Centered on Civil Liberties & Political Issues, Human Development & Socioeconomic Matters
Every now and then, you read some comments or hear people blaming Muslims and Arabs for the ongoing chaos and unending violence currently happening throughout the world. At large, people, mainly those living in the North Western hemisphere, criticize most of the Muslim world, Arab countries in particular, for being cruel, belligerent and undeferential of international human rights. They see most Arab and Muslim people as either ferocious extremists or dormant notional populists, or fluffy pleasure seekers.
Many of those blamers relate the inscrutable case of Muslim and Arab nations to the intense presence of Islamic fundamentalism and extremism, others to the rigid application of Islamic Sharia (laws) and traditions, some others to the spread of poverty, lack of civil education and general awareness. While, moderate analysts link it up to several sociopolitical factors: primarily to the absence of democracy and real human development, to the existence of autocratic regimes, prolonged colonization and indirect foreign dominance.
On the Eastern side of the hemisphere, the many of Arabs and Muslims blame their governments, leaderships as well as paramount world powers for their underdevelopment and adversity. They denounce most powerful western countries, like UK, U.S., France Russia, Germany, etc… for being a group of opportunistic countries who just seek national interest at any cost. Summing up that, though those advanced nations practice democracy at home, preach high moralistic values and lecture democratic orientations, yet their foreign policies and international dealings are in contrast with what they proclaim. Unfortunately, considering why and how western powers are ignoring the ongoing massacres in Syria (where more than 120 thousand Syrian have been slaughtered) is affirming Arabs allegations—not to mention their supportive role of Egypt’s Islamist groups.
Many Muslims analysts associate the current chaotic sociopolitical situations to the rise and spread of foreign ideologies; like socialism, communism, capitalism and wild liberalistic notions. While a large number of Arabs and Muslims relate their economic stagnation to some ceaseless foreign political manipulative process and covert intelligence operations. They also believe that such unenviable foreign activities, along with the unending series of security threats, are constraining their political will and national capabilities to employ their economic resources as per their own political and socioeconomic interests.
Actually, given the notions and accusations of both camps, one starts to wonder who is to blame, and what is the mere fact of such contentious matter? Obviously, none is easy to answer.
To get onto such case, however, one have to leave off his/her absorbed suspicions, prejudice and prejudgments in order to be able to ideate the bare truth. As neutral as possible, the unfortunate fact is that most of those allegations and conclusions are somehow valid. Otherwise, it would not have been that knotty to build real trust between East and West.
Looking to the East in an attempt to tag one common destabilizing factor (though some have more than one) among many restless Asian and African countries, such as China, Myanmar, Philippine, Indonesia, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Chechnya, Turkey, Cyprus, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestinian territories, Bahrain, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Mali, Nigeria and others, will bring out one answer. Away from any defensive instinct or justification, it is the heavy presence of hardline Islamic fundamentalist groups and adverse role of militant Muslim extremists.
Likewise, a look into the regional security and political conditions of the Arab world, the supposed guiding center of the Muslim world, will show that Arab countries are struggling to cope with the aftereffects of devising many militant radical groups, not to discuss why some Arab authorities have clandestinely supported Islamic fundamentalism for more than half-century. In fact, Arab governments are now paying a heavy price to decommission the fanatic killing machines, they themselves, along with the U.S., have caused to sprout in order to fight the communist Soviet Union in Afghanistan.
As to the issue of Islamic Sharia and traditions, albeit that the present malpractices and inflexible frame of mind of many Muslims are mislabeling the entire Muslim world, nonetheless the fact is that the current pattern is neither intrinsic in Islam nor based on Islamic divine dictations. Actually, the issue of rigidity is an agelong cleric-made case, which is a dispiriting case to the mass majority of moderate Muslims—let alone Muslim and non-Muslim intellects.
Like or not, the responsibility falls on all Islamic religious authorities (industries would be more accurate) as well as on their fundamentalist peers, who have wrongly misinterpreted and falsely redefined a number of pivotal Islamic teachings just to maintain a solid grip over the social life of Muslim people, especially over those devout and poverty-stricken Muslims. Disregarding that, in Islam, there are no clergymen or always-right Imams or divine commandment, which grants those religious industries the right to impose their readings on the Muslim masses, given that the Qur’anic scripture call for the abolishment of all sorts of priesthood, clergy and sheikhdom.
Over and above that, the world sees and hears Arab and Muslim governments openly claim their strong inclination to facilitate democratic reform and secularization. While, at the same time, they discreetly empower the role, fund the operations and authorize the rulings of their national religious authorities so that to have indirect control of what is beyond their political authorities. Bearing in mind that, in the golden days of Islam, it was the masses who had the prerogatives to nominate and select (by a majority vote) the Caliph, Muslims’ highest religious reference and top executive— not some group of influential politicians.To the contrary, nowadays, it is the governments, who officially appoint, through a prearranged good word of some alleged Islamic religious council, the Grand Muftis, the supposed heads of national religious authority. Knowing that, the grand Mufti, Islamic judges and all other bureaucrats are fully paid government employees who are mostly appointed for their loyalty, irrespective of their knowledge and integrity.
On the socioeconomic and human development track, there is no doubt that the big share of Muslim nations are among the poorest countries of the world, seeing that even rich Arab countries have failed to reduce their high levels of poverty and illiteracy. It is depressing to know that, according to UNHDR 2010, around 40% (over 140 million) of Arab population including oil-rich countries live below the poverty line. While on the literacy level, one in three Arab people is illiterate (over 120 million people), including 46.5% of all Arab women. To make it worst, albeit the obvious failure of Arab countries, they keep talk fancy about the importance of human development and economic progress, rather than putting forth efforts to overcome these disastrous shortcomings
In effect, this alarming reality is not only crippling any reform process and development efforts to modernize Arab and Muslim communities, but also adding enormous risks to the security and safety of all nations, since poverty and ignorance are the bottom layers of terrorism and criminal acts.
To their discredit, most Arab authorities, likewise many other Muslim countries, still blame other nations for their cultural downslope and low nation-worth, whereas they should blame themselves, admit their fatal mistakes and start over a new liberal path of life while they can.
Arab and Muslim governments and people alike should contemplate what Imam Al-Shafi’i said more than one thousand two hundred years ago.
بقَدْرِ الكدِّ تُكتَسَبُ المَعَالي *** ومَنْ طَلبَ العُلا سَهِرَ اللّيالي
ومَنْ رامَ العُلى مِن غَيرِ كَدٍّ *** أضَاعَ العُمرَ في طَلَبِ المُحَالِ
تَرُومُ العِزَّ ثم تَنامُ لَيلاً *** يَغُوصُ البَحْرَ مَن طَلَبَ اللآلي
Loftiness is attained in accordance to one’s struggles
And whoever seeks nobility, remains vigilant by night
Whoever wishes to achieve, without due effort
Will waste their life in seeking the impossible
You search for glory and yet you sleep at night
It is only the seeker of pearls who dives deep into the sea
If not, Arab and Muslim countries should not wonder why they are living death.
Author’s Note: This article is also simultaneously published at Arabian Gazette
Corporate Consultant, FMR Managing Director, writer