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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

Arab intellectual debates « Previous | |Next »
October 1, 2003

Arab1.jpgThis article about intellectual debates in the Arab world is interesting and worth looking at. (It is courtesy of Abu Aardvark) It usefully maps the debates in terms of a duality of reformers and conservatives; useful because Islam is generally equated with the conservatives in Australia.

It describes the conservatives thus:

"...conservative authors repeat familiar accusations against the West: the pursuit of a brutal policy of defending their own interests, the protection of authoritarian leaders that are considered useful or acceptable and, consequently, the prevention of democratic development. By employing the rhetoric of the eternally cheated Arab nation, it is possible for them to embed their views in the impenetrable spheres of the collective memory. All of a sudden, analogies loaded with negative connotations such as the crusades and the colonial period are drawn between the current situation and previous encounters with the West. Apocalyptic visions of the possible final battle between the Occident and the Orient are once again held up as a potential scenario for liberation from a state of continual humiliation."

This is the anti-western Islam that is refracted in Western media as Anti-Americanism. It is what Islam stands for in the rightwing Murdoch newspapers, such as The Australian. Islam is the categorical rejection of American ideas as bad. Hence we have the easy slide into Islamic terrorists (eg., Jemaah Islamiah) threatening Australia's national security from the outside and the inside.

What is pushed into the background and made invisible by the constant repetition of this Islamic sterotype in the The Australian is the movement for reform in the Arab world by Islamic and secular liberals. They favour social change, democratic reform and economic liberalisation, the improvement of educational systems and the empowerment of women and a continual dialogue with America as being feasible and desirable. They criticise the conservative Arab tirades of hatred against the USA, whether it be for reasons of their supposed responsibility for the creation of Israel or for their continual support for America-friendly dictatorships.

We do not hear about this aspect of Arab political culture in Australia. It is one that criticises :

"...the obvious eurocentrism of the [American] proposals, which consider a complete transfer of the western liberal democratic model to the region to be the primary condition for reform. They are of the opinion that both the historical and cultural uniqueness of the Arab-Islamic region makes it necessary to adapt every imported body of thought to suit the local situation."

The reformers hold that key ideas highlighted by the Americans are essentially correct; that democratic ideals of the USA and/or the West now constitutes an important pillar of reformist thought; and that the impetus for democratisation and transformation projects initiated by civic society---human rights organisations, women’s movements and youth associations---not the nation state.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:31 AM | | Comments (0)