AndFarAway

A Blog from Amman, Jordan, Online Since 2004.

On why we suck

I am not a self-hating Arab, in fact, I am extremely proud of my Arab heritage, and neither am I a conspiracy theorist. Yet, I am not particularly fond of looking at the past and saying, “Oh! Once upon a time, we ruled most of the civilized world.”

Keyword: Once upon a time.

As a wise friend once said, Andalus Shmandalus, we now officially suck. Sadly, many centuries after the fall of the Abbassid state, we keep insisting that this terrible situation is a result of how we do not properly apply Islam in its entirety but how we instead pick and choose from something that should be applied as a “package” and how the entire world is in a conspiracy against us.

Religion is not the answer. Conspiracy theories will only grow more self-pitying “helpless” generations.

Instead, we need a hundred years and shitloads of education to pull ourselves out of this endless black pit we have dug with our own hands.

I spend most of my time at university reading as I find the classes extremely unchallenging, and the people sitting around me (students of the top Jordanian university) are always amused at how I can read such “thick” books. Further questioning made clear that not a SINGLE person who sits around me has EVER read a book outside of school curricula in his/her ENTIRE life.

Scary.

What contributes to why we suck?

I can’t source all the numbers below as someone sent them to me by email, but even if you divide all these numbers by half, the results are still appalling.

There are an estimated 300,000,000 Arabs on the face of the planet.

All Arab countries except for Lebanon are Muslim in constitution. Lebanon has a Muslim majority.
As per data collected by the UNDP, literacy in the Christian world stands at nearly 90 per cent and 15 Christian-majority states have a literacy rate of 100 per cent. A Muslim-majority state, as a sharp contrast, has an average literacy rate of around 40 per cent and there is no Muslim-majority state with a literacy rate of 100 per cent.

Some 98 per cent of the ‘literates’ in the Christian world had completed primary school, while less than 50 per cent of the ‘literates’ in the Muslim world did the same. Around 40 per cent of the ‘literates’ in the Christian world attended university while no more than two per cent of the
‘literates’ in the Muslim world did the same.

Muslim-majority countries have 230 scientists per one million Muslims. The US has 4,000 scientists per million and Japan has 5,000 per million.

In the entire Arab world, the total number of full-time researchers is 35,000 and there are only 50 technicians per one million Arabs. In the Christian world there are up to 1,000 technicians per one million.

Furthermore, the Muslim world spends 0.2 per cent of its GDP on research and development, while the Christian world spends around five per cent of its GDP.

Conclusion: The Muslim world lacks the capacity to produce knowledge.

Daily newspapers per 1,000 people and number of book titles per million are two indicators of whether knowledge is being diffused in a society. In Pakistan, there are 23 daily newspapers per 1,000 Pakistanis while the same ratio in Singapore is 360. In the UK, the number of book
titles per million stands at 2,000 while the same in Egypt is 20.

The Muslim world is failing to diffuse knowledge.

Exports of high technology products as a percentage of total exports are an important indicator of knowledge application. Saudi Arabia’s exports of high technology products as a percentage of total exports stands at 0.3 per cent. The same for is 0.3 per cent; Kuwait, Morocco, and Algeria are all at 0.3 per cent while Singapore is at 58 per cent.

The Arab world is failing to apply knowledge.

The combined annual GDP of 57 OIC-countries is under $2 trillion. America, just by herself, produces goods and services worth $12 trillion; China $8 trillion, Japan $3.8 trillion and Germany $2.4 trillion (purchasing power parity basis).

Oil rich Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait and Qatar collectively produce goods and services (mostly oil) worth $500 billion; Spain alone produces goods and services worth over $1 trillion, Poland $489 billion and Thailand $545 billion.

Why are we powerless? Because we aren’t producing knowledge. Because we aren’t diffusing knowledge. Because we aren’t applying knowledge. And, the future belongs to knowledge-based societies. So, why are we so powerless?

Lack of education.

Like I said earlier, I can’t source the numbers because someone sent them to me by email, but even if you divide all these numbers by half, the results are still appalling.

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40 Comments

  1. a visitor

    A rather simplistic explanation of why ‘we suck’. If the answer was this simple, we would’ve been on the moon long ago.

  2. A visitor, of course its simplistic. It would take volumes and volumes to even scratch the surface of the issue, because to really understand the shortcomings of a civilization one needs to also study its history.

