Two Minutes w/Dr. Yahya: Planning the Future of Arab Renaissance نهضة العرب المقبلة
Part of the Arab Manifest Articles
Dr. Hasan Yahya, Ph.Ds-Former Professor of Comparative Sociology
Originator of the Arab American Encyclopedia
Since the fall of communism in 1989, the Arab uprisings were the sign of change in the Middle East. It seems many observers at first look as uncomplicated and inspiring may lead to achieved universal values, human rights, and democratization. But violence, unfortunately covers almost all Arab uprisings in Yemen, Libya and Syria and elsewhere. While Egypt remained the model until ousting the Muslim Brothers from the high ranks of the new elected government, which after one year, the people of Egypt decided to reverse the system from religious to secular political modern rational system.
Studies especially western studies supported by western governments (like the USA) have been done recently, for example, Seven Pillars of the Arab Future, by Michael Wahid Hanna (2013), the Rand study titled: Future Challenges for the Arab World: The implications of Demographic and Economic Trends. The Carnegie Papers on Islamists movements and the Democratic Process in the Arab World: Exploring the Grey Zones.2006. And many other reports for the CIA World Factbook: as National Report as well as for different purposes under the UN agencies, such as UNESCO. Almost all these studies were descriptive in nature, rather than comprehensively analytical. Even though researchers were specialists and following the research steps and analysis. Therefore, this writer states that IF studies of Arab Political Future (which he calls: Arab Renaissance) are not comprehensive in taking the issue-meaning taking history and development of the Arab world political systems, colonization, and western involvement, since the removal of Khilafa in 1923, by Mustafa Ataturk and early movements for Arab renaissance, until 9/11 incident, into consideration-THEN studies of Arab future lack of understanding where the Arab states are now, and where they are going, otherwise, the future of Arab politics remains documentary more than analytic and logical reasoning. The cause-effect approach is emphasized rather than modernization theory assumptions about the Arab world. (Yahya 2013)
Eight years before the end of Caliphate, Sykes-Picot 1917, map out the remaining heritage of Arab tribes into closed borders and traditional authoritarian regimes. Colonization covered Syria and Lebanon under French power, Jordan Iraq, and mandate Palestine were under British authority. Independent from foreign powers was accomplished in the 1950 and 1960s, but the connection with west remain intact, especially when the oil resources were discovered and dominated by western technology and interest. These factors cannot be missed in discussing the future of the Arab political system.
In his study of the Seven Pillars of Arab Future, by Hanna (2013), he notes that the ultimate success of the Arab uprisings will depend heavily on the development of seven core areas. They are: economic growth and equality; education policy; security-sector reform; transitional justice; decentralization; the development of regional norms on democratization; and—in many ways, the linchpin for everything—the flourishing of a more pluralistic politics. These are the seven pillars of the Arab Future.” In his opinion that these pillars were “the yardsticks by which we can measure progress in the region in the coming years.”(Hanna 2013)
These variables serve no problem solving or even understanding the situation of the political Arab states to plan the expected Arab future. If the status quo and Arab new generations’ mentality and attitudes remain the same, nothing will change as expected in all aspects of human and state life. A new mentality may be formed in some stages in the future, through education according to the idea of separating administration of the state from the belief administration and church domination. Such thinking should be taken into work for Arabs in order these changes may happen.
The Rand study Future Challenges for the Arab World: The implications of Demographic and Economic Trends. The Carnegie Papers on Islamists movements and the Democratic Process in the Arab World: Exploring the Grey Zones.2006. And many other reports for the CIA World Factbook: On National Report as well as for different purposes under the UN agencies, such as UNESCO, follow the same measures of modernization theories which I described elsewhere as “created to develop free market economy for the powerful nations” but remain as invalid, vague and false to measure progress or regress.
In my opinion, as sociologist, philosopher, and historian, I say: “To secure success of any progress, political systems have to be overthrown (socially and culturally at least) oaccording to rational decisions, and replaced by secular systems gradually, through education and equality practices and self repect, including regaining dignity, nationalization and self dependency, which are far from achieving without conflict and establishment of a new secular leadership depends on the separation of church and state.”(Yahya 2009)
In this case the urgent and necessary question is: How to convince local actors of the benefits of separating the state from religion, while respecting beliefs of the people? Especially in a culturally and historically, Bedouin societies in the Gulf area in particular and the called modern nations (non traditional but practicing authoritarian dictatorial activities in nature and ideology, such as Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen and Algeria, in general?
