Thursday, April 26, 2007

Readers’ Take on Best Model for Arabs

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.


1 comment:

V. Veritas said...

A Society for Funeral Services

Ghassan Charbel      Al-Hayat     - 20/04/07/

There is a need for a serious Arab organization of a strict and active administration, a huge budget, an ability to take rapid actions and teams that work round the clock. There is a need for a new Arab organization that is not paralyzed by bureaucracy or stricken by corruption. This required new organization should be a central body with local branch offices in a number of Arab cities.

There is a need for a serious Arab organization that does not practice politics, or compose poetry in praise of Arab solidarity. It should not be involved in illiteracy programs, education problems or environmental disasters. It should not talk about reforms, women's rights or the right to use peaceful nuclear technology. Its members should not give lectures on globalization.

There is a need for a serious Arab organization whose interests do not include a discussion of the position held by the Arabs in this century - a position which is already slipping through their fingers! It should not talk about where the Arabs fit in a unipolar world, or in their region. It should not be concerned about the limits of a potential Iranian attack or the Turkish role.

There is a need for a serious Arab organization of a huge budget. Its only task would be to effectively play the role of a burial society as the dead in our region are many.

Everything indicates that the number of deaths is rapidly increasing, and, therefore, the action should be up to the level of the challenge. The first item on its agenda should be setting up coffin factories throughout the Arab region - which extends from the ocean to the gulf. These factories should employ the latest technology to double their productivity, as the demand is high.

This is not an easy task. So, the second item must be to set up an unlimited number of morgues to receive the dead bodies waiting for their families to recognize them or waiting for the coffins to arrive.

There is a need for a serious Arab organization, the third item on whose agenda should be to assign an army of Arab engineers to find suitable areas to build, not universities, schools or institutions, but cemeteries, which - according to those returning from Baghdad - no longer have enough space for new bodies.

Anyone who thinks to accuse me of pessimism should pause for a while. He should first read what is in today's newspapers about Baghdad. He can also follow what satellites say, too. He can revisit the first pages of the Arab newspapers over the past few days. They all speak of death. Terrorism strikes in Algeria. Suicide bombers blow themselves up in Casablanca. Somalis die for many reasons. Those who feared Lebanization now fear Iraqization. The image of the new Middle East is peeping out from Baghdad. It will be a region for bloody divorce, elimination and cancellation.

There is a need for an active Arab body with a huge budget to bury the victims of confused wars and seditions of different kinds. It shall be responsible for bidding farewell to those countries on whose unity we used to wager, and to bury the Arabs, or some of them, with all their dreams.


Ain't it the truth!