The Arabic Dilemma
In face of the New American Strategy
Dr. Mohamed Houni
I proceeded to write this article in an attempt to offer a perspective that differs from the nationalistic point of view that has dominated the Arab scene for sometime. Unfortunately the Arab mindset is constantly on the lookout for conspiracies, and usually fails to recognize the dynamics of change in the world around us. Our approach to new issues is faulty and unscientific, our judgment is hasty and our conclusions are predetermined. We also tend to believe that a single factor is behind all social phenomena, an illogical thinking that is out of place in this new era.
So, let us set aside preconceived opinions and deceptive ideologies, and withhold judgment till we actually have time to examine the new questions carefully. We – the Arabs – should make an effort to accept the fact that there is more than one valid answer to our questions, and tolerate those that do not agree with our beliefs, instead of launching the usual vicious attack that entails accusations of betrayal and infidelity.
These days, the political speech of the Arab masses recognizes only dual notions: God’s side or the devil’s, patriotism or betrayal, right or wrong, virtue or vice, which means that we are completely blind to the rainbow-like diversity of ideologies ―a faulty logic with perilous consequences.
The Arab regimes today can be best described as oppressive, unjust and fanatic. Unfortunately, the same can apply to some of the elite intellectuals of our conflicted nation. We have frequently witnessed some of those seek the authorities’ help to crush their opponents. How many times did the regimes tyrannize one group of intellectuals to appease the other which holds more sway over the public opinion?. The autocratic regimes are the sole winner in this ideological warfare, as they use this bitter conflict to prolong their lifespan.
As we plead with the authorities to put an end to oppression and grant more freedom, we should urge the intellectuals to reconcile, resolve their conflicts amicably, and refrain from using the same coercive methods used by the regime. It is unthinkable that activists resort to suppression, an inexcusable attitude regardless of the type of beliefs of the other fellow activist. Symbolic suppression is no different than literal suppression, one of them is usually a prelude to the other, this was proved in many instances, for example: Aly Abdel Razek whose work and only source of income were targeted; the “fatwa” (Islamic opinion and license) issued by the “Azhar” condemning Naguib Mahfouz novel “Awlad Haretna” which was a preamble to the attack on his life; the Egyptian journalist Farag Fouda and the Sudanese Mahmoud Taha who were assassinated, and Nasr Hamed Abu Zeid who was forced out of his country—in addition to others who were mostly victim of ideological violence. Intellectuals should realize how dangerous it is to incite the regime against one other, and recognize that spiritual or material violence set the ground for a barbaric society. A civil society can not be established without a fair amount of tolerance and non-aggressive dialogue. How can we expect Arab citizens to follow the lead of those heroic figures who have turned out to be more oppressive than the current regimes are? Logically, they would not be willing to make big sacrifices just to replace one jailer for another – particularly if the new jailer has also monopolized the interpretation of the Divine Will.
Back to our topic, as mentioned in the beginning of this article, the Arabs do not
realize that the world around them has changed after the end of the cold war,
they also do not perceive the changes triggered by the events of September 11. They believe that the only change that took
place was the emergence of a single supreme power, that the events of September 11 only
As new events unfold and History continues to evolve, we should consider all possible scenarios and take a new look at ourselves and the world around us. A true and valid understanding of “the other” requires that we actually see him for who he really is, and not as we wish him to be.
The Arabic political speech today is mostly ideological, reflecting an egotistical attitude, and consistently finding “the other” guilty of all sorts of wrong-doing. This speech has caused considerable damage, and its detrimental effect is evident in our present situation, isolated as we are from the rest of world, subject to the actions of others and unable to act ourselves. Our attempts to react have been desperate and suicidal, and only succeeded in aggravating our bleak situation—a situation that motivated me to write this presentation about the American strategy, from a totally new perspective, hoping that it will be granted a rational, and non hysterical criticism.
1. The American Strategy during the Cold War
Just as the Second World War reached its end, the world was startled by
the onset of a new war between the allied forces groups which have only joined
together to defeat the “axis” troops,
but who were, nonetheless, engaged in an irreconcilable ideological
dispute. Two different and conflicting blocs emerged, one governed by the
communist ideology and led by the
Our main concern - as we present this analysis – is to understand the cold war impact on the Arab World and vice-versa.
The majority of the Arab states were under occupation, and the remaining independent states had foreign military bases on their lands and high delegates undermining the state’s authority and dignity. During the Second World War, a number of battles were fought on Arab grounds, and the Arab colonies were dragged into this war as unwilling slaves, or were compelled to join the armies to escape miserable conditions and poverty. Hence some fanatics’ support to Hitler and the Nazis, as a reaction against colonization, hoping that Hitler’s victory will rid them of the hateful occupation—a typical emotional and unwise reaction, and an Arab pattern of thinking still in effect today.
Following the Second World War, the
The fight against communism remained a priority for the successive American administrations and the Central Intelligence Agency, to the point of becoming an obsession during the McArthur period, thus threatening the same values of human rights and liberties they were fighting to preserve.
The American strategy was formulated in the document # 86, issued by the
National Security Council in April 1950. The document stated that the
This attitude can explain the failure of the Soviet endeavor to unite
2. The End Justifies the Means
This famous Machiavellian quote served as the basis of pragmatic non-ethical politics, and though disowned by all, is still used all over the world by those who strive to reach their goals. We can expect this Machiavellian approach to survive indefinitely as long as men persist on gaining power at the expense of their fellow humans. This concept will, unfortunately, continue to shape individual and collective behavior while hiding its unethical nature behind ideological masks.
Historical events prove that the United States used all possible means -whether legal or illegal, ethical or unethical, military or non-military, political or non-political- in order to achieve its goal. The Means included direct engagement in wars in Vietnam and Korea, proxy wars such as Afghanistan; granting open support to tyrants who sided with the US, and even bringing into play criminal mobs like when it used the Mafia fishing fleet to spy on the Soviet fleet in the Mediterranean Sea.
In this article, we are more concerned with proxy wars, because of its
impact on the Arab World and Islamic countries. This is not a historical
account of the Afghani war, but an attempt to shade light on what happened to the
Afghani nation who was used as a pawn in the cold war by the
The armies of the
At the end, the
Having adopted “the end justifies the means” as a framework for its
This pattern was evident in several instances during the cold war and
Herein lies the amazing paradox, the Islamic World in general, and the
Arabs in particular, were aware of the US complete support of Israel, their
historical enemy, as they were aware of the way the US backed up its “adopted” tyrants,
and how it interfered in the region’s affairs to protect its own interests at
the expense of the other nations. Nevertheless, when the
3. The End of the Cold War and the Emergence of a Monopolar World
The cold war ended as the wall of
A monopolar world emerged under the leadership
Although the major structure of the Eastern bloc has collapsed, there
were still minor loyal nations who have been under the protection of the
Eastern camp which has kept their regimes safe. These regimens were still in
existence and some of them were capable of surviving for a long period of time.
The countries classified as US allies or friends were not disturbed by these incidences, their eyes being set on the profits they could gain now that the West has won. All that those states had in common with the Western World was the fact that they were “serving” in its backyard during the cold war. In exchange the West offered its protection to their regimes, applauded their political wisdom, and guarded them against their own nations. On the other side, a number of regimes fell as they now lacked the protection of the defeated camp, including the economic protection. Lastly, a few states- the “orphans” of that age- remained at a loss of what to do, and which way to head, in the wake of this earthquake.
