Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Arab Critique... and Defense of Islamic values

In my recent research on Somaliland, I've come across several articles that argue and critique various aspects about Arab and Islamic culture. Although the two articles suggested here contain some good ideas and some interesting points, they are also sometimes not convincing. Even so, I present them here to add to the highly polarising topic because the issues are very important too.

For a critical point of view of Arab society, here's Barry Rubin's piece excerpted from his book The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East - What's Wrong: The Arab Liberal Critique of Arab Society.

"Arab liberals have become vocal critics of their societies in recent years, making the question of democracy one of the most important issues facing the Middle East. But what do the reformers actually say about the problems facing their countries and the shortcomings in the current systems there? This article presents the key arguments of the liberals, and those opposing them, showing both their common analysis and the different viewpoints or strategies making up the reform movement."

"The Arab liberals' most impressive achievement has been to provide a thoroughgoing critique of what is wrong with Arab society. This is such a persuasive indictment that it is critical to remember it is also one relatively hardly heard in an Arab world flooded by a sea of official statements, self-congratulatory proclamations, calls to militancy, and claims of victimization by outside villains. As a result, many Arab liberals show a profound frustration about their inability to convince others of what to them seems so obvious."
[follow the link to read the rest]

For an opposing perspective, here's Dr. Ali A. Mazrui's article Islamic and Western Values.

"Democracy and The Humane Life
Westerners tend to think of Islamic societies as backward-looking, oppressed by religion, and inhumanely governed, comparing them to their own enlightened, secular democracies. But measurement of cultural distance between the West and Islam is a complex undertaking, and that distance is narrower than they assume. Islam is not just a religion, and certainly not just a fundamentalist political movement. It is a civilization, and a way of life that varies from one Muslim country to another but is animated by a common spirit far more humane than most Westerners realize. Nor do those in the West always recognize how their own societies have failed to live up to their liberal mythology. Moreover, aspects of Islamic culture that Westerners regard as medieval may have prevailed in their own culture until fairly recently; in many cases, Islamic societies may be only a few decades behind socially and technologically advanced Western ones. In the end, the question is what path leads to the highest quality of life of the average citizen, while avoiding the worst abuses. The pat of the West does not provide all the answers; Islamic values deserve serious consideration."
[follow the link to read the rest]

I encourage any thoughts and discussion on this post.

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