  3. Roba, read the starbucks post on my blog.. your opinion is important

  4. Moey trying to rally people to his miserable cause

  5. Nas

    yes it is simplistic but i dont mean that as an insult rather to say that what you’ve pointed out: lack of education, is indeed a major factor on “why we suck”.

    however we cannot divide things up between the christian and muslim world, religion does not formulate public policy when it comes to education (except for the select few). to say nothing of the fact that the arab world is outnumbered by the christian world.

    also we cannot generalise. I believe that Jordan’s literacy rate is 92% and every G8 nation is also in the 90’s.

    literacy is not the best indicator for knowledge…for knowledge is not the ability to read or recite facts it is the ability to create and to innovate. Hence in my opinion the main reason why we suck is our lack of innovation.

    why cant we innovate?

    1. our educational system restricts it. it does not arm students with the capacity to day dream. it may teach them to read and memorize and get higher marks in practically any subject compared to average american or canadian student, but not to create something..original.

    2. our society restricts it. you are to fall in line with becoming a doctor or an engineer and everything else is considered a failure. you could win the nobel prize in literature but if you cant do CPR then you’re a failure. and none of here (as arabs) would be surprised to know how early on in our lives we become aware of this fact, it becomes ingrained in us…those definitions of success and failure.

    3. because religion does not articulate what we want it to in terms of modernization, we therefore abandon it. ironically all the points that you highlighted were repeated by amr khaled. the point being that religion is something that is carried by the masses, if it’s not going where we want it to go thats because we’re the ones heading in the wrong direction. in other words we are under the dellusion that the only way to survive is to allow Islam to lead us, whereas if one were to reflect back on history (which i know you dont like to do) we see that the high points of our civilization were the times where we lead religion instead of the other way around. we took it further, we developed it without destroying or eroding it. sadly most “scholars” today think that this process will lead to its “altercation” which is a contradiction in beliefs but that another story.

    history is important, not in order to reflect on some glorious past but to learn from it, to understand what worked then and why it doesnt work now. the anadlus, the sham, baghdad, these were centers of knowledge…academic knowledge that spanned the horizons of literature, science and mathematics. all of it done in the name of Islam and in the name of the betterment of society.

    we’ve come along way from having the height of islam that created the first female doctors on earth to not allowing women to drive or vote in the 21st century. and one cant help but wonder where we went wrong.

    creating an atmosphere of innovation is the key

    thats just my 2 cents (sorry for the long comment)

  6. Thanks for your post. I agree with you so much that we are not a generation who reads. Indeed, If you are reading well, outside the curriculum :) or life needs, then everybody is so surprised about that! That happens to me, as I cant pass a day without reading. I believe that also a lot of well educated people are not helpfull to their communities. I think the problem is more than education. We lack persistency, Loyality, time respect, dedication, Planning and sadly a lot are selfish and uncertain these days. Last point, we are not utilizing our resources; all resources.

  7. Mohannad

    This comment taken from Elaph
    متى يعلنون وفاة العرب؟

    متى يعلنون وفاة العرب؟ أنا منذ خمسينَ عاما، أراقبُ حال العربْ. وهم يرعدونَ ، ولايمُطرونْ… وهم يدخلون الحروب ، ولايخرجونْ… وهم يعلِكونَ جلود البلاغةِ عَلْكا ولا يهضمونْ… أحاول – مذْ كنتُ طفلا ، قراءة أي كتابٍ تحدّث عن أنبياء العربْ. وعن حكماءِ العربْ… وعن شعراءِ العربْ… فلم أر إلا قصائدَ تلحَسُ رجلَ الخليفةِ من أجل جَفْنةِ رزٍ… وخمسين درهمْ… فيا للعَجَبْ!! ولم أر إلا جرائد تخلع أثوابها الداخليّهْ… لأيِ رئيسٍ من الغيب يأتي… وأيِ عقيدٍ على جُثّة الشعب يمشي… وأيِ مُرابٍ يُكدّس في راحتيه الذهبْ… فيا للعَجَبْ!! منذ خمسينَ عاما أحاولُ رسمَ بلادٍ تُسمّى – مجازا – بلادَ العربْ رسمتُ بلون الشرايينِ حينا وحينا رسمت بلون الغضبْ. وحين انتهى الرسمُ ، ساءلتُ نفسي: إذا أعلنوا ذاتَ يومٍ وفاةَ العربْ… ففي أيِ مقبرةٍ يُدْفَنونْ؟ ومَن سوف يبكي عليهم؟ وليس لديهم بناتٌ… وليس لديهم بَنونْ… وليس هنالك حُزْنٌ ، وليس هنالك مَن يحْزُنونْ!! أنا…بعْدَ خمسين عاما أحاول تسجيل ما قد رأيتْ… رأيتُ شعوبا تظنّ بأنّ رجالَ المباحثِ أمْرٌ من الله…مثلَ الصُداعِ…ومثل الزُكامْ… ومثلَ الجُذامِ…ومثل الجَرَبْ… رأيتُ العروبةَ معروضةً في مزادِ الأثاث القديمْ… ولكنني…ما رأيتُ العَرَبْ!!…