First, many states, on both sides, either committed or were accused of
committing acts of terrorism during the cold war. The nature and philosophy of
this war dictated this type of action which was not met by as much
international censure as is the case today. Examples abound: the
Second, the pretext of human rights violation is not a solid one either, since a number of countries counted among the Western coalition committed worse violations, some of them even did not grant the right of citizenship to part of their nation, as is the case of the Bedouns in Kuwait; Pakistan, as well, was not deemed among the mutinous countries though its legitimately elected government was overthrown several times.
All the above leads us to believe that the
Panorama of the
The ravages of the cold war could be seen in the entire world, which was
left in turmoil as the war ended. The
economic system of the
Three major issues held the attention of the
• The globalization trend along with the revolution of information technology and communication have transformed the world into some sort of universal village, its inhabitants are exposed to an up-to-date flow of knowledge and events, even though it is internally divided into groups that could be galaxies-apart if judged by economic and scientific standards.
• The US open support to the most corrupt states in the Middle East and the Arab region had a negative impact on the US image, as many believed it responsible for the tragedies befalling the Arabs,
• The lax and unfair American attitude toward the Arab-Israeli conflict.
A. Globalization: The revolution of information technology and communication impose new policies:
Globalization is a new phase of human evolution brought about by the application of scientific progress into everyday life. Throughout the ages, humanity went through many phases: from gathering fruits and taming domestic animals, to herding cattle, farming and cultivating lands, from manual labor to industry, and so on… Humanity is continuously evolving as new laws of physics are discovered and applied. Human history records the persistent struggle against nature, to detect its laws and control its phenomena for the good of mankind. Weapons were first made from stone then from metals, which were also used to fashion agricultural tools, on to the phase of steam machines, and power generation that was at the base of the industrial revolution.
Similarly, globalization came about as a result of the scientific revolution in the field of information technology and communication. In today’s world information is transferred at the speed of light, people all over the globe can be aware of happy and painful events as they are taking place. A person, sitting at home, has access to newspapers from all over, exchanges information with any one in the four corners of the world, and can buy or sell different items, all thanks to this digital technology. In that context, advanced technology has managed to grant people everywhere an additional citizenship, as they became “universal citizens”. As such, globalization is not an option, subject to acceptance or rejection—a favorite topic in political debate, particularly in the Arab world, and indeed one of the most ridiculous. It is now an undeniable state, almost a fact of life, which leaves us no choice but to accept it. Most importantly, we should work to improve its performance and readjust its course to a more humane one, in order to maximize its benefits.
So, is globalization, in its current stage, absolutely good or absolutely evil? None of the previous phases in human history could be labeled as absolutely good or absolutely evil, and the same applies to globalization. Each stage has its own mixture of good and evil, advantages and disadvantages, and it is up to philosophers, sociologists and citizens in general to assess the situation, make the necessary adjustments and try to limit the number of the marginalized and less fortunate society members. There are those, in our time, who stand against globalization because they are painfully aware of how far behind they are in comparison to others. In doing so, they are akin to a person who closes his eyes not to see the bottom of the pit, but close them as he might, the pit will not cease to exist!
The question here is whether this universal village lives in harmony or not? The answer is obviously negative. There are all types of contradictions within this universal village, not only because of the different languages, races, religions and cultures, but also because of the disparate living conditions of its inhabitants. There are some who live in sumptuous palaces, and others who live in tin-shacks; some who throw away the food in waste bins, and others who lack even the strength to look for their food in the waste bins, some who go shopping at the most extravagant shops, and others whose only chance to catch a glimpse of those luxurious goods is in TV commercials or in shop facades. Is it possible then for the inhabitants of this village to co-exist peacefully? Moreover, this village grants all inhabitants the right to export their products, without restrictions on where or to whom. However, it forbids the inhabitants to come within reach of the residences and palaces of the wealthy elite, sending a clear message that: products and goods are welcomed, but not humans―a characteristic of the materialistic civilization, that focuses on commodities, and has a shallow humanistic dimension.
The less fortunate inhabitants have to abide by quality standards, otherwise their products will be rejected, the same will happen if they do not confirm the products components, quality tests and assorted guarantees. Yet, no such care was given to guarantee fair and humane conditions for the workforce. Issues such as children labor, working hours, wages, and the right to strike, were deemed insignificant, the quality of the product being what matters the most, and not the life conditions and well being of the producer.
Though this universal village is open to an unrestricted, constant flow of products, information and messages, it is internally divided into separate locked zones, much similar to old ghettos. While there are no restrictions on the flow of good, new laws and regulations are constantly devised to obstruct people’s movement from one zone to another, what a pity that goods and products can enjoy universal “citizenship” but humans can not! Moreover, a mere fifth of this village population hold 4/5 of its wealth!
Keeping these facts in mind, can we possibly expect this village to be able to maintain a long-lasting peace? We can confidently say that there is no way for this to happen. Under different ideological pretexts, the marginalized and impoverished who constitute the majority of the village’s inhabitants will seek to ruin the lives of the rich minority. Direct assaults and waves of illegal immigration can both disrupt their privileged world.
Seemingly united, this universal village is in fact divided on itself, and cracking under the burden of huge discrepancies that threaten humanity in the present and future time.
Finally, there is a point worth mentioning about the fate of globalization had the cold war been still raging. It is very likely that we would have a limited version of globalization encompassing the Western World only. As the cold war almost reached its end, globalization was already in effect, but only in the Western World since the other countries did not have free economy or open market policies. The end of the cold war signaled the end of state-controlled and planned economy triggering the collapse of political, economic and psychological barriers, and heralding the globalization era. Globalization represents the latest phase in the evolution of the free economic system, economy based on supply and demand values as opposed to the capitalist state economy relying heavily on the public sector. Strangely, most states in the Arab region had a foundling economic pattern that is not related to either of the two markets, a retarded pattern, controlled by a retarded state that deals with economy as one would deal with spoils, to be distributed at its whim! It created what is known as the public sector, which has nothing to do with public service, and everything to do with theft and bribery. In some states, the public sector companies are given to tribes who plunder public resources while the regime turns a blind eye as long as they remain its submissive allies. In other states, the public sector is at the service of the army generals, who rob public funds and smuggle them across borders.
Those states were zealous followers of the Socialist doctrine. However, there was no public support for this doctrine, which left the way open to opportunists, hypocrites and false devotees who abused the national funds, and made huge fortunes even as they kept the pretense of being faithful public servants. The extent of this theft is shocking, in some states the amount of stolen public funds surpassed the national external debt!
Sadly, the citizens do not think that the theft of public funds is unethical or illegal, since they have no specific owner, furthermore they consider it to be a smart exploit! This is not an unusual thinking as Islamic “Fekh” (doctrine) does not consider the theft of public funds to be a punishable robbery. Blame for such thinking could be laid on the Bedouin mentality of the population which was never amenable to the notion of a modern state. Actually the two are sworn enemies, constantly at war with one another, if the state wins it will impose taxes on the Bedouin and seize his properties, and if he wins he can then overpower the state authority and plunder its funds.
B. Repercussions of the American Support of Corrupt Regimes during the Cold War:
Both parties were determined to destroy their opponent, making use of
any available weapon to ensure their victory. For more than fifty years the
states of the
Notably, when it comes to industrialization the Arab rulers’ first ambition is to manufacture weapons―an Arab disease plaguing us since the days of Mohamed Ali and till the present time, confirming the fact that we still embrace the Bedouin mentality that pays the highest tribute to fierce power and conquests, and that we are much more concerned with power and control than we are with development.
