Wednesday, October 20, 2010

When will Arabs finally awaken?

An interesting issue as the Umno delegates are now in full swing for its annual assembly, "when will Umno members awaken?"


The recent Sirte summit was all rhetoric and little action, and it's time for leaders to deal with reality

Afro-Arab summit
  • Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi (centre), with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (right), and Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh (second from left), during a group picture with Arab and African leaders during the second Afro-Arab summit in Sirte, Libya.
  • Image Credit: AP

The Sirte Arab summit was expected to be more than a public relations exercise. It was expected to rise above compliments, platitudes and the media attention. It should have tackled the most glaring problems. Regretfully, the summit was a mere traditional gathering for flowery speeches and words of praise.

The general scene in the Arab world is depressing as Arabs are lagging behind other nations. Countries in Europe, Asia and Latin America have formed economic blocs and political alliances to cope with radical global changes and shifts while Arabs are involved in internal conflicts that threaten to widen the chasm that already exists between them.

This deteriorating situation makes Arab people feel extremely frustrated, wondering whether Arab nations are still living in a time of tribal conflicts that prevailed in the pre-Islamic era, recalling tribal wars, such as the 40-year war of Dahis Wal Ghabraa which erupted between the two tribes of Abs and Dibyan over a horse race.

Now, most Arabs have lost hope in the possibility of bringing about change, especially since the middle class, which always leads the march of change, no longer exists. As the region has evolved into an arena of political struggles between Arab countries, talk about the political unity of Arabs is illogical. The political unity of Arabs falls within the red zone — as no one is allowed to come close to such a taboo. Yet talk about economic unity is allowed as it falls within the green zone — this is what good Arab citizens believe.

However, talk about economic unity dates back to the 1970s when Europe, led by Nato, was involved in the Cold War.

Although Arab countries considered economic unity even before European states, the continent's economic unity has become a reality while Arabs are still drowning in their differences.

Though the Council of Arab Economic Unity was established in 1964, with the ultimate goal of achieving complete economic unity among its member states, it has not held any meeting for many years. Hence, the strategic dream of economic unity has not been achieved for many reasons. This led to brain drain from the Arab world to the west.

Consequently, the Arab world has continued to suffer as its best and brightest university-educated people relocate to western Europe and the United States.

Making matters worse is the fact that the brain drain is combined with rising unemployment rates among young Arabs in a nation that possesses huge economic potential in terms of a large land mass, huge natural resources and fertile agricultural lands.

The migration of highly educated and talented Arabs is a big gain to foreign countries, and a significant loss for their home nations.

Sadly, many Arab countries have sought help from international experts, who are originally Arabs but migrated from the Arab world to the West. They have dealt with these professionals as foreigners, not as Arabs.

There is an urgent need to stop the migration of skilled Arabs by developing a system that tackles the issue of brain drain and helps bring back Arab human capital.

Due to security reasons, Arab countries must not leave the door wide open for non-Arab experts and professionals, so that we avoid giving access to foreign security services into our domestic affairs.

Deteriorating situation

In fact, the Arab situation is deteriorating to the extent that makes most Arab citizens yearn for a bygone era. For example, deteriorating levels of security in Iraq, which has seen daily bombings and the systematic destruction of infrastructure, have forced people to flee the country.

Iraq, which is home to rich civilisations dating back 7,000 years, has become an unbearable hell from which people escape to any other country apart from Iraq.

What is going on in the country indicates that there is a planned design aimed at terrifying Arab intellectuals and middle-class people to the extent that any call for change will only bring about an Iraq-like situation marked by killings and destruction.

This is a clear message to the people in the Arab world who thirst for change, to learn from the lessons of Iraq, whose people were eager to get rid of the dictatorship of Saddam Hussain, yet ended up being victims of daily killings and the odious sectarianism.

Another sad thing is that most Arabs have lost hope and become customised to everything they see on TV screens — even the scenes of killings in Palestine, Iraq and Somalia. It seems that such scenes have become familiar to Arab viewers who have became accustomed to such issues.

On the other hand, there is a growing interest, among Arab viewers, in satellite television channels that air either indecent material or programmes that fuel sectarian and ethnic tendencies.

Many TV stations are dedicated to airing low-level video clips, songs and dances that portray women as a objects of pleasure, while other TV stations have no message, except to fuel sectarian and ethnic tendencies.

The enemies of Arabs are extremely satisfied with the state of deterioration they have already reached, especially after their involvement in domestic sectarian and ethnic struggles.

Hence, sectarian turmoil in the Arab world makes it unnecessary for the enemies of the Arabs to shoot them because they are shooting at each other. Despite this gloomy picture, we still have to dream of a real Arab summit that works for the revival of Arab renaissance

Will Arabs awaken?

Dr Mohammad Abdullah Al Mutawa is a professor of sociology.

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