyth: Key qualities that successful people share?
Gabriel: In my opinion, before you can achieve success or speak about its key qualities, you need to define what success means to you. Unless you have a clear vision of what success is to you, you cannot work towards it.
Success means different things to different people. For some, monetary reward is a measure of success. Yet others have multiple definition of success. But whatever the definition, we know that in order to succeed, you must first be willing to fail, because the greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure. However, the most important key rests on happiness…success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful in any definition in my opinion.
Judyth: Is there any difference to being a journalist/author in The Middle East compared to in the USA or Europe?
Gabriel: Of course there is a big difference between how you write a political story in The Middle East and North Africa and how you write about a political situation in the West. In Europe and USA you analyse any story on the logic of political science, in the Middle East the political story is based on religion and traditions, it is politics of religions. So to become a specialist on Middle East and North Africa I studied Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Also I have visited every country in the Middle East and North Africa, to learn about all their traditions and the anthropology of the two regions.
Judyth: What is the most important lesson you have learnt in your career?
Gabriel: Never agree to anything over the phone. There's no record of what was said and things that get forgotten can lead to disputes later on. Also, if either or both of you are on cell-phones and have poor signals sometimes critical words can get cut out. If there is a need for communication via phone always tell the client that you will write up what you talked about, email it to him so he can confirm it for your records and to clarify anything that may be incorrect before moving on.
Judyth: According to your website you met very important people in your career: Kings, Presidents, Prime Ministers …my question is: who told you something that affected you that you still remember until now?
Gabriel: I have met a lot of world leaders from democratic ones to dictators. The one who gives an example about the effect of power on people was the ex-president of Tunisia: Zein El-Abedine Bin Ali. In my first interview with him after his overthrow President for Life El-Habib Bourguiba in 1986, he told me that he overthrew Bourguiba because he was not a king, and thus could not stay in power for ever – that democracy must prevail.
He continued, saying that he would change the constitution that nobody would be able to stay in power more than two 5-years terms, and that the only way to power would be fair elections. In late nineties, I interviewed him another time, and asked him: “I see Mr President that you are still in power”. He replied laughingly that it was “The will of the people”.
Until his overthrow in February 2011 he remained president, and was considering changing the constitution to be a president for life.
Judyth: What advice would you give to young journalists if they were to ask?
Gabriel: I encourage young journalists to create a niche for themselves. Find a subject, area, or region that you are particularly interested in and become an expert on it, while of course honing your writing and reporting skills. That’s the best way to stand out in an already-crowded field and in an industry that is constantly evolving and changing. Also, write, write, write - practice and experience will help you improve with time. Another piece of advice would be to learn how to report in all media (broadcast, web, etc.) because versatility is key. Finally, finding mentors in the field whose work you admire is invaluable - they will provide you with advice, guidance and valuable criticism.
Judyth: What is the inspiration behind your latest book (Jihad’s New Heartlands: Why The West Has Failed To Contain Islamic Fundamentalism)?
Gabriel: This book, is a continued evolution of my interest in the Greater Middle East – which is a highly complicated political ecosystem. For several years I have seen the press, politicians, voters and commentators misinterpret the current state of Islamic radicalism both in the Middle East as well as in The West.
Furthermore, there is a lack of accessible material on the subject, so it felt natural to try and help a broader audience understand what is really going on as opposed to leaving them at the mercy of sensationalist or biased media sources.
Judyth: Main message you want your readers to gain from reading your book?
Gabriel: To me, non-fiction books should be written to bring light to poorly understood topics. I just hope that I have been able to provide people with a complete, unbiased and accurate analysis of the issue of Islamic fundamentalism. Not only its genesis and history, but also the specific challenges it poses to the Western Establishment as well as political forces across the Middle East – both at home and abroad.
You see, Islamic fundamentalism is not an organised entity-managed through one theocratic-politico leader. Instead it is an amalgamation of various views, missions, traditions and beliefs – with its own internal as well as external pressures. Given the recent death of Osama bin Laden and the Revolutions across the Middle East this is not a topic that can be afforded the luxury of being misunderstood or unappreciated any longer.
Judyth: How can people find out more about you and about your book?
Gabriel: They can visit my website www.gabrielgtabarani.co.uk or the websites of Amazon.com, barnesand noble.com or they can google or bing my name Gabriel G Tabarani and they can have all the needed information.
Judyth: Thank you to be on the Show Gabriel you must repeat it.
Gabriel: Thank you Judyth for having me on your lovely program, I was happy and honoured.