It is probably useful to shade more light on the situation of the Arab
states that were allies to the
Such was the panorama of cold war battlefield in the
Although the cold war ended, the Western World under the leadership of
C. The Arab-Israeli Conflict
Let us take a close look at the latest development of this issue without going into
the details of the Palestinian cause and its historical stages. One fact that
is worthy of attention about this long and extremely bloody conflict is that
the players on the Arab side were constantly changing, in contrast with the
Israeli side. In the early stages, the government of the Arab crescent States
were directly involved, while the other Arab governments provided an in-depth
strategic support. Throughout this dispute, the Arab armies suffered several
defeats at the hands of the Israeli defense army. The cost of each military
defeat was the loss of more Arab territories, and after
In brief, the Arab states monopolized the Palestinian cause, just like they did with all major issues such as democracy, freedom and development. Moreover, they used the Palestinian issue as a well-aimed weapon in their continuous struggle with political dissidents, claiming that those opponents, advocators of freedom, are aiding the enemy in his efforts to destroy the nation. Thus, opposition members were invariably accused of treason. Oddly, whenever an Arab leader lost a war, instead of relinquishing his position willingly or being compelled to resign, his popularity would soar, and his viciousness when dealing with local dissidents would increase—a most unusual outcome that is not to be found anywhere else in the world, an Arab characteristic that should be subject to an in-depth psychological, sociologic and anthropologic study.
Following the defeat of June 1967, the Arab regimes directed their attention to inwards and their first priority became the liberation of their own territories, pushing the Palestinian cause into a shadowy corner. However, at this stage, the Palestinian opposition movement emerged, adding one more player to the scene. Little harmony existed between the different players whether concerning the organization, public support or objectives, and if not for the devastating defeat of the Arab regimes and their armies, this new player would have never been able find a foothold among them.
Although the Arab regimes attempted to hide the shocking extent of the
defeat by twisting the Arab vocabulary around and calling the defeat a “relapse”, the Palestinians
realized that this was their chance to breakthrough the monopolization of their
cause, and face their enemy directly. However, this new development plunged the
Arab scene into turmoil, as the public resistance started to pose a threat to
the regimes themselves which retaliated viciously, as seen in the events of “Black
September” and culminating in the regime’s determination to marginalize the
role of the new “intruder” and eliminate him if possible. The resistance was then deported from
he traditional players managed to
revive the cause in the 70s of last century, when the Egyptian army accomplished
a semi-victory. The politicians’ first concern then was to regain their lost
territories, establish peace, and to wash their hands of the bloody conflict
that was posing a serious threat to the regimes. As for the excluded player - the
Palestinian resistance – it merely performed a few operations, just to prove
that it sill existed. As a result, a new player once more was introduced into
the scene, this time it was the Palestinian children who were born during the
Israeli occupation era, using rocks as their only weapon to fight the
occupation armies. The children’s revolution gained a real international
support and sympathy, which compelled
After the “Intifada”, the deported Palestinian leaders returned home and formed a nucleus-state, giving the Palestinians some sort of control over their land. A close look at that conflict shows that the Palestinian children are wiser than their elders, and their honesty exceeds that of the professional militants who were waging an oral war from far away. It is truly appalling that the Palestinian authorities’ first concern was to establish a harsh and oppressive security system, and rather than building schools and providing care for the handicapped children that were injured during the revolution, some of these officials misappropriated the money grants and transferred them to their personal accounts.
Afterwards, Islamic organizations joined the melee, proclaiming that liberation should encompass the lands from sea to river, while brandishing inaccessible slogans that were in fact the same national ones used in the Sixties wrapped in religious garb.
In the wake of the cold war, the Arab regimes opted for silence, dejectedly dropping their cherished mottos after the fall of the supreme power that supported their causes. On the other hand, the subdued Arab populace started to suffer from serious psychological and social disorders. Growing up believing that the Palestinian issue is their foremost cause, the conflict being a life or death issue for the whole Arab nation, yet, they were not allowed to express their feelings of bitterness and frustration, even if only through demonstrations. They had no choice but to repress those emotions and put the cause out of their mind. Their attention was also diverted to their own problems with the tyrant rulers, and as they tended to their own wounds they could no more reach out to others. However, after years of being taught about the Palestinian cause at home, in school, mosques and mass media, the Arab citizens could not simply forget about it. Their voices silenced, they were seething at the unfairness of the situation, and at their own helplessness. This inner turmoil reached a point where the Arabs easily believed that the whole world worked against them, misgivings turned into a constant search for conspiracies and evil plotting. It was this repressed anger that made the Arabs susceptible to killers and fanatic summons, ready to applaud them, particularly when they are promised wonderful rewards in the after life.
4. September 11: The End of a Historical Era
The world was shaken by the terrible events of
4.1. How did this tragic event change the world?
Two hundred years ago, The United States of America came into being as
its fifty states united and formed a federation possessing an amazing economic
and military power unheard of throughout human history. A gigantic power that
managed to turn the tide of
the second world war in favor of the allies, and the fate of
humanity would have changed completely if not for the American involvement in
the war. Moreover, The
First: The union of the 50 states was a democratic free choice, made willingly without coercion - the first empire of its kind in human history – which provided its citizens with a deep sense of security, power and confidence.
Second: The geographic protection granted by the Pacific and
Clearly, the United States was
not facing a concrete enemy in that stage, and the mission of the American
administration was to take out the mutinous states that could possibly endanger
the West in the near future –an easy mission, as there was a worldwide
compliance to the directives of the supreme power which reigned unchallenged. On
the other hand, the
As that dreadful day dawned, the
Then, the unexpected happened: the world center twin towers –symbol of prosperity and a launching point for globalization– were hit, as well as the Pentagon, the symbol of American military supremacy, and the center that issues the commands liable to change the fate of the world. The attack could have reached the Congress and the White House if the plane heading in their direction hadn’t crashed with its unfortunate human cargo.
Naturally this attack evoked feelings of sympathy for the victims and utter disgust at its perpetrators, it is a barbaric act that no human being can justify.
As the shock started to wear off, the American nation and its leaders asked significant questions in an effort to understand and analyze the situation:
What made The US vulnerable to the point that a few terrorists were able to breakthrough its defenses and carry out their mission?
How is it that the perpetrators belonged to Arab countries that were the
What was the purpose of the attackers, and what was the message they
wanted to send to the
How can a country which failed to defend itself grant its protection to others?
the American society was haunted by these questions, and the American administration responded by revealing part of the answer to the public opinion with the intention of gaining its support for its undisclosed future plans. Our purpose is to try and figure out the implicit aspects of the new American strategy.
4.2. A Terrifying event and even more terrifying prospects
Shaking off the shock,
the American administration had to face a bitter fact: the
An unprecedented type of war, one
that the US was not equipped to fight, used as it was to fight an enemy with
identified address, politics, ideologies and weapons―an
enemy which can be subdued or defeated. As
for this new “ghost” enemy, capable of shrewd, misleading maneuvers, it posed
a challenge to its mighty intelligence and research agencies. The new enemy has
also the advantage of a huge reserve army, consisting of all the nations that
As serious as this situation is, it is not the biggest concerns of the US, since it is well aware that terrorism –no matter how powerful– has never been able to create a political change, as evident throughout history, starting with the fanatic Ismaili, and till the 20th century terrorism in Europe. It is a wretched weapon, manipulated either by desperate groups, or by some who believe that striking terror in the heart of their enemy is the key to obtain their rights. Terrorism is a desperate and vengeful state of mind, with no future political plans and no ability to produce radical changes in the society. At the maximum, it can unsettle a totalitarian nation well enough to give a lurking party the opportunity to jump into power, or impact voters in order to throw the regime of a democratic state in a future election.