  8. a visitor

    Nas, good points. Sadly though, all those answers we look for have already been answered by numerous thinkers. The problem is we are prohibited from applying the remedy to the problem (by leaders?).

    Sure we cant blame a single person for all our ‘sucking’, but half the problem is at their door step. Look at what happened when the king reduced the level of policing in the state, we had a sudden booming in the country.

    What remains to be said though is that the police state still looms large over our lives in a prohibiting way.

  9. a visitor

    and roba, ballah tgemeelna il bold letters at the start of each sentence barki allah yijawzik o yib3atlek illi bbalek

  10. hmm? what do you mean make them bolder?

  11. Jason Bourne

    Bless your heart Roba. You SAID it. And you said it with more grace than I ever have. And precisely too.

    The Arabs are a great people, but the kings are using relegion as a means to continue their dictatorial reign.

    A group of intelligent people, with an amazing history and heritage, why dont they graduate more PhDs? I always wondered.

    Here’s a link to an unsung hero:
    http://www.time.com/time/time100/scientist/profile/farnsworth.html

    This is what we need in the middle east. People to fall in love with literature, plays, music, science, math, engineering, aerospace, rockets, gas-turbine engines, high energy physics, particle physics.

    We need more Arab inventors.

  12. Jason Bourne

    Your numbers are correct. I use the CIA factbook to get my numbers.

  13. Qwaider, Roba would understand my post.. she’s more mature than you

  14. Nas

    a visitor, granted leaders play a vital role but history has also shown that given the fact followers to tend to outnumber the leaders it is usually the former that does the leading specifically when it comes to improving themselves. kings become, as tolstoy would put it, history’s slaves.

    jordan is much better off than most muslim and arab nations, we dont have weekly book burnings of ray bradbury’s fahrenheit 911, and we have no internet censorship. all the resources are there…so why are the people not using them.

    the reasons go back to my initial points as they represent the flaws in the lack of encouragement we recieve or dont. as roba pointed out it is a big deal for someone to be seen reading a thick book, or a book of any weight class for that matter. why is that? what elements are embedded at the core of our society that create such an anti-learning culture?

    those are the issues that need to be addressed. solve those and you’re well on you’re way to a greater solution that doesnt require an increase in the number of quite frankly useless phd holders.

  15. Nas

    correction in the previous comment: supposed to be fahernheit 451

    …and thats about the time michael moore ruined great literature for me :re:

  16. Great post Roba
    While I agree with you that we need a lot of education I’d like to turn your attention to bias in the stats you have.

    I don’t want to generalize, but at least in my university, the Engineering department has a very large number of Arab professor (I would esimate it at about 35%) and an even larger number of muslims professors, including those from Pakistan, Iran etc. The professors are among the top researchers in Canada. It’s sad that these professors have to leave their countries to find a great oppourtunity (which something I think you were eluding to) but many of these profs got their undergrads, and even their masters from the Middle East.

    There’s no doubt in my mind that we have the potential to regain our “greatness”, but as you mentioned it’ll take time.

  17. Sorry to always be a late comer to your posts
    Roba, I think you’re confusing two different things. (I’ll get to the numbers later on)
    Arabs are not necessarily Muslims and vice verse
    As for the numbers, I think they’re exceedingly inflated. When adding to the number of Christian countries most of Africa.

