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Arabs demand answers, but ask the wrong questions Open in fullscreen

Anwar Jamaoui

Arabs demand answers, but ask the wrong questions

Are you Arab or Babylonian? [Karim Sahib]

Date of publication: 23 April, 2015

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Comment: Arabs obsess about the past, about what is different, about the trivial, and ignore serious issues worthy of real thought, says Anouar Jamaoui.

How long will Arabs repeat the same questions and provide ambiguous answers? How long will Arabs ask questions like who is more Arab, the people of the Arabian east or west?

How long will Arabs wonder about Ali and Abu Bakr, and who between them was a closer companion to the Prophet and should have succeeded him?

What is the point of continuing to disagree about this companion of the Prophet or that successor, criticising one and elevating another, while the reality is that they lived their lives and played their role, and it is our right to either learn from them or not?

How long will we act as custodians over the dead, speak for them and put them on trial justly or unjustly while we delve into the past and forget about the present, either consciously or unconsciously?

Arabs at the dawn of the third millennium still ask each other: Are you Sunni, Shia, Ibadi or Bahai? Are you regressive or progressive? Are you of Berber, Morisco, Babylonian, Sumerian or Pharaonic descent, or are you a true Arab? Are you Christian or Muslim?

Arabs still examine your face and your speech, research your biography and identity, scrutinise your food, drink and clothing and ask you the same old questions that are nothing but a divisive waste of time.

They do not ask you or ask themselves: Are you a citizen? Are they citizens? The question of citizenship is always lacking in their inquiries, while questions that entrench sectarianism, factionalism, tribe and other prejudices are ever present.

The questions that should be asked

Arabs are still wondering about the disappearance of the Mahdi and the appearance of the antichrist. They are still talking about whether to enter a place with the left or right foot and still investigating the errors of al-Hallaj and Ibn al-Farid. They still wonder about women, whether they have the right to travel, the right to work and the right to speak.

Arabs continue to debate the ruling of killing a mosquito in the mosque, but pay no attention to the killing of thousands of political prisoners.

Arabs continue to debate the ruling of killing a mosquito in the mosque, but they pay no attention to thousands of political prisoners killed in prison cells or peaceful protesters being killed in public squares by the military. Arabs lament leaders they sanctify and wonder why they left, why they were deposed, and why they died.

Then they create another leader out of their fear, praise and submission, elevating him to divine levels and allowing him free reign over the people and the country, as if it was his personal property.

Then they wonder: why did his excellence become a tyrant? Why has his angelic presence been transformed into a nightmare?

The Arabs have forgotten that great countries are not created by individual leaders, but by the hard work of its citizens: the teachers, thinkers, farmers, tradesmen and artists.

When will we stop asking questions like "why have Muslims regressed while others have progressed?" and instead ask ourselves questions like: When will our rich stop competing to flaunt their wealth and pay attention to the suffering of children in Arab refugee camps? How do we eradicate poverty and unemployment? How do we protect future generations from the threat of extremism?

How can we take part in the globalised world? When will our universities be high in international rankings? When will we overcome our old questions and starting taking action?

In short, when and how can we belong to the modern world in our own innovative Arab way? There are many new questions that represent future projects and they are certainly far more important that our old futile questions.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic website.

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