This is the definition and span of the terrorism as it used to be in the past.
However, Today’s version of terrorism is a different story, and causes
great alarm to the
So, Would the terrorists actually take such a dramatic step? It is a possible notion or an impossible one? And if it is only a possibility, should a supreme power devise its political and military strategy on a the basis of a mere possibility?
The answer is positive, nations do formulate their strategies on the
basis of mere
possibilities, and not just on high probabilities, particularly
when a possible threat endangers its existence itself and not just to its
interests. A nation with the
The United States considers the new wave of terrorism a real enemy threatening its existence and not only its interests, it is aware of its extensive means, complex organizations and unpredictable targets―all of which require a change of political and military strategies, and a radical change in the way Americans view themselves and the outside world. However, the change is only affecting the means not the end, a change of methods but not of the goals. Some would argue that unchanged goals would mean an unchanged strategy, yet, things are not that simple.
Human behavior can only be explained in the light of a goal or a purpose: a desired material or moral benefit. All types of behavior are bound to impact the outside world, and cause a certain change, whether of a material or moral nature. Individuals expect that change to take place, and use it to their benefit, as much as possible A purposeful behavior can only be achieved if the person is in full control of his faculties, on a mental, psychological and physical level.
Some psychologists debate that a human purpose will always be subject to distortion, because there is so such thing as a completely free will, human will being constantly affected by subjective and objective circumstances as well as by the unconscious mind.
While we respect this point of view, this article adopts the notion that when purposes are collectively formulated by a rational community, they are not as much subject to distortion as individual purposes.
Back to our talk about the American strategy, if the behavior is closely tied to the purpose – in this case the American interests, can we say that the American strategy did not change as long as the interest (purpose) is the same? Does the alteration of methods and media represent a real change of strategy?
First, we need to have a precise definition of strategy: it is the art of steering a number of mechanisms, taking into account material and non-material circumstances, probable reactions and less probable ones, in order to achieve a certain purpose, or several objectives working together to achieve an ultimate purpose. Strategic behavior is not an emotional behavior based on inverse reactions. According to this definition, most fanatic movements can not claim to have a strategy since their purpose is revenge―the product of emotional and instinctive faculties. Strategy, however, can only be formulated by cognitive and balanced reasoning, in order to devise rational means to attain a certain goal. Vindictive reactions, on the other hand, respond to a primal human need for revenge – as an ultimate purpose – notwithstanding the consequences. Emotional decisions ignore scientific investigation and accumulated human wisdom. To summarize, if we agree on the definition of strategy as the rational means devoted to reach a certain end –and not as the end itself, in that case, we can state that the American strategy did in fact change when the old means were altered, regardless of the fact that the purpose has remained the same.
5. The Reasons behind the Tragedy
A policy maker ought to
discover a problem rationale before he suggests the means to resolve it, so,
what is the rationale behind terrorism? And Why does
it specifically target the
Terrorist groups did not come from thin air, they represent a phenomenon generated by multiple social, cultural, economic, political and psychological factors. Terrorism is probably akin to the steam shooting out of a tightly shut boiler, it can only be described as the loud protest of a marginalized group of people who believe themselves victims of injustice, and who have no hope to change their situation through the available options. The following factors played a big role in creating and expanding the phenomenon of Arab Islamic terrorism in specific:
a. Terrorist groups belong to dictatorial states that do not recognize the most basic human rights, their youth suffer deep-seated feelings of injustice, oppression and futility.
b. Most terrorists belong to
states that are friends with the
c. The biased western policy as
regards the Arab-Israeli conflict killed any chances left to bridge the gap,
and redeem the West in the eyes of the young Arabs. The Western World has sided
The Arabs were under the false assumption that, once the cold war was
over and The Soviet threat eliminated, the
d. Beside confiscating the liberties of their nations, the Arab regimes embezzled and wasted the national resources, which had a bad impact on the society structure, as the middle classes shriveled. Moderate political speech can not prevail in a society in the absence of a considerable middle class, hence the popularity of the language of terrorism and the nihilist doctrine that find a fertile ground in the increasingly deprived and frustrated masses.
e. The majority of the terrorists received their education in the public schools of their countries which planted the seeds of antipathy and hostility towards anything and anyone who doesn’t agree with their own thinking or beliefs. They were taught to consider those dissidents a threat to the faith. A retarded and dark curriculum shaped the mind of this youth, persuading them that they – and they alone – are in possession of absolute truth, and that they should take pride in slaying the unbelievers. A middle-ages curriculum that was devised with the communists, nationalists and socialists in mind as the targeted enemies. Unfortunately, it didn’t occur to those who devised it that it would become a suicidal and destructive tool.
6. Who is the Enemy of the
• Totalitarian states,
• Fragmented states such as
• States that currently seek
to possess weapons of mass destruction - or did so in the past - without American
approval, such as
• States that actively support terrorism, while condemning it verbally.
6.1 Totalitarian States
Terrorism, as mentioned previously, is basically a loud protest. Terrorism,
among the Arab Muslims, is the outcome of oppression, lack of freedom, and an education
that conditions young people to fight in God’s name “jihad” and to seek martyrdom. The US can not
possibly uproot terrorism while these nations are devoid of the minimum level
of democracy, human rights, and a modern education in harmony with the values
of the new age. Thus the
After long decades of open American support to these dictatorial
regimes, where it ignored the atrocious practices, how could the
Apparently, the US decided to terminate the dictatorial regimes, using one of two means: Either to overthrow them by force, as in Afghanistan and Iraq, to create political unrest and stir up the minorities for the same purpose, or failing that to divide some states, and rearrange the political geography of the region; or by peaceful means, to implement internal changes according to the US “recipe”: to tolerate opposition, establish parties and non governmental organizations and achieve a peaceful circulation of power―the application of such recipe in a totalitarian state would effectively mean the end of the old ruling class, the introduction of a new leadership and the disintegration of what is known as “everlasting governments”.
6.2. Fragmented or disbanded states
In some instances, terrorism can find a refuge in states that lack full
control over their territories, thus, a state’s ability to control its
territories has become an imperative. The state, in this case, can be held
accountable for the terrorists’ actions, and the
6.3. States that possess – or attempted to possess – weapons of mass destruction:
This category does not include all states in possession of such weapons,
but is only applicable to the mutinous states, which challenge the
6.4. States that actively support terrorism, while condemning it verbally:
States that sponsor terrorism are also considered enemies of the
An accurate definition of terrorism is once more in question. Following the events of September 11, the
7. Mechanisms of the New American Strategy
A country that wishes to lead the world has many obligations to fulfill, which, if ignored, would have disastrous consequences.
7.1. Pre-emptive Strikes
In recent History, pre-emptive strikes were usually deemed illegitimate, and in general, states do not resort to this type of military intervention since it means taking a definite evil action in hope to prevent a possible evil one. Such a policy might instigate destructive wars, and may do that on false grounds, or poor political judgment. During the cold war, the supreme powers were determined to prevent this course of events, taking all precautions to avoid the onset of ill-advised conflicts because of military scruples or faulty inference. However, modern history is not totally exempt of this type of wars, that were mostly illegitimate, and often instigated by states that did not care for legitimacy. The Israeli wars against the Arabs are the epithet of a preventative war, initiated by a state that does not heed the international community’s stand and rules, and is set on a military confrontation urged by fear and misgivings.