    Now, I’m not saying the situation is that fantastic in the Arab world. But I have factual numbers from Saudi Arabia (Claiming) that the literacy rate is above 85% and of Kuwait 92%. Now those are just couple of countries. Add to those Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan Syria and Egypt and I’m pretty sure the literacy rate would jump much higher

    The USA has TONS of uneducated and undereducated people. But as a rich super power they can afford to have dumb people who are still able to make a living, when places like Jordan and else where. They’ll end up dead of poverty.

    I think when compared to the Numbers in Asia, The numbers in Africa and South America then we’re not in such a bad state

    When All our researchers and intellects are immigrating to the US, Europe and Canada, due to many factors, what’s left behind is what you see today, this is the reality that I live with everyday. Most of the Arabs I know around here are such a loss to all Arab countries.

    To sum up Roba, We don’t really suck, but a lot of that is really imposed on us

  18. “To sum up Roba, We don’t really suck, but a lot of that is really imposed on us.”

    Qwaider,

    Your point about wealthy countries having the advantage in producing a healthy culture of innovation is well takem. Nevertheless, I fear it contains more than a kernal of the victim pathology which is another drag effect on Arab development. And if the Islamists succeed in their quest replace secular government in the Middle East with theocracies, it will prove fatal for any hopes for the sort of Arab renaissance Roba and others crave.

    Okay, we’ve diagnosed the problem–now what can we do about it? Start a blog discussing solutions to education problems in the Arab world? I am an instructional technologist and college instructor in America. I’d be willing to do what I can.

    Roba, what do you think?

  19. Roba said:
    “Further questioning made clear that not a SINGLE person who sits around me has EVER read a book outside of school curricula in his/her ENTIRE life.”

    I don’t have to go very far to find a good example of that; I only need to look in the mirror. I finished literally in the top 50 in Tawjeehi in 99 and had never had to read a single book outside of class throughout the 12 years of elementary and secondary education. Till this day, I struggle with getting myself to read books on a continuous basis.

    Naseem said:
    “literacy is not the best indicator for knowledge…for knowledge is not the ability to read or recite facts it is the ability to create and to innovate. Hence in my opinion the main reason why we suck is our lack of innovation.”

    I second that. Reading this made me go back to google an speech given by a Mustapha Nabli, I had come across it months ago and was really impressed. Check it out.

    http://lnweb18.worldbank.org/mna/mena.nsf/Attachments/Education-Nabli/$File/HigherEducation-Nabli.pdf

  20. a visitor

    Nas,

    “kings become, as tolstoy would put it, history’s slaves.”

    Why stay on the seat if you’re a slave? Get off then.

    and, also:

    history is made by men (who understand history, may I add – he doesn’t, so yeah, the people have to do it alone)

  21. a visitor

    Roba, allah yijawzek o yib3atlek 2ameer, it was my browser playing games with me. o 3ala fikra, akam joz kanader min illi bil soora 3endek? abooki bimlek masna3 kanader?

  22. Dar

    ” Religion is not the answer ” then u started talking about knowledge …….
    I am just REALLY wondering is there any contrary between Islam and knowledge ?

    CheeerZ!

  23. Nick

    Roba

    You thoughts on education in Arab countries are interesting.

    Having lived in both the Middle East and Europe myself and read a little of the history of philosophy and science I would put forward the unoriginal argument that the Age of Enlightenment was fundamental to European progress in philosophy and science and that Arab countries must undergo a similar process before real organic educational growth can take place.

    I went to see a play recently called ‘The Life of Galileo’ (by Berthold Brecht) about the struggle between reason/science/education and the incompatible teachings of the state/church in 17th century Italy. It strikes me that Arab countries need their own brave Galileo’s and Copernicus’s more than ever.

  24. Nas

    a visitor, lol what tolstoy meant was that a king is subject to destiny and fate and has really no control over it. machiavelli disagree with him but im just mentioned it for metaphor’s sake :-D

    as for our king and history in the literal sense, if anything many of the mistakes of the past have been rectified. we are living much better lives than 10 or 20 years ago, and that wasnt so long ago.

  25. Moey, I agree with Nas’ post on the subject.

    Nas, yes, I agree that we cannot, but numbers are usually divided in that way.
    Literacy is certainly not the best indicator for knowledge, and neither is education. One may get a bachelor degree and still be uneducated at core, which is why I mentioned the reading incident. I do not consider knowing what a future perfect present verb an education.
    You touched on an important aspect when you mentioned innovation. We have engulfed ourselves in an atmosphere that deems innovation negative.

