April 27, 2006
Something Very Important Is Happening In The Middle EastTopics: Middle East News and Perspectives
That is - besides Iran's efforts to take the world into Armageddon, the Palestinians love affair with death and hate, and the Iraqi's apparent confusion over whether or not working together is better than killing each other.
Barry Rubin had a piece at the JP a couple days ago that offered some important perspectives we haven't often heard spoken about but are worth considering - that something very important is happening that is changing the Middle East dramatically and perhaps permanently in a way no one expected:
... the decline of the Arab world, the development of a major conflict between Sunni and Shi'ite Arabs, and the rising power of Iran.Read the rest - he's just getting warmed up.
... since the Iranian revolution of 1979, Arabs have worried about Islamist Iran becoming a major regional power. After all, that was a key reason behind the eight-year-long Iran-Iraq war, which included Gulf Arab oil-producing states giving Saddam Hussein billions of dollars to defend them.
Since then, most Arab attention has been focused on Israel, Iraq itself, Osama Bin Laden and other Sunni terrorists, and purported Western enmity and American imperialist threats.
As for Sunni-Shi'ite conflict, most Muslims denied there was any real problem, explaining this as merely one more phony issue raised by their enemies. Everyone got along just fine, thank you very much.
But now the crisis is undeniable. One of the reasons for this situation is the Arab world's decline since its leaders are refusing to make necessary reforms whether they involve civil rights, economic changes, pragmatism, or moderation toward the West and Israel.
The breakdown is apparent in virtually every country even though the regimes are still managing to use demagoguery, Arab nationalism, and the fear of Islamism to hold onto power.
What's so amazing about the decline of the Arab world is that in spite of billions and billions of dollars of oil revenues, the Arabs have failed to bring their culture, and especially their religious views, out of the middle ages. As I've written previously,"What we are all witnessing is more characteristic of tribal behavior, more specifically, Bedouin behavior, not what one expects from people living in a modern civilized society".
Here is what Dr Khaled Abou El Fadl said in an interview about what I would call the "Bedouin mindset manifesting itself in the Muslim street, fueled by Islamist leaders like Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradhawi :
There is a tribal element, but a slightly different (and more important issue) is the Bedouin element. Tribalism has existed in most of the world. You look at a country like England. Until the Romans left, it was a fairly tribal society, as was France, as was even Venice. But that was not necessarily an obstruction to the development of humanistic ideas and human values.
But Bedouinism, as opposed to tribalism, is the existence of a system of allegiance to a family or tribe in an environment that is arid and rather uncomplicated, compared to the urban centres, and in which either someone was your friend or your enemy. You existed in a state of all-out war, and there was a presumption that someone was out to get you until proven otherwise. You needed a military-type structure that needed a leader who could not be questioned. The environment was often a mentality of black and white or yes and no, not the cultured mentality of the arts and sciences and humanities and of philosophy and contemplation. The Quran itself is quite critical of Bedouin society, and speaks about the immoderate nature of those who remain with a Bedouin mentality.
(In contrast) take countries like Egypt or Syria or Iraq. These were highly developed, cosmopolitan places. You had layers of civilisational experiences that created an appreciation for the product of the intellect and sophisticated thought, and an inability to see things as black and white anymore.
When asked how this Bedouin mentality manifests itself among today's extremists, Dr El Fadl attributed virtually all the sources of violence during the past decades as being touched or emerged from - Bedouin - Islam. It's as though much of the Arab world finds it impossible to escape their bedouin and tribal heritage, and all the entrapments therein.
Posted by Richard at April 27, 2006 12:30 AM
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- Something Very Important Is Happening In The Middle East - Apr 27, 2006