The Arab World Needs Revolutions in Thinking NOT Politics
By Tawfik Hamid
Since September 11th, several intellectuals and political leaders in the West have advocated that 'democracy' represents the best solution for the problems that are brought upon by the Arab world, particularly Radical Islam. Unfortunately, democracy in Iraq was not incredibly successful and has thus resulted in discrimination against the Christian minority within the country. Similarly, the outcome of democracy in Gaza brought Hamas, a renowned terrorist group, to power. The so-called 'Arab Spring' is also likely to bring Islamist movements that will only end hopes for modernity amongst the Arab world.
Dreaming about democracy without setting its foundations is similar to dreaming about having a fruit without even implanting a tree.
In other words, it was better having the West use its influence in the Arab world to assist in establishing the foundations for democracy, such as respect for the rights of minorities and the acceptance of 'others', before focusing on establishing election-ballot systems. These foundations typically need educational and ideological reform before political reform can take place, as they are vital in making the process of democracy fruitful.
The real problem in the Arab world is basically a widely spread, self-destructive ways of 'thinking' within the society.
For example, few days before 11/11/11 it became known that a number of global corporates were planning to have a celebration in front of the pyramids. Some Egyptians created a rumor that these corporates are free masons and/or Zionists. A large number of people believed such a rumor without having any factual evidence and planned to go to the pyramidsto prevent the celebration by all means. Government officials bowed to the will of the people and stopped the celebration that could have helped revive the collapsing tourism industry within the country. In other words, the people created a rumor, believed in it, took actions that damaged their economy and at the end -instead of blaming themselves for weakening the economy- they are likely to blame Israel and the US, as usual, for all their economic problems.
Another example of the self-destructive thinking traits is through dedicating ones life to revenge against perceived enemies instead of focusing on improving productivity. This can be seen among the people in Gaza who focus on nothing but how to destroy Israel and ignore how they can build their own society. The revenge mentality paralyzes the process of productive thinking among people and diverts their power toward destruction rather than progression.
This desire to destroy others instead of building oneself has also been elucidated recently when Ahmed Al-Meslamani, one of the most famous show hosts in Egypt, publicized the hope of an Egyptian man who desired all Egyptians to be cured of Virus C hepatitis -which is currently very prevalent among Egyptians- so that Egypt can declare war on Israel and defeat it. In other words this man did not want the society to be cured from the virus so that they can build a nation with good health and education but ONLY to defeat the Jews in the next war. This distorted way of thinking that seeks destroying the 'other' instead of building 'oneself' impedes the ability of many Arab nations to focus on building their societies and thus improving their standards of living.
What makes such destructive thinking traits even more damaging is blaming others without being able to blame oneself. For example, it is common in the Arab streets to find many people who accuse the West of Islamophobia and of discrimination against Islam. Arab minds could not simply see a link between the barbaric behaviors that are practiced in the name of Islam and the negative views that are created about the religion. So instead of blaming themselves for teaching and practicing discriminatory and violent values of Sharia Laws that have resulted in creating negative views about Islam, they went on accusing others of being Islamophobes. The lack of self-criticism does not solve problems but has subsequently made them worse.
To conclude, what the Arab world truly needs more than political reform is a change in their 'thinking process' that impedes the progress of and encourages of radicalism within several Arab societies. The Arab nations need to know that their real enemy is NOT Israel or the US or the West, but rather it is their own self-destructive process of thinking. If the formerly mentioned traits of thinking are not addressed and treated accordingly, political reforms such as the so-called "Arab Spring" are likely to be fruitless or even counterproductive.