    Omar, I don’t thinkit’s about the generation, we are just not a people who read. And yes, I agree with you about all the stuff we lack, we lack passion and drive…

    Mohannad, how sad, especially in its truth. I’m not exactly a pan-Arabist, but I do classify with being Arab first and foremost, before being Muslim and before being Jordanian.

    Jason Bourne
    , indeed we do.

    Omar, perhaps one of our greatest problems is that the educated people we have all migrate to the Western world where they are appreciated. It is a vicious cycle.

    Qwaider, I’m very well aware that Arabs are not Muslims and vice-versa, but these statsitcs are talking about Muslim-majority countries of which all the Arab states would fall under. Here are the literacy rates of the Arab world from the CIA factbook:
    West Bank 91.9%
    Jordan 91.3%
    Bahrain 89.1%
    Lebanon 87.4%
    Qatar 89%
    Kuwait 83.5%
    Libya 82.6%
    Saudi Araba 78.8%
    UAE 77.9%
    Syria 76.9%
    Oman 75.8%
    Tunisia 74.3%
    Algeria 70%
    Sudan 61.1%
    Egypt 57.7%
    Morocco 51.7%
    Yemen 50.2%
    Mauritania 41.7%
    Iraq 40.4%
    Literacy rate of the Arab world: 72.1
    It is sad that most of our intellectuals migrate, when there is so much work to be done here. Not that I blame them, there is lack o f appreciation and not enough resources to do as much work as can be done in a more advanced country, but we are lagging more and more with time asand its just heartbreaking.

    Peter S, the fact about the Islamists is that they are very organized and educated. They are smart enough to lobbu a lot of the population behind them. Perhaps this is the case because there is a religious zeal behind their actions…
    Unfortunately, education isn’t the only problem. As Qweider pointed out, we have relatively high to moderate literacy rates- with Jordan at 91.3 degrees- it isn’t about scholarly education, it is deeper than that. There is “ta3teem”, as we say in Arabic, which means “darkening” in English. The youth, over 50% of our developing population,is not encouraged to be socially, culturally, and politically aware. I don’t know if starting a blog would help, but I would love to hear your suggestions.

    Hamzeh N, that is the sad fact of our society. It is practically “3eib” to read.

    A Visitor, lol. I only have one pair actually, of which I only wear to school.

    Dar, yes there is. Islam is a religion, a creed, a system of belief. Knowledge is science, logic, a system of living.

    Nick
    , I think most of my thoughts are directly influenced by the Age of Englightenment. Personally, I believe in logic and rationality first and foremost, and then comes everything else.
    Interestingly, the peak of Islam, or shall we say, the first reinessance of the Arab world, was reached during a timeperiod when the official school of theology in the Muslim world was the schol of Mu’tazilah, “People of Divine Unicity and Justice”, based on the theology they advocated, which sought to ground Islamic creedal system in reason.Though Mu’tazilis relied on logic and different aspects of Greek philosophy, the truths of Islam were their starting point and ultimate reference. They celebrated power of reason and human intellectual power. To them, it is the human intellect that guides a human to know God, His attributes, and the very basics of morality.
    With the fall of the Islamic civilization, the Mutazilah started getting prosecuted, and in Islamic books today, they are considered to be amongst the factions who “left” Islam. We have come done a long way since, and we won’t rise up again until we start applying logic rather than creed.

  26. I hate to Jump in so late in the game, but I think its important to reiterate Nas’s earlier point regarding education. The educational system is setup to discourage innovation and free thought. Take a look at our Tawjeehi system. It is commonly believed that “intelligent” students are destined to join 3almi, while those with lower scores drift into adabi.

    Look no further than our universities. Why is it that there are stricter standards for the engineering programs vs. literature or Business.

    I believe we place no value on the qualities that would allow us to “not suck”

  27. “And if the Islamists succeed in their quest replace secular government in the Middle East with theocracies, it will prove fatal for any hopes for the sort of Arab renaissance Roba and others crave”

    Sorry, but this is not true, Islamists are 100% pro-education it’s not a “Secular” value to get people educated. Apparently, in very religious areas, people are more educated (West bank)…etc

    I’m not pro-islamists myself but this is a fact no one can deny.

    Roba, I see that you’re branding modern Islam as being illogical, and I have to strongly disagree with you on this one, Islam is the religion of science, logic and discovery. It pushes it’s followers to actually pursue these matters. And It doesn’t have a central location for accepting ideas as “Religious” or non-religious! Especially those of the nature.