Yet, the events of September 11 triggered a lot of changes, touching
even time-honored international traditions. The
7.2. Military interventions are an internal American decision
In the past, the
8. Supporting Mechanisms
8.1. Putting an end to the Arab – Israeli
conflict. As already mentioned, this conflict is the main reason of the strong
Arab loathing of American policies. All the parties involved will be required
to make painful compromises, if this conflict is to be resolved. The
The events of September 11 have made the resolution of this conflict an
international and American national security requirement, and not only an Arab
demand. I expect the
8.2 Assisting the region’s nations to create economic unions. A complementary measure to the peace process in the
8.3. A minimum Level of Democracy for the States of the region. A minimum level of democratization, in response to internal demands and external support, would be a key factor in resolving several problems, giving citizens the chance to express themselves, choose their rulers and establish civil society organizations. In this environment, transparency can prevail, which would seriously limit the theft of public funds, bribery and corruption, even if they will not completely cease to exist. Imposing reasonable restrictions on expenditures will give a boost to the development effort and improve the life standard in these nations.
8.4.Putting pressure on governments to modify
educational curricula. The terrorist attacks revealed that the suicidal
terrorists, and their leaders, mostly belong to countries that were committed
to a religiously stringent education, though they were allied to the
8.5.The End does not justify all means. The
American strategy during the cold war was completely focused on the ultimate
end: to defeat the evil Soviet empire. Believing it to be an “honest” end, it took any means
necessary to achieve it. However, this saying has no place in the new American
strategy. The “end” in the case of the
The Arabs should neither believe the picture of a well-meaning
Assuming that the majority of the Arabs are right in their interpretation of the American policy, e-g. that nothing has changed, that the US will follow the usual old pattern in dealing with them, that the events of September 11 had no repercussions internally or externally, and that anyone who thinks otherwise is a simpleton who fell in the Imperialism trap, with no understanding of the international variables; Assuming that the proclaimed American good intentions are just a misleading ploy, that it has no intention of helping other nations to achieve a better political and economic life, that it will revert to a double standard policy, caring only for its interests, and that the regional conflicts will remain unresolved – Assuming that all of the above is true, then humanity has truly sunk in a bottomless pit, with no hope to ever get out, and the future holds nothing but dire prospects of wars and destruction, the unchallenged terrorism growing more vicious, putting the Western civilization itself in danger of collapse. A nightmarish vision of a disaster that has the potential to overtake dinosaurs and rats alike, and put an unexpected end to human history, by simply wiping out men from the surface of the earth.
9. A Single Dimensional Democracy
Unfortunately the ideological dispute has colored the Arab talk about democracy which is often deliberately confusing. The media, press and satellites have broadcasted this faulty speech that claims that democracy is non-existent even in the West. It argues that Western democracy is just an opportunist political scheme, that the Western states are practicing democracy for the purpose of domestic control, but that outside of their countries they practice nothing but injustice, oppression and tyranny. The message conveyed here is that all regimes are alike, there is no such thing as real democracy that has the potential to improve the status of the Arab nations. Therefore the Arab citizen have to reject all Western values, since the most noble value is no more than a hoax used as a means for domination. The simple Arab citizen who is listening to this disheartening speech on the TV asks bewildered: so what are we to do now? Unfortunately he will receive no answer, as the speaker has already finished his part in the talk show and disappeared, leaving the Arab citizen to his growing confusion.
The Arab citizen will probably succumb to the feelings of futility, believing that all regimes are indeed much alike, and that democracy is just a sophisticated game played by the elite intellectuals. He once thought that he was suffering from injustice because of the lack of democracy, and if there is no such thing as democracy, then the injustice, and the suffering are the will of Almighty God, herein lies the real danger of such reasoning. Overcome by despair and apathy, the citizens reject life which seems to be just a long dark tunnel, useful only in leading them to the glorious after-life.
Now let us picture that same Arab citizen listening in awe to a recording of “Ibn Laden”, proclaiming with a prophetic voice that democracy is an anti-Islamic notion, and that those who believe in democracy are considered infidels. The already confused citizen becomes now more certain than ever that democracy is the work of the devil, and that he should definitely keep away from it throughout his mortal life lest it defiles his heart.
As that same citizen watches the Israeli occupation armies murder and destroy his Palestinian brethren, the actions of this so-called democratic state drive the stake home with a mighty and final blow. This citizen is now geared with an explosive belt, calmly seeking the death of others and his own, with a simple equation in his mind: Democracy is a desecrated concept, the war against democracy then is a war against defilement and unbelief.
However, this faulty logic soon gives rise to other questions: Why are we always losing ground in front of the enemy who has managed to conquer us in each and every war? Once more the terrorist / holy man is ready with the answer: The Almighty God did not send his angels to our aid because we are not committed to the teachings of the Holy Quran. Some of us, particularly the young ones, ask: “What can we do to change ourselves so that God may change our situation”?
The answer that comes to mind spontaneously is that we should change our societies, but what kind of change and what are the means to carry out this change? As for the kind of change, it is of the “Taliban” kind, a government mirroring the infamous Taliban regime which – as they claim - could have been a core for Islamic rule “Khelafa”, had the West not “conspired” against it. As for the means, they include internal strife, bloodshed, the proclamation of “Jihad” (Holy War) against the citizens, suicidal attacks leading to mass murder, a blatant disregard for the lives of women, children and civilians whose death is justified because the enemy used them as a shield, or because they cooperated with the infidel regime—a variety of murderous means, each one of them readily justified by a “fatwa” (Islamic license).
Following this review of the notions overshadowing the Arab perspective, a few pertinent questions come to mind: why did they twist the image of democracy to be thus rejected and defiled? Are freedom and fraternity really the basis for democratic regimes? Does our salvation, and that of our communities, lie in rejecting western democracy?
First of all, democracy is the product of the entire human civilization, and as such it not exclusive to the West but is a collective property, an outcome of human creativity, that includes –among others– direct and indirect Arab and Islamic contributions. Democracy is in fact the most noble and successful ruling system that men managed to conceive over generations of accumulated experience. It allows for a peaceful application and circulation of power, and creates a secure and flourishing environment in place of the painful centuries of power and wealth monopolization and tragic wars.
Democracy doesn’t have a specific nationality or identity, it is a life formula that preserves human dignity, allows the citizens to participate freely in political life, and grants freedom of speech, assembly, demonstrations and elections. On the other hand, democracy is not a ready formula that can be bought and exchanged between communities, it is more like a destiny that can only be reached after a tough journey of struggles, sacrifices, economic development and political maturity. Neither is it adamant to modifications or enhancement, it is open to improvement and rectification according to the social status of each society and its historical legacy. However, this does not answer the question of why is it rejected by a lot of Arab “intellectuals”. There are three types of “intellectuals” who reject democracy nowadays:
First: The Islamists
The Islamist mentality does not recognize that human achievements can serve as a foundation for human society. They believe that the basis can only be found in the past age, present and future being out of our hands, controlled by a power that moves us around like puppets. The early Islamic society in the golden age of Islamic rule “Khelafa” is the standard to be adopted, and the present society should exactly mirror the past in order to be a good and decent society. When asked about the ruling system, the Islamists confidently reply that we should refer to our righteous forefathers, meaning the society of the 7th Century, and adopt the concept of “Shura” (consultancy with elders). A series of typical religious slogans are inevitably followed by a verse from the “Quran” that is taken out of context (No ruler (judge?) except for God).
