Monday, September 22, 2014

Is Arab Civilization Dying Out?

David Goldman, aka Spengler has been arguing this for some time now. A few days ago Hisham Melhem added his voice to the chorus: Arab civilization is dying.

Wars in the Middle East and terrorism are symptoms of civilizational decline.

Writing in Politico, he explains:

Arab civilization, such as we knew it, is all but gone. The Arab world today is more violent, unstable, fragmented and driven by extremism—the extremism of the rulers and those in opposition—than at any time since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire a century ago. Every hope of modern Arab history has been betrayed. The promise of political empowerment, the return of politics, the restoration of human dignity heralded by the season of Arab uprisings in their early heydays—all has given way to civil wars, ethnic, sectarian and regional divisions and the reassertion of absolutism, both in its military and atavistic forms. With the dubious exception of the antiquated monarchies and emirates of the Gulf—which for the moment are holding out against the tide of chaos—and possibly Tunisia, there is no recognizable legitimacy left in the Arab world.

He continues:

No one paradigm or one theory can explain what went wrong in the Arab world in the last century. There is no obvious set of reasons for the colossal failures of all the ideologies and political movements that swept the Arab region: Arab nationalism, in its Baathist and Nasserite forms; various Islamist movements; Arab socialism; the rentier state and rapacious monopolies, leaving in their wake a string of broken societies. No one theory can explain the marginalization of Egypt, once the center of political and cultural gravity in the Arab East, and its brief and tumultuous experimentation with peaceful political change before it reverted back to military rule.

Melhem sees a dance to the death between Arab nationalism and Islamism:

At their core, both political currents—Arab nationalism and Islamism—are driven by atavistic impulses and a regressive outlook on life that is grounded in a mostly mythologized past. Many Islamists, including Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood (the wellspring of such groups)—whether they say it explicitly or hint at it—are still on a ceaseless quest to resurrect the old Ottoman Caliphate. Still more radical types—the Salafists—yearn for a return to the puritanical days of Prophet Muhammad and his companions. For most Islamists, democracy means only majoritarian rule, and the rule of sharia law, which codifies gender inequality and discrimination against non-Muslims.

Surely, it needs to be stated again, and by someone who has a true understanding of Islam. The Muslim faith is not compatible with democracy.

In Melhem’s words:

And let’s face the grim truth: There is no evidence whatever that Islam in its various political forms is compatible with modern democracy. From Afghanistan under the Taliban to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, and from Iran to Sudan, there is no Islamist entity that can be said to be democratic, just or a practitioner of good governance. The short rule of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt under the presidency of Mohamed Morsi was no exception. The Brotherhood tried to monopolize power, hound and intimidate the opposition and was driving the country toward a dangerous impasse before a violent military coup ended the brief experimentation with Islamist rule.

In this context one should also ask whether Islam is compatible with free enterprise. After all, we know that you can institute free market reforms without introducing liberal democracy.

Melhem holds out some hope for the future, but reform seems increasingly to be a vanishing hope:

The Islamic State, like al Qaeda, is the tumorous creation of an ailing Arab body politic. Its roots run deep in the badlands of a tormented Arab world that seems to be slouching aimlessly through the darkness. It took the Arabs decades and generations to reach this nadir. It will take us a long time to recover—it certainly won’t happen in my lifetime.


vanderleun said...

Good. Drive the entire genepool to their tomb soon.

Anonymous said...

"Good. Drive the entire genepool to their tomb soon."

That sounds genocidal. Ugly.

Anonymous said...

The Middle East would be a lot more peaceful without western intervention.

Gaddafi would still rule over stable Libya, and Assad would have crushed the rebels as fast as Israel crushed Gazans.

But the West, in cahoots with Qatar and Saudis, added fuel to the fire.

That said, the current crises may have a long-term stabilizing impact on the Middle East.


Because Middle Eastern national maps were not drawn by people there but were artificially imposed by Western imperialists.
That led to too much ethnic and sectarian diversity. As in Yugoslavia, only a strong hand could things under the lid.

Now, local nationalisms are flaring up and the Middle East deems to be cracking up like Yugoslavia did.

Yugoslavia went thru hell in the 90s but is peaceful now. Same may be true of the Middle East in the eventual future.

Kaiser Derden (aka TDL) said...

the reason is because Islam is a cult not a religion ... we gave it a religion label because we didn't have a better one at the time ... but we do now and cult describes Islam to a tee ...