    I’m sorry to say but you’re view of Islam now is totally skewed and put in the frame of Christianity in the dark ages, and that’s not accurate.

    Islam promotes more and more people get educated, and holds scientists in extremely high esteem calling them the successors of Prophets.

    I don’t know which book you’re reading now (and not suggesting that you’re limited in thinking to a specific book) but I think a view from the other side is needed to better understand this matter

    And by the way, As much as there is “Ta3teem” and idiocy among the youth in Jordan, as much as you will find kids mature and aware in the West bank and Gaza, and THEY are very religious regions that are the parents of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and others.

    Oh, I forgot to thank you for the numbers, the official numbers may be a little bit more inflated, or maybe these are a bit old it doesn’t matter. But you forgot to mention the literacy rate of USA :)

  28. Oh one more thing, I wouldn’t go by saying Religion IS or IS NOT the answer.
    Lets apply logic for a little bit
    -It’s “an” answer
    -There is always many answers for the same problem
    -When dealing with humans, there usually isn’t a single right answer
    -Many answers are trivial
    -Answers depend on people’s nature, their acceptance, and how much they’re willing to follow them
    -What works for you might not work for others
    -what works for you might not be the best thin for you

    ok, therefore, I can authoratively say that your statement “Religion is not the answer” is false. Why? Because it might be for some group that you don’t belong to (it’s only true in a specific context which makes it false for ALL contexts)

    Of a group of 30 people you came up with the idea that they don’t read? Might be true
    Let me give you another example. Of the closed circle that I had in Jordan, I was one who read the whole library, I had 7 or 8 friends who read 15 libraries more than me, and I had at least 5 who were published authors. Different groups of people have different qualities

    My advice to you? (if that’s not already obvious) Find other people to hang out with!

  29. Qwaider, when I read Roba’s post, I decided to stay away from discussing her remarks about religion which were only in the beginning of the post. Sure, throughout the post there was a lot of jumping back and forth between “muslim world” and “arab world”, but nevertheless I think narrowing down this discussion to religion is kind of missing the point. I’m not saying that either of you disagree with this, I’m just trying to state my thoughts.

    To keep things short I think that a lot of people out there don’t understand that Islam is more than a religion and more than what gets taught in the 45 minutes of religion class at school. It’s a way of life, and if people don’t experience it in their lives (their families or schools), I honestly don’t blame them if they don’t get it.

  30. Deeb, yes. It is said that art appreciation is a measure of how cultured a society is, and we all know how much we appreciate art.

    Qwaider, like I said, “the fact about the Islamists is that they are very organized and educated. They are smart enough to lobbu a lot of the population behind them.” Yet, it is not their education that I want. Islamists are not pro the finer things in life- like art, music, and more “innovative” science. And anyway, a lot of Islamists, like the Wahhabists for example, are so extreme that science itself has become 7aram.

    I am not branding Islam as a religion as being illogical, as I said to Nick, it is the way that Islam is applied, and no one can deny that. We spend hours ifteying whether you should eat with your right hand or left hand and we forget about jest of religion.
    Islam produced a lot of science and art during the 4th century after hijrah, during the rule of the Abbassid caliphs, when Islam was applied with logic. We are in the dark ages of Islam, at least as far as I’m concerned. I can only hope that it doesn’t get worse.
    To answer your “what book are you reading” question, I have read many books on the topic, whether published in ultra-Islamic Wahhabist Saudi Arabia or in a generally anti-Islamic conflict. I assure you that I have formed these opinions after reading both sides.

    You’re also taking the “religion is not the answer” statement too literally. I am stating my opinion, I am not stating facts. As you said, it is the answer to many, but to me, religion will never be an answer to anything.

    Furtherly, your advice is not needed in this situation. The incident I related about the students are not the people “I hang out with”, they are random people who are studying for their bachelor degree in Jordan University- they are from all the segments of society and from different parts of Jordan. My friends do read, but then my friends are all Western-educated, and like you said, different groups of people have different qualities, but one of the best measures of society is a public university in a random class.

  31. Alright, I do see your point and I assure you, more books will change your mind once more. Wahhabis are not what Islam is. They’re one version. Please take my ideas as my sincere extended arm towards you to say, Yes, I agree with everything you said, but trust me, there is a lot more than that.

