Strive for Political Change and New Leadership
By Mahboob A. Khawaja, Ph.D.
Arab people are ancient, civilized and appear highly motivated to challenge the neo-colonial established tyranny of oppressive rule across the Middle East. The paranoid and vengeful rulers see this challenge as anti- tradition where tribal clans and affiliations are bought with “wasta” (favors) and money. Not, so, the traditional Arab landscape is up in revolt against the so called norms of petro-dollars sponsored modernity. It is more likely that human nature has returned to its originality of thinking and behavior and the ordinary folks do not see the light in palaces dominated politics of the few. Rulers live in palaces, not with people. Both parties are unable to cross-over the varied time zones of conflicting interests and political ambitions in an age of reason and higher public expectations. The Arab rulers could claim to have pursued change and achieved modernity at the cost of perpetuated authoritarianism, ruthlessness, institutionalized secret police system, co-existence with the business communities and military establishments but the phenomenon of success spells out public moral and intellectual deprivation, incapacity to think of the self and the future leading to degeneration and viciousness of the exploitative system of governance. The Arabian political landscape depicts a clear sense of public deprivation and helplessness. Would the current peaceful movements of the common people produce desired results for political change, recognition of human rights and dignity and opportunities for participation in making of the democratic governance?
The Authoritarian Arab Rulers Bitten by Greed and Ignorance
Islam enriched the Arabs with knowledge, divine guidance and global leadership but the oil exporting prosperity shelved them back to the age of ignorance and greed. For over 60 years, the Arab rulers have been beaten on all the major fronts of political and strategic endeavors involving their primary national interests. Foremost, the sudden economic boom derived from the petro-dollars had adverse social, moral and political impacts across wide range of the Arabian lives and traditions. The illusion of economic prosperity undermined the Arab thoughts, culture and Islamic belief and values. In the process of sudden transformation, they lost the essence of Islamic THINKING and moral and political identities. Once the Arab civilization was the most powerful force contributing to the European Renaissance and Industrial Revolution. John Draper (History of the Intellectual Development of Europe, 1876), describes how the Arab civilization advanced the European and American human progress. The Arab achievements were the direct results of Islam as system of life for 800 years in Al-Andalusia- Spain. Now, the Arab rulers desperately search for new identities, titles and images to keep afloat for the challenges of the 21st century survival kit. Ending the colonialism, many had conveniently adapted to make history as the point of reference for the Arab contributions to the human civilization. History is living but its primary coverage is past acts, not the present and the future. H.S. Aziz (“Islam and Muslims”) describes the Arabian complexity:
“Most Muslim countries are governed by power groups which consist of people who do not know or understand Islam and have abandoned it. They are people who have established themselves in advantageous positions often by repressing and exploiting their own peoples with the help of the dominating foreign powers. They are usually educated in the West or in the Western style and their business, cultural and political interests are intimately connected with the West. They cannot possibly be said to represent the people”
The contemporary Arab rulers, the outcome of the neo-colonial THINKING and culture, encounter serious crises in defining their own cultural-based identities and relevance to the people they claim to govern. Across the Arab world, Africa, Asia and beyond, the European planned and administered coerced European thoughts, laws and traditions to eradicate the centuries old established Islamic cultural values, principles of legal justice, education, social and moral system of governance, dedicated to the recognition of God as the supreme authority and law-giving power in the Muslim societies. The British, French, Italian and Dutch imperialists imposed their own distinct cultures, languages, laws and educational system to dismantle the Islamic institutions of education and human development, finances, moral and political governance. The imperialistic transformation was achieved by military crusades, massive killings and displacements, coerced occupation through historical intrigues, treacheries and forced laws and divides and rule strategies. The planned scheme of European terrorism that destroyed the Islamic culture and civilization in the Arabian peninsula, southern Europe, Asia and Africa but nobody is willing to speak in the emerging political corridors of the US led political hegemony in global affairs. Consequently, millions opposing the European conquests were massacred and their habitats destroyed and overtaken by force and flourishing human societies destroyed by the colonial powers now claim to be civilized nations at the beginning of the 21st century. What rational criterion is being used to claim this concept of civilization?