The Egyptian case is a little bit different, since the first steps toward bring Arabs to unity was attempted, but the western powers involvement defeated that campaign, and with the help of some regimes in the region, another campaign colored by moderate Islamic movement were established by petro-nations to replace Arabism. All efforts to united Arab state on Ethnic background have failed ever since. As I see it, all efforts suggested toward future Modern Arab renaissance, have to be directed toward acculturation gradually and separation of the STATE-CHURCH marriage.
Hanna in his study asks: “Can democracy take root in the Arab world? (and) How long will it take? Ten years, 20…50? “ He hopes for a great transformation, in which Egypt, Syria, Yemen, and their neighbors embrace democracy and pluralism and cast off autocracy and extremism.”. This tune is optimistic wtho no reason. I may ask, is there a reason to be optimistic? Yes! I believe that taking other western and eastern and other nations in Central Asia nations, we can say that the Arab nations are capable to reform and transform their future from traditional authoritarian systems to rational modern systems. Conditions to do so, is not any easy task, but learning from other experiences and applying reasoning and analytic, creative logic of things may be valid grounds to be optimistic. Arabs like any other nation in the world, can create and build their renaissance to share the world civilization. This assumption is not vague or false, however, western, especially European renaissance depended heavily of Arab literature and philosophy to create its own renaissance after five centuries of darkness, where the Muslim civilization and authority was over the known world of the time. The end of the Crusade campaigns by failure, was the roots of separating the state from church powers. This picture have to be valid to map out the future of Arab states where the rational state of law to protect its citizens and make justice possible for human right was established.
China and Japan and Soviet Union, (Now Russia) experiences, as well as Central Asia states (Malaysia, India, Indonesia, and Turkey) with similar experiences have to be learned to plan Arab political future.
On the issue of Measurement, measurements used by the United Nations agencies and other studies mentioned above of social progress and development, are typical measurement, in many cases, these measures do not reflect real social progress to all populations, or equality of justice in nations. Such measures reflect the notion, rich and poor, more than measuring social progress and positive development. It’s like the computation of a millionaire wealth and me (LTUS$5,000 per anum) computed with five billion a year income person. Taking the mean in this case is misleading, wrong and unfair. Therefore, these measures do not fit in the Arab states reality and future. Because some authoritarian traditional and tribal families earn everything in terms of land and resource as part of their wealth, and the rest of the people work as slaves with monthly salary, under all kinds of repression, corruption, despotism and favoritism. So, the issue of measurement even though it is valid for specific reasons, they stem from modernization and western theory assumptions on the grounds of supply-demand economic standards, or development of the world nations to be open markets to western factories and interests.
Modernization theories depend on variables such as qualitative measures, such as communication, transportation, urbanization, education, and yearly income, while it did not take into consideration the influx of poor village residents to urban cities, with their illiteracy, rigid beliefs of religion, emotions and low incomes. All contribute in discrepancy of city dwellers (rich-poor) while should be considered by modernization theory assumptions as change variables, but were considered mistakenly, as progress variables, while progress is always have on the other end, regression in many developing nations. In fact, modernization theory assumptions were created to develop free market economy for the powerful nations (previously colonization powers, after independence wave of the 1960s.), where national dept was escalating high by promoting corruption, favoritism and nepotism in these nation systems to pass projects seems for development, but spent on private interest of high ranks (The wealthy, the army, the Bedouin-cracy, etc.,)
It is the idea of freedom from foreign forces and governments which is needed to make the Arab renaissance. Not UN and USA modernization measurement for progress. History reminds us how Jamal Abdul Naser was in the right track for Egyptian renaissance to lead the Arabs toward modern times. Read history, how foreign forces faced him after The Sues Canal Crisis and how they interfere in wars to defeat his attempt of Arabism and nationalism.
Dependency is other factor, never used by the UN team to measure how shallow these Arab states are. Their loyalty is divided into Europe (French-British) and American. These nations stand firm against unity or democratization based on rational administrative systems of the Arab nations. For example, the issue of unemployment which is given more emphasis by the UN, needs factories, jobs for millions in short times. While social inequality persist in each Arab country, the UN only compute unemployment among the illiterate citizens, not those who are graduated in the poor countries. Can any regime (wealthy or poor) start such a project to establish an auto industry or construction or military factories, for example, without touching these nations interest. These Arab countries import all what they need (from the loaf to the plane) from outside their borders-other close and long distance rich countries????
I think, the rich and the poor nations in terms of labor and oil discrepancy may will never overcome in the short future, because it hurts western powers and interest. To be optimistic, may be after 50-70 years, when the oil as well as regimes become short on supply and demand, and the process of secularization becomes successful in replacing beliefs of traditional authoritarian governments.