Actually, “Shura” was never successfully applied throughout the different stages of the Islamic age. The first attempt to apply this concept failed miserably, and was described by Omar Ibn el-Khatab as “an evil sedition”, moreover, the “shura” people, the ones that should be consulted are usually appointed and not elected. As for the ideal society of our forefathers, it is an imaginary society that did not exist historically, since the struggle over power started immediately after the demise of the prophet, and even before he was buried, leading later to the assassination of three “Khalifas”. Besides, in the 7th century, the word “rule” was not used to indicate political rule but was rather used in the Quran speech to signify ruling in legal disputes, the word to signify political rule being “command”.
If told all of the above, the Islamist will only bombard you with accusations of infidelity, short of shooting you with actual bullets. Trying to argue with this group would be an exercise in futility, as we have totally different points of reference. Their beliefs spring from the past, the present age has to yield to the power of the past, as if History itself has frozen in time centuries ago. In contrast, we wish to make a wise use of past accumulated experience, and earnestly rise to meet the future.
Second: The “Palace” intellectuals
The intellectuals who have close ties with the Arab regimes consider democracy a mortal enemy to their masters as there is no doubt that tyrannical rule and democracy can not co-exist. But how is it possible for a secular intellectual to reject democracy?
At times, this group of intellectuals claim that democracy befits the
West only, being appropriate to its way of life that differs greatly from ours.
At other times, however, they claim that the imperial “conspiring” West is
responsible for our inability to practice democracy and our unfortunate status.
In the end, they agree that democracy can be an option once our conflict with
Third: “Inverse reaction” Ideologists
Those can be best described as a group of idle intellectuals who always tend to oversimplify the complex causes, constantly heaping insults on the enemy. Their argument against democracy is simple and shallow: since democracy was introduced by the West, then we must reject it, because any initiative taken by “the enemy” is bound to be harmful. I termed them “inverse reaction ideologists” because they believe that the actions of the West are detrimental to the East, and that all Western beliefs are against the faith according to the Eastern understanding. We can only make use of the material and technological aspect of Western progress, but steer clear from their culture – a Taboo not to be touched.
These ideologists perceive History to be based on contradictions, actions and reactions that are equally powerful to the action but taking the inverse direction. As if humans resemble an inert mass that has no will of its own, and their range of choices is limited to opposite ends, ignoring the wide range of colors that exist between black and white—the same notion of duality that can found in the Islamic doctrine.
The ideologist is by definition blind, as he is unable to see without his ideological eyeglasses that show him a skewed reality molded to his desires and hopes, and far removed from the actual and true reality. On the other hand, the lack of the analytical mentality has generated a type of intellectuals who rely heavily on excited talk, raised voices and elaborate figures of speech, as if those have the power to change the world.
It is noteworthy that most Arab intellectuals either follow the lead of the rulers and become part of their “courts”, or ride the current public wave, rushing to appease and soothe the masses, reviving the memories of the real or imaginary past accomplishments, and instead of combating fallacies and erroneous thinking, they encourage the masses to resume their slumber, comforted by thoughts of past glory and historical tales.
To answer the last question: Can democracy bear the torch of freedom and
fraternity and spread its light all over the world? If the answer is yes, then
how did the French Revolution slogans of fraternity, equality and freedom turn
into the detestable colonization that subjugated nations all over the world,
and committed all kinds of injustice and cruelty? If democracy is upholding all
ethical values, then why did the democratic West connive with all types of
dictatorships during the long period of the cold war? If
To answer briefly, we have first to establish that democracy is a means used by a specific society to curb barbarian disputes, and a formula devised to abolish internal conflicts, enforce equality and tolerance, and reject discrimination on the basis of gender, opinion, color or beliefs. It is a healthy expression of diversity that fosters individual and national development. The rules of the democratic game redress the balance of power between the ruler and the citizens who, by means of voting, exercise a form of control over the authorities.
However, democracy has limitations, for one, a community that opts for
democracy can only practice it in its own homeland, and even if it wishes to,
it can not apply it elsewhere outside of its borders. Furthermore, History
proves that some nations that had successfully applied democracy within their
country, and reaped the economic fruits of this success, reached out beyond
their lands to enslave less developed nations, using them as a source of raw
material, cheap labor and consumption markets.
As much as we are impressed with the advantages of democracy, we have to admit it is single dimensional, its light shines only for those who can practice it, leaving all others to flounder in darkness. If we censure today’s version of democracy it is because we aspire for a more humane version. Nevertheless, we can not and would not reject it –that would be a foolish action akin to throwing the newborn baby with the dirtied bath water! We urgently need democracy in order to restore security, progress and prosperity to our communities. Besides, the assessment of the pro- and cons of democracy can only be done by the communities that managed to apply it.
One important question remains though: Are the Arab nations, in their current state, able to achieve democracy?
10. What is obstructing democracy in the Arab World?
10.1. A Difficult Natural Environment
As much as we are in favor of democracy, we have to admit that it is, unfortunately, beyond the reach of many societies. A variety of factors can obstruct democracy, nonetheless, we should not belittle a value just because it proved to be inaccessible. One of the factors that impede democracy in the Arab world is the difficult natural environment, since 90% of the terrain is nothing but an arid desert, that could only be populated by traveling Bedouins, living in dire conditions, and constantly looking for water and pasture. Their only option to defend themselves was to form tribes and clans. The scarcity of water and pasture triggered constant disputes and fights between these nomadic groups, which explains the military nature of this belligerent desert nation, that ends one skirmish just to start another, and seems to be maintaining peace to only rise once more and launch vicious attacks at its neighbors.
According to tribal hierarchy, the tribe leader “sheikh” holds total authority over the tribe, and makes all the decisions related to war and peace, travels, and alliances. He also cares for the weak members, and decides how to avenge members of the tribes if they are attacked by outsiders or by members of the same tribe. Solidarity among the tribe members is a sacred value, if shaken it could result in the disintegration of the tribe itself. The invasion of other tribes to pillage their resources and enslave their people is another everlasting Bedouin value. Regrettably, Bedouins are never really free of the residue of this aggressive mentality, to the extent that if the notion of “holy invasion”, which was later called “Fath”, was not integrated in the Islamic religion, the Bedouins would have most probably rejected the new religion altogether.
Briefly, the natural environment has forced a number of values and behaviors on the Bedouins, that can be seen in the following portrait of the Bedouin character and his life style:
1. Oppression: i.e. to oppress the other and subdue him, a life condition, as you can either be dominant or dominated.
2. He is constantly geared up to engage in a battle for domination.
3. A powerful Bedouin is always in search of new places to pillage and plunder, power would be, otherwise, pointless.
4. A Bedouin is not comfortable living in a society that does not clearly bow to patriarch authority.
5. The Bedouin generally holds others in contempt, and resents civilization disdainfully labeling it “luxury”.
6. The Bedouin possesses the amazing ability to switch loyalties, out of submission or out of greed for more spoils.
A logical question poses itself, what happened to this nomadic life style now that the majority of the Bedouins moved to Arab cities?
While it is true that the Bedouins moved into cities, they still keep their tribal organization, and the districts in the Arab cities are named after the tribes that moved from the desert. Most probably, urban life did not change their Bedouin values as much as they did change the appearance of these cities to make them Bedouin cities. But how does that hinder democracy?
We have to keep in mind that democracy can only be established in a civil society where rational connections are stronger than blood ties. A patriarch society, controlled by the tribe leader can never willingly accept the idea of a political party. If forced to, each tribe will have its own political party, though under a modern name. Parties will in fact become a fragile façade for tribal fanaticism and their ambitions to overpower others. If they access power, these parties / tribes do not respect the rules of power circulation, they form a government that includes a group of allied tribes, ending up by sharing the state’s resources (the new version of spoils), and bit by bit this tribal parties will replace the state, getting us almost back to where we started
Another pertinent fact to our inquiry is that these tribes and clans have constantly supported the dictatorships in the Arab world.