    Again, Wahhabis don’t represent Islam in ANYWAY, they’re commonly taken as that but they are not.

    You’re an Artist, and I respect that, but how could you say something like Islam doesn’t care for the “Finer” things in life? That’s absolutely not true, for couple of reasons. First the definition of “fine” is subjective. Secondly, arts, music and poetry were celebrated throughout the Islamic world (not going to get into who claims what) Most of the scholars were also poets and musicians. And there is no better evidence than Andalusian times. Regardless of who did what. It’s even rumoured that the Baroque era actually took it’s roots from Andalusian times

    It’s a well known fact that most of the very early scientists of the west were taught by Arabs/Muslims of the time, and the actual age of LOGIC was imported from the east.

    So what do I call the dark ages we live in? The second Dark ages. Remember “Al Jahiliyyah”? We’re living it again. “Scond Jahiliyyah”

    One last thing, for the first “Jahiliyyah”, ISLAM was the answer.

    PS: Your opinion is very respected on my end, I hope you don’t mind my alternate viewpoint. Additionally, Give yourself time to see more, you’re way too young to be that depressed about these times. But perfectly justified

    Don’t get upset with me!

  32. LOL Qwaider, do I sound like someone who would not be able to tolerate a discussion of different opinions? Quite the contrary, I actually look to exchanging ideas.

    Also, please note that in my opinion, Islamists are different from Islam (of which I said and hold firm that I am not interested in their kind of education). Similarly, I am aware that Wahhabism are not “Islam”, but arguably, what is a creed? It is, at a certain point and time (subjective to change), what its followers make of it. I got most of my Islamic education from Wahhabist schools, and so that is the stream of thought that I am most familiar with in terms of education, but my own reading is of historians such as Philip Hitti, Wijdan Ali, and David Talbot.

    I’ve said this twice in this stream of comments, but I will say it again as I find this particular point of vital importance, the Islamic civilization reached its peak in art, poetry, music, architecture, philosophy, theology, medicine, astronomy, and various other endeavors in the 4th century of Islam, under the rule of the Abbassids of whose theology of state was that of “Al-Motazilah”, “People of Divine Unicity and Justice”, based on the theology they advocated, which sought to ground Islamic creedal system in reason. And like you said, and like many famous critics and historians have said, the European world built its reneissance on books the Arabs had translated from the ancient Greek texts into Arabic and thus had them saved from the church that burnt such manuscripts. Today, and I will cite Saudi Arabia as example (althouhg I am aware that Saudi Arabia is not all of Islam but it is still an exporter of Islamic thought and a very important part of the Islamic world) tomes written by the world’s most famous philoshophers both Muslim and otherwise are banned from the market as they are deemed heretic. See the analogy?

    You also cannot compare Al-Jaheleyah to the dark days we live in today. Quite contary to what is taught in Islamic books, the Jaheleyah ages were anything but ignorant. They were educated, cultured, and civilized, rather, they were ignorant of the message of Islam. Read a book on the ancient history of the Arabia and you will see what I mean.

    Finally, please do not judge my opinions due to my age. Yes, I am young, but I have been an ardent reader and a passionate learner my entire life (and a nerd might I add, I used to read Encarta for fun when it first came out in 1995, when I was in the 5th grade!)

    I am not stubborn with my views, and I find nothing wrong in changing my viewpoint as long as I am convinced of the logic behind the change, so naturally, I will never get upset with anyone who is also expressing their own views as long as it is rational and is expressed with respect.

  33. You did manage to scare me a bit while reading your the comment before the last. But kind of fixed-it after that.
    The Arabs/Muslims didn’t just translate and then give them back. There was actually a huge amount of work done (that they’re yet to take credit for) As for the height of the Islamic civilization I wouldn’t say it was just during the Abbasid rule. Since the translation movement started (and pretty much finished)way before that in the Omayyad time.

    But that’s not the point, You know I totally agree with you on the fact that it’s sad, ugly and very disturbing that so much intellectual work being banned from Saudi and deemed heretic based on their very narrow view of things. I’m glad the Internet has barged in on everyone like that to help spread enlightenment everywhere. And I’m sure many Saudi youth are desperately seeking that.

