Fellow Since 2008
Association of development of enviroment CDA
This profile was prepared when Tarek Ramadan was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2008.
The New Idea
Tarek is addressing accelerating rates of violence with a system of local arbitrators—called muhakim—chosen by each community for their natural authority and ability to bring calm and reason into conflict situations. He calls for the redesign of a traditional grassroots system of dispute resolution that was lost as the formal justice system of top-down courts and institutional bureaucracy supplanted community responsibility for delivering supposedly fair and impartial justice. Tarek’s idea is grounded on the inherent power of local ownership coupled with mutual responsibility and pride. He has designed a system by which a retired professional, business leader, judge, or teacher is identified and selected—and later elected—by each neighborhood to be a muhakim (mediator, informal judge, arbitrator). The muhakim operate outside the formal justice system, but their careful selection by the community ensures that they are not only trustworthy but also respected and appreciated by the community where they serve. In a participatory manner that builds on traditional ethics and values, these leaders follow a model designed by Tarek that emphasizes a set of rules and regulations, a system for conflict resolution, and the maintenance of peace and harmony, particularly in the low-income suburbs and slums. At its heart, Tarek is building common cause among community development agencies (CDAs) whose interests are served by serving their constituencies with a full range of local support, including safety and security. Tarek envisions the state adopting his model, eventually replacing the current “committees” that have proven ineffective in reducing violence.