Petroleum oil was mainly discovered in the states with the most retarded social status (their population mostly consisting of Bedouins). The rulers of those states -whose status changed from tribe leaders to kings, princes and presidents thanks to the oil discovery – are content to enjoy their thrones, basking in the luxury of their new found spoils, using it to reward their allies and punish their opponents. The Bedouin population realized that they don’t have to fight or work anymore to get the spoils, they can simply live on oil revenues, with no need for the despised professional industrial work. The power of money granted this tribal institution full control, even on their children who received their education abroad, and still had no choice but to cope with the old mentality. The tribes were effortlessly enjoying abundant living, thus, they had no motivation or inclination to change their old customs and behaviors. Many people think that the Petroleum states are ready for democracy because the average per-capita income is $6,000 - $10,000, however, this point of view ignores the fact that there is a strange pact between the governments of these states and their citizens: the government does not ask the citizens to pay taxes, and the citizens in return do not ask for democracy that would had allowed them to monitor what the government does with the tax money.
It is no mere coincidence that many political expressions in the Arab World have Bedouin origins, starting with the word “politics” itself, which is derived from the verb “to groom” or “tend to”, referring to the stableman who tames the horses, the same applies to the terms: “the shepherd and the subjects”, inspired by the vocabulary of Bedouin shepherds. The origin of these two terms in specific has several implications, as can be seen today in the way the rulers deal with political opponents, much like the way a shepherd treats a rebellious butting ram, since it no longer obeys the shepherd it has be killed and the meat is given to the poor. We can not accept that these political expressions are merely innocent words, they reflect the Bedouin mentality as regards authority and ruling.
With this Background in mind, what are we to do?
First of all we have to realize that the Bedouin mentality is tied to a set of beliefs enforced by the scarcity of resources in the desert areas, and as such, it is neither a permanent nor an adamant status. We can break out of the Bedouin style upon which our political concepts and ruling institutions were built, if we commit to the following conditions:
• The State foundations: One of the most important foundation is law, if it is firmly in place then the tribe will cease to exercise its own laws, and it will be up to the state to protect the citizens against injustice or wrongdoing committed by others, thus forging strong ties between the citizen and the state, in lieu of tribal fanaticism.
• Development: Industrial development can help to subdue the primitive urges, by giving the citizens the option to belong to syndicates that look after their professional interests. Political parties play a similar role in giving the citizens a chance to belong to something other than their own tribe.
• Education: The media can enlighten the coming generations about the Bedouin values imbedded in the society, and reveal the sad truth about these values that are still highly regarded. A careful systematic approach is required for this end, and not a condescending or sarcastic tone.
• Scientific study: this phenomena – that has resisted civilization and expanded
through time and space - should be the subject of a scientific research carried
out by the Sociology departments in the
To conclude, if the current non-governmental organizations do not evolve into civil society organizations, the Arab communities is not likely to opt for democracy, or even feel the need to take that option.
10.2. Misinterpretation of Religious Beliefs
The misinterpretation of religious beliefs is one of the strongest impediments of democracy in the Arab World.. Religion, in itself, is not opposed to civilization, but it becomes a major obstacle when it is manipulated and used as an ideological and political tool. Those who monopolize faith and the interpretation of holy texts consider themselves “smaller Gods” in possession of the absolute truth. If you try to argue with them, you are guilty of arguing with the Lord himself, and by opposing them you have made yourself an enemy of Heavens, and are destined to perish along with everyone else who follows in your footsteps, the only available destination since the road to salvation is crammed with those smaller Gods! An alarming picture, and an honest illustration of the appalling Arab reality during the last few decades: a group of people fully convinced that they alone possess the absolute truth, which necessarily means that all who stand on the other side of the fence are false believers. –a principle that blocks any attempt to understand the other and nullifies the chances of co-existence.
But how did it come to this? A profound answer to that question would require an extensive study and a separate publication. Hopefully, the following basic answer will be sufficiently comprehensive:
• The failure of the secular
national projects in the Arab world, such as nationalism, Marxism and
socialism, which could not achieve the promised development and progress. Included
in this category are political movements that accessed and stayed in power for
long periods of time, like “Baath” party in
The Arab citizen is torn between what he was diligently taught and between the real state of things. For generations, he has heard of and believed in the extreme importance of Arab unity, meanwhile old conflicts and new disputes continue to tear the Arab nation apart. Likewise, since early youth, the Arab Muslim is taught that he belongs to the nation that was chosen by the Lord and described as the best nation throughout human history, while in fact he leads a miserable existence, and knows that he is way behind other nations in all life aspects. As this internal conflict escalates, he finds his only refuge in turning back to the past, and ruminating on glorious memories.
The Arabs did not pay much attention to the dark fanatic movements as long as they had faith in their national projects, but when those failed, the dormant “viruses” of extremism became active and started their attack on the Arab body. Several factors led to the obvious deterioration of the life standard in the Arab nation: the failure of development projects, the population increase, the extremely poor random tin-shacks built at towns’ borders, the high unemployment rate, and low quality education and social services. These unbearable life conditions gave the fundamentalists a golden opportunity to mobilize a huge reserve army of embittered young men.
• We have already pointed out
to the significance of the Arab / Israeli conflict in triggering the Arab
Islamic terrorism, and in light of our talk about the misinterpretation of religious
beliefs, we can understand how the Arabs would see it as a quandary that defies
All of the above factors gave the Islamist movement the chance to grow, expand and reach a point where the Islamist speech currently dominates the political and social arena in the Arab world.
We mentioned earlier that the Islamists consider democracy to be a foreign evil device threatening the holiness and purity of Islamic societies, basing this condemnation on Middle-Ages legacy and concepts. Unfortunately, the Arab citizens put their faith in such concepts, and unless we can refute this argument, they will never think of democracy as a viable option and will not attempt to apply it; and a democracy that is applied without conviction, or imposed by outside force is a distorted and invalid democracy.
It is imperative that we distinguish between Islamic Holy Texts, that are the foundation of the Islamic religion, and between the explanation, interpretation and inference of the texts brought about by religious legists who were living under different personal and general conditions and in different epochs. We need to remind ourselves that many “Quran” verses were in fact answers to vital questions and real life problems. So, we may confirm that the Holy “Quran” itself is not above history, a number of its texts dealt with difficult problems that affected the Prophet and the believers in this particular age, while other texts – akin to all religions – offered specific answers for the eternal questions about faith, worship and death. However, the Islamists believe otherwise! They believe that the “Islamic law” - which consists of the answers provided by legists, and meant for the epochs in which those legists lived – is in fact valid for all times and places. On one hand, they shun democracy, accuse it of being an infidel notion since it is was not recognized during the first ages of Islam, it is a novelty that can only lead people astray and ensure their damnation. On the other hand, democracy gives a group of people that represent the whole nation legislative rights, and since these legislations might disagree with the Islamic doctrine “Fekh”, then these legislatives are deemed to be against faith and will lead the whole society into apostasy and infidelity.