Perhaps, the former colonial masters would have difficulty in explaining to the mankind that a little while ago they lived in the dark ages of barbarism, they held Roman coliseum entertaining people with wild beasts killing the human beings and tried to subjugate the morally and culturally rich Islamic world under their deception by force, not by the persuasion of democratic principles and exercise of the free and rational choice. The ruling Arabian elite, now enriched with oil exporting earnings, do not view these historical record as its irony will render judgment which might go against their own interests and political survivability. The phenomenon of CHANGE is the most important factor that the Arab ruling elite seem to ignore and hate to discuss in any public forums. The Arab people are not part of the authoritarian rules in their oil riched lands operated by the Western establishments. The rulers live in palaces and people live in distant dust covered clans and tribal locations. There are varied cultures and time zones involved in-between the Arabian ruling elite and the people they claim to govern. The laws and public institutions date back to the European imperial time and order. The Arab rulers occupying the political powerhouses for over half a century would have difficulty to face the mirror. All the mirrors appear dusty covered with the illusion of the oil-based economic prosperity whose strings are within the control of the Sheiks-the Arab rulers for the time being. Paul Craig Roberts (“Muslims are their own Worst Enemies” March 02, 2010, ICH), offers the following candid observation:
“Muslims are numerous but powerless. Divisions among Muslims, especially between Sunni and Shiites, have consigned the Muslim Middle East to almost a century of Western control….Muslim disunity has made it possible for Israel to dispossess the Palestinians, for the U.S. to invade Iraq, and for the U.S. to rule much of the region through puppets. ….Egypt receives $1.5 billion a year from Washington, which enabled President Mubarak to buy off opposition. The opposition had rather have the money than support the Palestinians. Therefore, Egypt cooperates with Israel and the U.S. in the blockade of Gaza….. Another factor is the willingness of some Muslims to betray their own kind for U.S. dollars. ….The U.S. and its NATO puppets have been killing Afghan women, children, and village elders since October 7, 2001, when the U.S. military invasion “Operation Enduring Freedom,” a proper Orwellian title for a self-serving war of aggression, was launched. The U.S. installed puppet president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, is bought and paid for with U.S. dollars.”
Arab People Look for Political Change to articulate a New World
The neo-colonial rulers think that modernity will change the people to adjust themselves to the requisites of economic prosperity. The masses believe a return to originality of the Arab-Islamic culture will free them from the bondage of modern slavery of the coerced materialism. Would it be an intellectual evolution or a political revolution in the making to bring about the much desired change across the oil exporting Arabian landscape? The irony of human tragedies is manifolds. Some of the largest military goods and weapons are purchased by the Arab rulers but there are no Arab armies to make good out of it. In the post colonial period, the Arab leaders have not won any wars with favorable outcomes. There are no Arab Generals to fight for Islam and to free the occupied Palestine or to defend the Arab national interests. It makes no sense why would the ruling elite make major investments in buying the American or British obsolete military hardware? Observing the massive public uprising against the beleaguered Arab leaders, it is becoming clear that the Arab armies were meant to protect the authoritarian rulers and their palaces, and not the interests of the captive Arab masses. The Arab rulers have vast financial resources but approximately 75% of their national incomes are invested in the American or European financial institutions, not being used for the good of the people who deserve it. Rather the resources are manipulated by the few and used for high-rise building, even the Western industrialized societies cannot compete, artificial snow to enjoy desert skiing, horse races, highways for imported American vehicles and of course, unmatchable airports, not found in most of the Western nations. Are these the true human values and standards for human development and sustainable future-building?
The critical issues call for critical analysis and change and new ideas to phase-out the old and obsolete thinking and obsessed values flourishing across the Arabian Peninsula. But the ruling elite have not built new institutions to plan change and to view the imperatives of new trends for policy on peace and conflict resolution and human progress in a global community of nations. It is overwhelmingly one sided Western materialism not the human development that explains the material progress. The proponents of the material civilization see the human life just in one track system – just the body without spirituality, and all the time glued to greed and needs of the physical body, and a deliberate instinct not to hpw understand the rationality of a just balanced approach of both the body and soul to human development, happiness and success.