    I have to disagree with you on Al-jahiliyyah, during those time, you as a women wouldn’t have the right to to live (to begin with) You would’ve been buried alive when you were born. And later on, you wouldn’t be allowed to inherit or have any positions. And that just on the women issues. Racism was at it’s peak with tribalism. People were free game for looting and invading. Women are bought and sold. It was ugly. And other than Poetry, Arabs of the time are known of nothing else but idol worshipping, and performing pilgrimage totally naked.

    Roba, my respect to you and your views are not compromised by your tender age at least you dare to question the norms and come up with opinions and it’s OK if they right or wrong, because at some point when you learn and grow more you might come to realize the difference between knowledge and wisdom. And most certainly you will change your ideas and opinions several time (not due to an error, but rather due to different understandings and additional perspectives that you will get)

    No one dares to say s/he knows everything, and since that is always true, the it’s always true that many of our opinions do change.

    I’m glad to see that you’re not stubborn, and try to really get the big picture. But do we really always manage to get it? I have my doubts

    Anyway, lets see what we agree on:
    1) The Arab world is currently in a miserable state
    2) This miserable state is mostly attributed to the disappearance of intellect, (not just education)
    3) Many of the educated people are not really intellectual and have no interest in diversifying their knowledge
    4) Islam is not the reason for this situation
    5) Islam/Religion [might/Is] not be the [only]answer
    6) [— deleted by admin —]
    7) Education might help solve this issue, but again might not be the only answer
    8) Tolerance towards other viewes will help make them shine

  34. Good post.

    “It is sad that most of our intellectuals migrate, when there is so much work to be done here. Not that I blame them, there is lack o f appreciation and not enough resources to do as much work as can be done in a more advanced country”

    It’s the chicken and egg problem. Rewind history, zoom into Colonialism + Orientalism, forward back to reality. Of course, the equation must also include a huge factor, the inability to be self-critical.

    You equated lack of power with lack of knowledge, and that’s right on target. Unfortunately, this is another aporia. Knowledge is power, but does the knowledge lay the power or the power lays the knowledge?

  35. “The youth, over 50% of our developing population,is not encouraged to be socially, culturally, and politically aware. I don’t know if starting a blog would help, but I would love to hear your suggestions.”

    A blog would be a good *baby step*, a way to draw for people tp collectively brainstorm ideas–though I must stress that I am in *no way* as naive to think that a “think tank” alone (LOL) would constitute a solution. However, in the States, we are beginning to see signs of revolutionary change in education brought about by our current golden age of information technology. These ideas promote a shift from the traditional emphasis on passive learning (i.e., long, dry lectures) to active learning (interactive tutorials, simulations, online discussion groups). The new approach seeks to empower individual learners–an empowerment that has social and poltical implications.

    I will send you links to some relevent sites & my own online portfolio. If you’re interested, we can talk further.

  36. basheer

    Roba,

    Like I mentioned earlier, Islam is the SOLUTION..
    We’re not talking about Wahabbi in this context, but look at what Islam stands for..
    The first ayah revealed was Iqraa.. ( Read )

    Unfortunately, Muslim people are forgetting this..
    Many Muslim currently are working in Western countries, you can verify to your friends who live there due to their oppression by secular leaders like abdullah, mubarrak and also from despots like saudi abdullah, al-sabah etc..
    who cower under their Western masters..

    But, don’t worry, Islam will conquer the world..

    From ex-secularist and western hedonist who repented…

  37. rosignol

    Oh, I forgot to thank you for the numbers, the official numbers may be a little bit more inflated, or maybe these are a bit old it doesn’t matter. But you forgot to mention the literacy rate of USA :)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_literacy_rate

    USA: 99.9

  38. The amount of retarded people that I meet everyday, makes me highly doubt that 99.9 figure
    When people don’t know where CANADA is, (check Jay Leno’s jaywalking with Jay Leno) I don’t call those literates! They’re illiterates that can read and write!

  39. Chazz

    It has been my observation that prosperity, intellectual, economic, or cultural, requires both education and opportunity. Today, people with excellent educations are streaming from countries with restrictive institutions to western countries because of the opportunity created by equitable rule that permits the efficient use of capital. Rarely do we hear middle-eastern leaders take responsibility for having failed to create an attractive environment for creativity in their own countries.

  40. khalid

    A liberal reformation of Islam will be marked by at least two features: the empowerment of women in the Muslim world and the willingness of Muslims in the West to exercise our freedom of conscience.

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