The major problem with Islamist thinking is that it hallows the legists’ endeavors, treating them as part of the basic initial text, i.e. the Quran. Faced with the confusing problems of our time, they want us to look for the answers in the old books, and seek the opinion of “El Shafii” or “Malek” or “Ibn Timia” on similar matters that took place in their time. According to them, we should seek the “fatwa” (Islamic opinion and license) of those who have been dead for centuries, and totally ignore the tremendous changes that occurred in all life aspects, during those centuries. Islam being the culmination of Human History, there is no room for innovation or creativity, and we have to satisfy ourselves with the Middle Ages concepts and views, and apply them in our everyday life. However, the world is inhabited by other nations that do not believe that history has reached its end, humanity is thus divided into two worlds that are not in sync with one another: the non-Muslims who are busy with present and future creative plans, and the Muslims who believe that there is nothing more for them to do, as the past holds perfect and final answers, that go all the way back to the 7th century, when Heavens last reached down to earth, a sealed world that wishes to remain untouched by civilization and is not interested in whatever happens on our planet.
I personally think that this aversion to evolution goes even against the teachings of the middle ages legists. The Islamic nation needs to make a choice today, either to catch up with civilization or to stay behind in the confines of the legists’ beliefs. In today’s world, there is only one civilization, which is the Western civilization, and the debate going on about the conflict of civilizations is pointless, because the Arabs and Muslims of our time can not claim to have a civilization of their own, what they have is the legacy and monuments that belonged to a civilization that existed in the past, a bitter truth that we should ponder.
The main foundations of democracy are equality, citizenship and human rights, the later being one of the fruits of the Western civilization in the current age, unprecedented in history. While it is definitely true that all human beings have the same tendencies, i.e. a hatred for slavery and injustice and a yearning for freedom and justice, however, the claim that Muslims were the ones to stress the importance of human rights value and create institutions for this purpose is a totally false claim. Sadly, there are some mercenary intellectuals, paid by petroleum states, who frantically try to prove that false claim –a hopeless endeavor since the actual formulation of human rights is without precedence in the ancient Islamic civilization, or in any other civilization for that matter. For example, the Islamic doctrine “Fekh” is not familiar with the notions of equality or citizenship, because it bears the imprint of its time, it put an emphasis on the free male Muslim, the only category entitled for public affairs and presidency. Accordingly, whoever lacks any of these attributes: to be a male, free and Muslim can not enjoy full rights. The non-Muslim does not have the same rights as the Muslim and has to pay a special tax if he lives in a Muslim territory; women can not hold positions in the judiciary or a position of authority, they are treated more like goods than humans because they are the object of male satisfaction, and their inheritance share is half that of the male. As for slaves, they are not “citizens” of the Islamic state, they are bought and sold as a property, and their life or death is totally in their masters’ hands.
Islam has definitely accorded a form of justice to those under-privileged, as it allowed women to inherit unlike the pre-Islam phase, commended the masters to treat their slaves kindly and encouraged their release, and granted security for the Christians and Jews in return for the paid taxes. These improvements helped to lessen the gap that separates some humans from others, nonetheless they did not embrace the principle of total equality. Naturally, there is a big difference between the international declaration of human rights and the steps that were taken in the 7th century.. People living back then would have rejected the Islamic Religion if it had made a similar declaration, a great challenge to their beliefs, economics and labor system.
The philosophy of discipline in modern democracy adopts the concept of rehabilitation, and requires that penalties respect human dignity, its final purpose being the reform of culprits. The Islamic religion, on the other hand, applies physical punishments, such as whipping and cutting of hands, legs or necks –all of which were deemed acceptable punishments, born of that particular age’s fixation on revenge. Today, it is totally unacceptable to amputate a thief’s hand, or to humiliate a human being by whipping him publicly, instead of seeking revenge and inflicting harm on the aggressor, efforts are made to reform him. He might be a victim as much as he is a criminal, most criminals being in fact victims of their society, or are suffering from mental and psychic disorders that triggered their criminal actions.
In brief, The Islamic religion interacted with humans who had their own culture, economics and life style, and formulated some of its legislations accordingly. The Holy Quran verses that set the ground for human dealings were addressed to the Muslim believers who were living in that age and the following ages that had similar life conditions. They are then related to a certain age and time, and should not be treated as timeless or permanent.
We need to differentiate between the civil definition of crime, which should be punished according to human regulations that vary from one time and one place to another, and between the moral definition of crime, that remains unchanged across the ages. Simply, we should differentiate between crime and sin. Crime is to be dealt with and punished by humans, but our conscience is the one to deal with sin, and its true punishment is dealt in the after-life – this distinction between this life and the next is becoming a true necessity in today’s age.
Dealing with slavery is a pertinent example about the inevitability of making the shift from Islamic legislations to modern legislations. Many Islamic societies has prohibited slavery, as a result of international conventions. Now, why don’t Islamists proclaim that slavery should be legitimate, since it was never prohibited by Islam in the first place? Why wouldn’t they recall the Islamic rule that states that “to legitimize a prohibited action is as bad as to prohibit a legitimate action? Why did Muslims prohibit slavery, which Islam deemed to be a legitimate action?
The answer to that question can be only found in the secular legislations that men has the right to devise as is fitting to his culture and level of progress, this is not an act against faith or an infidelity, but a given right.
Another significant example to illustrate this adaptation to secular legislations is related to the way the old legists have divided Islamic society into “battle land” and “Islam land”. In the past, the Christians and Jews who lived in Muslim states had to pay a special tax and did not have the right to hold public positions, because of the rule that stated that Muslims should not submit to the government of a non-Muslim. Today, the Arab societies who include religious minorities have Christian citizens working in the judiciary, army and in ministerial positions as well. So, what do the Islamists, who believe that the Islamic law is valid for all times and places, think about such situation? Should we strip the non-Muslims of citizenship rights and force them to pay taxes as before, since this new arrangement stands obviously against Islamic law and the legists’ teaching.
Another important issue is the “Jihad” or “Holy war” institution, What is the significance of this institution today? “Jihad” is
currently used to justify aggression and cruelty, and is rejected by the entire
humanity including the Muslim population.
If the Fundamentalists are determined to hold on to their version of
holy war, they will face an impossible mission: to support “El Kaeda” organization, and to
mobilize hundred of millions in order to invade
Many ideologists use the religious call for “Jihad” in a context of self
defense in legitimate political and liberation struggle, unfortunately they do
not realize the appalling implications of the word, and its suggestion of a
religious conflict, while in truth, the conflict is of
a political nature and not a religious one. Naturally this slogan was met by
universal ire, and those who were raising it were accused of being terrorists,
their legitimate causes suffering the most for their blunder. The blatant misuse of the word “Jihad” was
most evident when the government of
Jihad is not a forgotten religious duty, as Islamists claim, it is in fact an extinct duty, that has no place in today’s world, which can be no longer divided into a battle land and an Islamic land.
What if a Muslim does not believe in “Jihad”, would that make him an infidel? If the answer is negative, then we have the right to say that the view of the Middle-Ages legists of holy war and the battle against the unbelievers is not warranted in our current time. We only believe that we should defend our countries when they are under attack, a Muslim can still be a faithful believer while co-existing peacefully with other humans. Furthermore, in line with the modern civil spirit, forcing a non-Muslim to renounce his own religion is considered a crime punishable by law.
It is evident that the attempt to apply middle ages religious notions in our life today would only fail and would also severely obstruct democracy.
Finally, the Arab nations have one of two options: either to sever the ties with the Western civilization and its modern institutions, and persist in their self-destructive behavior and their conviction that the “infidel” West is the only one entitled to enjoy life, or it can completely sever the ties with its legacy, and embrace life and freedom instead of succumbing to the pull of hatred and death..