How could the Arab leadership failure be turned into change and reformation of the neo-colonialism and to revive the cultural presence and visionary leadership role in the global political arena? The 21st century is more enlightened and an age of information and knowledge-driven global culture of creativity, effective leadership and human progress. It is not reasonable for the ignorant to inherit kingship or a leadership role to be successful. The emerging and complex political imperatives call for the new generation of proactive educated and intelligent people to be in the leading role of planning of change and reformation of the old and obsolete inherited infrastructures of political governance unto new sustainable system of institutional development and nation-building and to be people-oriented and represent the Islamic interests in a rational manner. The hard facts of life speak for themselves. There is not a single Arab-Muslim country to present a credible intelligent leader to the international community. The Arab elite are operative from a position of moral and intellectual weakness and deprivation, not of political strength. To change the naïve political governance, Muslims in general and the Arabs in particular, must develop public institutions of the citizenry participation as Islam emphasizes the concept of “Shura”- consultation an important principle for societal decision making, of law, justice and leadership accountability. Muslims as one Ummah could well have a common currency, economic productivity, an international organization – “Ummah Council” responsible to develop policies and deal with issues of security, peace and conflict resolution, and to represent the unity of the Muslim Ummah as an agent of influence to strengthen the Islamic perspectives and workable policy stance in a constantly changing and challenging global political culture.
In Search of Political Imagination, State of Israel and Palestine in Waiting
The Arab ruling class faces multiple issues: (1) lack of proactive leadership to provide a sustainable vision and hope for the future, (2) lack of institutions to THINK and PLAN for peace and conflict management, and (3) to offer any concerted plan of action for manageable political CHANGE in the Arab world. The single most vital failure of the Arab rulers is self evident in failure to deal with the state of Israel and to resolve the Palestine problem in a way suitable to the human rights and dignity of the indigenous Palestinian people displaced by the creation of the state of Israel. For over 60 years, the Arab and Israelis have been talking about peace and fighting to achieve it. None of them seem to have the upper hand in dealing with a peaceful resolution of the problem. There is a conscious indifference and neglect on the part of the Arab rulers in dealing with Palestine problem. They failed to take any creative or innovative initiatives to deal with the Jewish people or to listen to their own voices of public reason in finding a workable outcome. The Arab elite take shelter in the petro-dollars dominated temporary economic uplift, whereas, Israelis have relied in aggressive policy stance to ignore the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people. The concerned global community must find a rational ground to come to terms with a just and workable solution by establishing an independent State of Palestine. Peace seems to have lost its true meaning and purpose in the Middle East politics. They are always talking about peace without having it on the table or in human reach for all practical purposes. The Arab rulers need to reflect at themselves if they have any institutionalized capacity with intellectual outreach to resolve the Palestine problem.
Whether fair or foul, Arab rulers are always ready to enter into negotiations for peace, the Western entrapment and outcomes favor Israel, not the authoritarian Arab rulers as they do not know how to deal with Israeli politicians and the changing patterns of global politics. The Israelis have institutionalized presence across Western Europe and America and their lobbyists control the mass media communication, a new weapon being used in global political manipulation. The Arabs do not know the enemy, yet Israelis are knowledgeable about all aspects of the Arabian life, their culture and indoctrination. Arab rulers neither have institutions nor interest to learn about Israelis or their social values and political culture. At human level, be it in peace or war, one must know the enemy. In an information-age, ignorance cannot be a reason to erect barriers for being ignorant. America is at the epic centre of the approach to a peaceful resolution. Throughout the Arab world, American history or politics is not part of the educational curriculum. Most Arab states are the client states of the US without much knowledge of the Master. The Arab ruling elite needs new educated, proactive and intelligent leaders and effective communicators to evolve creative challenges and acquire position of strength in global conflict management and peace building. You must come up with innovative challenges and be counted in global political affairs. The current Arab rulers live with immense weaknesses, they urgently need to redefine their role and work on leadership capacity-building to negotiate peace and to co-exist with the changing political landscape of international affairs. If the Arab rulers would understand the importance and NEED to develop new leaders from the new educated and intelligence generation of their own people, they would be relevant to explore new strategies for communication and conflict resolution. The time and opportunities call for new ideas and approaches to deal with the political problems. Israeli illegal settlements are increasing daily to occupy the Palestinian homes and land. Almost 42% of the occupied West Bank is said to have been taken up by the new immigrants coming from the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe to Israel. Every day news comes out about Israeli bulldozing the Arab ancestral homes in East Jerusalem to make room for the new illegal settlements. Have you ever heard of the Arab bulldozing the illegal Israeli settlements? Why are the contemporary Arab rulers so indifferent, ignorant and politically incompetent to provide intellectual security to the besieged masses?