The Modern Democratic state depends on regaining Arab dignity first as slogan, a state ruled by Law second , and personal freedom third. These are the pillars of Arab Future. The first is separating gradually religion from the state, toward self-respect and respect of others as persons and human beings, regardless of creed, gender, race, wealth, etc.,
Saudi Arabia may lead. the Gulf States may share, Kings may share also, BUT HOW? What we need is order or disorder, we need stability through reasoning and religion basic tolerance rules. the region’s leaders must deal with their citizens transparently. Economic decision-making toward reforms will inevitably entail distortion and corruption, which we intend to demolisht. The idea of regional governments (Federal or Westminster model) will have to work to ensure that macroeconomic gains have a tangible impact on unemployment, justice, human rights and social mobility. But the gap between GDP growth and per capita GDP growth for the region is among the world’s highest (meaning that population growth has outstripped economic growth) without using rational decision making and planning will represent a long-term structural employment, with corruption associated with crony capitalism reduction. In fact, past performance has hindered current efforts for practing economic reform. This fact was emphasized by several studies.
Economic reform has various variables to be reformed: growth, infrastructure, finance, labor force, wages, and supply-demand management to satisfy the people everyday basic needs,(materially and spiritually).Growth needs discipline to manage debt and lawns “This will necessitate reforms to ensure greater transparency, reduced bureaucracy, and a predictable legal framework.” It will also require that the international community eschew ideology and lend its support for big public-works projects that can employ large numbers in the near term and improve dilapidated infrastructure.”(Hanna 2013)
Basic infrastructure….women…men…tribal favoritism…nepotism….and despotism..from garbage collectors to the highest government ranks should be respected and valued as work requirement…. Manual … secretaria… managerial…. Citizen vs not-citizen…Nationalization of ignorant citizens, addresses, post offices, yards around buildings, gifts from rulers, infrastructure-morality-individual and family. All these practices should be ruled out and replace it with rational decisions to improve citizen’s interest in a free world.
Challenges of Gender and economic reform policies still persist in most Arab states. According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2011, in Egypt and Yemen, for example, the labor force participation for women is a meager 24 percent and 21 percent respectively. (Hanna, 2013). In Iraq, however, under Saddam Hussein, the percentage of women participation in the labor force was less than 5% in a study by this author, on social change in the Muslim nations between 1975 and 1985 (Yahya 1991). Putting aside two thirds or more of women population is far from remedy, where women provide more economic productivity in building their nations . and enhance citizen’s economic security.
Cultural illiteracy is related to male-female employment, and man and wife. The gender gap persists, unless rational system prevails to lead thinking and change behavior-the state law-constitution-understanding-compromising. Citizenship and nationalism in a new reform of the two concepts mixed to lead to open mentality toward others, regardless of creed, race, tribal origin, or gender or wealth.
In terms of regional economies will have to implement economic-diversification and investment policies focused on high-growth and labor-intensive economic sectors, such as clothing and textiles. This type of diversification can contribute to more stable, higher rates of growth. For non-oil-producing countries, this will require investments in infrastructure and technology.
In terms of security sectors of the region are steeped in a brutal and corrupt culture that privileges confessions and encourages torture in the service of both maintaining regime security and policing minor crime in the absence of strict laws. Where no difference in brutal treatment between petty crime offenders and citizens arrested on suspicion of oppositional activities or terrorism.
Changing the prevailing cultural norms and professional practices of sprawling security bureaucracies will take many years. The first step for any credible reform effort must be centered on vetting and removing the most corrupt officials from positions of authority. Such action is absolutely necessary if institutional reform depending on laws is to take root, as it signals intent and start in the process of solving problems concerning establishing working norms of behavior. Training programs to increase professionalism and reform institutional culture must also be retooled and implemented, and recruitment should better reflect each society’s ethnic and sectarian composition. Reform will also require that democratization extend to civilian control and oversight. For example, gradual process of normalizing civil-military and civil-police relations. Usually the early stages of transition will be critical in terms of establishing the legal frameworks governing these relationships on rational grounds. A monitoring and advocacy by civil society will provide a key check on abuse, such groups will be an important safeguard against repression.
