My last article, “Best Model for Arab World?” has generated a passionate debate. Many disagreed with my view that Turkey and Dubai can’t be taken as the best model to follow. I appreciate their perspective and understand their concerns. Most opponents come from the New World (USA). Heritage-aware secular Europeans were more concerned with the religion aspect.
I agree that progress carries a hefty price tag. We cannot stop the time machine or turn its clock backward. Economics dictates ways and means that might not suit every soul and please every heart.
The question is: Should it be either or? Do we have to choose between modernity and civilization; prosperity and identity; progress and heritage? Does globalization mean the death of cultural diversity? Can’t a nation be progressive as well as proud of its past achievements and committed to its value system?
My stand is: Yes, we can be proud Arabs, good Muslims and great civil builders. We did it in the past and can do it again. Great civilizations, like China and India, are doing it today.
Yes, culture and heritage do matter. Lose your identity and you lose your soul, relate to your roots and you stand taller. That is my perspective; here are other points of view from dear readers.
— Why try to imitate anyone else? Arabs should simply decide for themselves what sort of society they want and build it.
— Malaysia is an Asian, not Arab country. Its progress was achieved mainly by the Indian and Chinese communities. Turkey and Dubai have the right attitude toward humanity that is more important than any religious attitude.
— Turkey is a country with identity. It didn’t join the European Union because it must adhere to certain standards. Kemal Attaturk’s revolution is effective and sooner or later they will be in the EU.
I lived in Dubai and found it a role model. Its leaders work according to a plan and know exactly what they are doing. Yes, laborers are foreign, but managers and planners are locals.
— The advocates of Turkey-Dubai model do not share your frame of reference. Put the question to those who are on the same plane like me.
While I respect your search for near-best, why look for models at all? We have the Qur’an and Sunnah. Let’s take an overdose of learning and knowledge and set about building our own new model, better than Malaysia.
— Dubai is an excellent example of how to blend the best of East and West and tolerance in action. Yes, on the surface you will find it more West than East, but dig deeper and you’ll find that the Eastern heritage, cultures and values remain intact.
— Most of Muslims in the world are not Arab. Arabic as a language has a limited vocabulary, so it is not practical for scientific pursuits without adding English, French, or German derivatives.
Modernity is not a problem for Arabs, but it is for fundamentalist Muslims. Arabs must get over the habit of indexing every human event to Israel. You should just recognize it and move on with your lives.
An attachment to heritage and identity is valuable only if it moves you forward. So the best model for the Arab world is to separate religion from government and politics. This will lead to peace and progress, without sacrificing your identity.
— Turkey is a great nation but still hopelessly poor and cannot be bracketed with UAE or Qatar. It is a hope and possibility that they will be admitted into the EU, at which time maybe Attaturk experiment will have finally paid off.
— “Hollywood” is the model that is now banging on the doors of the Arab world. It is not the best model but hard to stop because it attracts the young.
— If you want to build skyscrapers you have a choice: School the builders, or import them.
— Similar worries exist in my country. Some fear we are going to be Islamized by the growing number of Muslim immigrants. Others fear a EU attempt to replace national identity with European.
I won’t give up my identity easily for another, especially when the present culture and lifestyle have such a good track record in terms of stability and low poverty. On the other hand, I am open to changes. If not, we would still be living like the old Vikings, 1000 years ago.
What is a culture, a religion or an ideology and what is its purpose? They are all strategies for survival — to make money, to prosper. So if your own society isn’t good at making money then it is high time to adjust your culture a little.