The oil-based economy is not for ever and peak oil stage is already in place. Therefore, the illusion of prosperity is seen as short lived concept of the few living in palaces not viable with the people. History tells us that all the Arab glory and progress was intermittently linked with the message of Islam and following the Divine system as a way of life. That led the Arabs to achieve success in Southern Europe for more than 800 years of the Islamic civilization in Al-Andulus- Spain. The Arabs were the most advanced civilization in Europe while the European were enriched in witchcraft, slavery, dynastic warfare and gladiatorial games and torture- these were the competing identities of those who subsequently occupied the Islamic world by force, not by democratic persuasion. The Arab rulers are greedy and ignorant and not equipped with knowledge and wisdom to have public communication and establish people to people contacts and relationships. They are immune to change and relevance to the future. They belong to an age and time span that no longer exists except on papers and on the scheme of Western strategic planners in Washington and London. The real dilemma is that the new and intellectually entrepreneurial generations are stalled from progress as the hereditary rulers would not encourage their participation in political thinking, decision making and people-oriented governance. The challenge is how to bridge the gap in thinking and actions that the old and dormant neo-colonial Arab rulers could be phased-out or sidelined in just a ceremonial role and the new and more educated and competent young generations of the citizens could be phased-in to assume the much needed political leadership and to ensure that future will happen and it will be safe, secure and sustainable for peace and change in the Middle East.
One of my recent articles “Global Peace and Conflict Resolution:
How the Arab, Israeli and the Western Leaders Duped the Humanity?” 06/2010 makes the following observation:
“The prosperity fantasy bubble is fast approaching to an end with the peak oil forecasts as a visual reality in- waiting. Power, prosperity and poverty are all trials in human affairs and transitory phenomenon. Was the discovery of oil a conspiracy (“fitna”) for the Arabs to change the originality of their thinking, beliefs, values and passion for Islam as successful system of human life?”
The Arab masses long for political change and a promising future based on peaceful co-existence with others. But the rulers continue to live in dream world that is no longer relevant or sustainable to the changing perceptions, hopes and aspirations of the Arab people. The new educated, proactive and informed generation of Arab leadership with an inward eye not merely on the petro-dollars transitory economy but craving for realism and workable solutions for the purpose of building a different and promising future for the people-oriented Islamic governance, transforming the cruelty of authoritarianism into a functional democracy for the best interest of the people – is the real challenge with an opportunity. Change will lead to durable and peaceful future when political governance will ensure respect and recognition of the rights of the people and their active participation in making the political governance a reality. The bewildered rulers rely heavily on borrowed weapons, tanks, guns and bullets to silence the people’s voices of reason for change and peace. If there are any Arab rulers eager to LISTENING and LEARNING as part of the changing leadership role, the criterion for peaceful CHANGE is logically defined by the Al-Qura’an: Surah Al-Noor (verse 55, translation by Abdullah Yousef Ali)):
“Allah has promised to those
Among you who believe and work
Righteous deeds, that He will of a surety
Grant them in the land, inheritance
(of power), as He granted it to those before them,
That He will establish in authority
Their religion- the one
Which He has chosen for them;
And that He will change (their state),
After the fear
In which they (lived) to one of security and peace.”