Note: This article was written in 2007, but needs to be revisited as an important message for those who are thrashing around attempting to find a way to respond to the horrific attacks in Beirut and Paris.
By Tarek Osman
A mixture of violence, hypocrisy and degradation is corroding the west’s standing in the Arab and Muslim worlds. A fresh reconciliation of values is needed, says Tarek Osman.
Amidst the talk about militant Islam’s holy war against the west, Europe’s phobia of homegrown Islamism, and academic theorisation of the eminent clash between the liberal west and the fundamentalist Islamic world, the west is slowly but steadily losing its main ally in the Arab and Islamic worlds – liberal Arabs and Muslims.
Most liberal Arabs, like most Arabs of all intellectual standpoints, don’t savour the fact that foreign forces – predominantly western powers – occupy parts of their lands, have significant influence over their economic interests, and preach them about progress and socio-economic development. But the view of the liberal Arab or Muslim differs from that of his/her local cousin in a key respect: the deep belief that the post-renaissance value system of the west – based upon social liberalism and the sanctity of individualism, freedom, and free choice – is inherently superior to the value system propagated by the three socio-political systems currently dominating the Arab and Islamic worlds: dogmatic theocracy, patriarchal absolutism, and tribal traditionalism.
In the west, this would be the equivalent of stating that the sun rises from the east; throughout most of the Arab and Islamic worlds, it is highly debatable; and in some corners, heretical.