Leaving Islam




What Arabs write about the West and Westerners is very important both for themselves and for Americans and Europeans. But the real problem surfaces instantly when such writings become justifications for questioning the very idea of democracy, and an excuse for authoritarian and totalitarian views. The argument then is framed in the following manner: if both European and Americans versions of democracy are a sham, there is no guarantee for the Arab version of democracy to be any better. Therefore there is no need for Westerners to lecture us about a democracy that does not really exist.  

But is it not rather shocking that [while these criticisms of the West are going on,] hardly any mention has been made of the many prisons that are scattered throughout the Arab world, such as Mazza (near Damascus ), or Abu Zaabal (near Cairo )? Compare that with the continuing mention of Abu Ghraib!  

The real question is not whether there should be a critique of the West, since such a critique is salutary and necessary. However its moral rectitude is not validated unless and until there is a parallel critique of our societies and our sates, both in the past and at present. It is not right to critically examine every aspect of Western history, while not engaging in anything similar with respect to the history of Arab societies. Neither is it fair to learn everything about slavery in the Unites States, and ignore the slavery that existed in the Arab world. Have we ever reflected on the fact that the Ottoman Caliphate never developed into a democracy? Do we ever give a thought as to why the Kurds desire to secede from Iraq , and why the Southern Sudanese do not trust a unified Sudan ? [Have we ever pondered the fact] that while the Arab world occupies the same amount of territory as the United States and possesses a similar number of people, it shows no progress at all? Do we realize that our exports, with exception of petroleum, do not exceed those of Finland !?       

It is indeed refreshing to read these lines and think about their impact on a young Arab person who has the ability to access the Internet, and read similar articles that appear at the Al-Sharq

Al-Awsat site. Some of these young people may live in Syria and would be fully aware of the existence of the notorious Sijn al-Mazza. They may even wonder why the article failed to refer to the concentration camps at Tadmor ( Palmyra ) in the Syrian Desert ! As for an Egyptian reader, he may even know someone who had spent time at the notorious Abu Zaabal jail.  

Here is another sentence worth quoting:  

It is not proper to critically examine every aspect of Western history, while not engaging in anything similar with respect to the history of Arab societies.  

These are very strong words. I don’t remember hearing anything like them when growing up in the Levant during the French presence there, between 1918 and 1946. At that  time, as Arab nationalism was rising, fuelled by the Allies’ failing to fulfill their promises for independence made during WWI, it was not difficult to regard Western democracy as a sham. But after more than half a century of independence from Britain and France after WWII, the Middle East was riddled with military coups and dictatorial regimes that embarked on dangerous adventures, both at home and abroad. Strong feelings of disillusionment have been growing for more than twenty five years; and here at last, a writer expresses himself boldly by speaking out against the sham and hypocrisy in the Arab camp!  

Great as these sentiments were by pointing to the shortcomings of Arab-Muslim civilization,

I noticed the usual mantras against the West, and specifically against the USA . Thus, a major flaw in the thinking of our “moderate” writer is that while critiquing various aspect of European colonialism, he fails to mention or even recognize Arab colonialism. To merely utter these words would bring astonishment to Arab intellectuals; as it is an unthinkable and unjustified charge. 

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