Overcoming societal deficits in Arabia
Posted by aogSunday, 16 November 2003 at 21:06 TrackBack Ping URL

Via Winds of Change, we have this ABC News Report about the nature of the problems in Arabia. The report talks about the

idea that Arab culture and religion are responsible for stifling progress, and tolerance toward “the other”,

but then goes on to say that this year’s Arab Human Development Report specifies a different root cause —

The report, released this week, stresses that the existential crisis facing the Arab world has less to do with religion and culture and more with three key development challenges — deficits in political freedom, empowerment of women, and access to knowledge. These challenges stem from attitudes purveyed by repressive governments and conservative religious groups, but they are not innate to Arab or Muslim thought.

This, in my view, is just some PC speak. It’s understandable why the authors of the report would engage in such, as

  1. they might well endanger themselves by being blunt
  2. their real goal is to spark advancement, a purpose for which that level of bluntness isn’t helpful.

But it’s difficult to see what ABC News’ excuse is. It seems a bit disingenuous to say that a culture / religion combination that has uniformly produced repressive governments throughout its history is unrelated to that result. There’s no evidence that even the early Islamic governments had any interest in the knowledge of civilizations that they didn’t conquer. One might be able to make an argument that separately the two threads (Arab and Islamic culture) might not lead to “deficits in political freedom, empowerment of women, and access to knowledge” but together there doesn’t seem to be much doubt.

The question is whether the confluence of Arab and Islamic culture in Arabia can be modified sufficiently to either adapt to a technological, self-ordered societal structure or whether it will end up discarded on the scrap heap of history. Iraq will certainly be a strong test case for this. Already it seems to be divering from previous Islamic practices with strong (90%+) public support for freedom of speech and religion which are certainly not in the Arab/Islamic tradition.