In terms of measurement, measures of progress as we know it are limited and strict variables to mean the same meaning to all those using measurement, especially NOT, the UN experts on this matter, (Yahya 2013), but these variables are elastic, in a way that the Arab world states are divided in terms of wealth, resources, and populations, which will stand against any progress measurement-in addition ruling systems culturally, are traditional, tribal systems which stand against rational political state with rule of laws and constitutions to practice equal opportunity according to law. The problem of laws concerning citizen protection against imports and immigrants-labor force, male and female, we and they perceptions-etc.,
In terms of transitional justice, defined as” the measures employed by post-conflict and post-authoritarian states to cope with legacies of mass abuse and atrocity” has to be an integral part of efforts to consolidate change in the Arab world. Establishing a thorough accounting of past abuses would help lay the foundation for a more accountable political culture and provide a basis for credible national reconciliation. (Hanna 2013)
In terms of decentralization, I agree that an autocracies are characterized by centralization, in other words, concentration of decision making power in the hands of “one oligarchy, one group, one junta, sometimes one person.” But democracies are characterized by decentralization, where the power is dispersed across different branches and regions-governorates, as levels of government, intended to give citizens and their elected representatives a bigger say. (Hanna 2013)
Data on the countries of the Middle East and North Africa show that these countries lag behind the rest of the world with respect to decentralization according to a study by the World Bank. It points out that this is still-potent legacy of the Ottoman Empire, with its centralized approach to tax administration and the experience of decolonization in the region. (Hanna 2013)
Hanna suggested that “decentralization should be seen as an opportunity to explore and refine development strategies, since local governments often have a clearer understanding of issues that affect them, including transportation and social services.” And that “localized administration also reduces administrative costs and streamlines procedural requirements.” (Hanna 2013)
In terms of the issue of pluralism, as depicted in western literature is different from its perception in the Arab countries the need for explaining the differences-Stages or development of social change and cultural norms with the help of state laws and constitutions-conformity). It is history of dependency on foreign assistance and loyalty more than inner loyalty and assistance)
Religion is the only obstacle in the Arab world. Secularism is combined with disbelief, this perception should be changed eventually and gradually, through education and total development of all areas. The chief of Muslim sheikhs :al Qaradawi defines secularism as disbelief. Separating the state from religion is a must to make pluralism stage possible. equal citizenship for religious and ethnic minorities is not the only factor we look for in pluristic politics.(Yahya 2013)
Khilafa may destroy any progress for modern plurality-Religious administration demonstrate racism, nepotism and favoritism, in no way will serve pluralistic politics, this will not take long to be ousted-Yahya 2013) I do agree on the notion confessed by Hanna, that religious institutions has to be separated from the state rule and law. But he did not emphasize that point. But he shows that “The slow glide toward repression is a key concern, as the region’s Islamist parties have a highly majoritarian definition of democratic politics.” (Hanna 2013)
What is needed then is to convince people that religious parties can be combined with secular ones or prevented fro forming parties, by prohibition of such parties establishment. But how this is possible with slogan of shahada?. What happened after June 30th shows religious violence which as a tool, cynically allowing other actors to intimidate and coerce political opponents to defend themselves. Hanna, in fact, cannot ignore this activity against secularization of the state. (Hanna 2013)
Almost all points I may introduce are provided in Hanna’s article: The Seven Pillars for Arab Future, but what is missing is the grounds for all pillars. Namely, a modern state of affair depends on mental thinking (on Law-Justice-equality) to reach all pillars rather than religious thinking which call more for the last Day of Judgment than modern day life.
In conclusion, social scientists in the west, when they apply modernization theory and practice it, undermined the fact of colonialism, and exploitation of the colonizers. Unfortunately, they provide certain variables to measure modernization, or the modern man. The variables to make modern nation depends on infrastructure, urbanization, transportation, communication, literacy and education, which all in turn lead to employment for increasing income. (for these reasons they create the modern man, the city dweller. Why not separating state rule from Islam from the start? In the case of Egypt, it was in the religious logistic breaching-Khilafa will return which is impossible to compromise in the existence of religious politics. I believe, acculturation should be the factor to be used for normalizing relations among sections of the population. The evidence is provided by Egypt people, who rejected the one sided politics of the MB, and therefore, the people ousted the president and his company after 30 June assisted by the military power which protects the modern secular state. Therefore, I would suggest a more comprehensive acculturation efforts to normalize mental and lawful practices through separation of state-church in politics as a necessary step to build up a modern secular state and Arab renaissance.
Finally, I whisper in the ears of policy makers in the west, Europe, France, Britain, and USA: “Hands off the Arab countries to find their way toward secular modern state. No use of interfere in their private affairs, time will tell us how they will succeed in their race for Arab renaissance no matter how much time thay will take to recover. As I said in one of my articles and I repeat it here: “ In both case, whither the secular or the spiritual model was successful, I mean, return to Khilafa or divorcing religion in politics, the outcomes will remain against the interest of western powers.” www.hasanyahya.com