The Occident and the Arab World
It is not new that during one period or another, the Occident was in conflict with some Arab countries, and therefore became their enemy. The Arab World tried many times to recover and emerge from the defeat of the time of the Arab Empire of the Umayyad Caliphate. It had always dreamt of finding again the glory of the past trough any new leader who could reconstitute the Arab Empire of that time. In our time we have known such leaders as Gamal Abdel Nasser who, along with Muhammad Naguib led the Egyptian Revolution of 1952 which removed King Farouk. Many in the general Arab populace still view Nasser as a symbol of Arab dignity and freedom. The other leader, Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti also wanted to be the leader of an Arab Empire. Each one in his own way.
We should not ignore the influence of religion which played and still plays a considerable role in all Arab states. During the time of the the Umayyad Dynasty the greatness of the Empire grew considerably with the birth of Islam.
The various conquests have submitted many populations to the conquerors’ rules. They have created enemies and hatred over the centuries. The Arabs lost not only their greatness and their independence, but above all, their dignity.
Since then the Arab mass is dreaming of the hero who would recapture their position and their standing in the world. It is irrelevant whether the hero would be a dictator, a wise man, or a religious leader. It is clear that after the fall of the Empire, the Arab countries have been conquered and colonized each one at a different time. In recent times, the Europeans have played a big role in conquering Arab countries. Just to name a few, Turkey, Great Britain, France, Italy, etc.
The Western countries rarely go deep into the Arab cultures, which do not derive from Christianity. They certainly know the history of each people, country or nation and all historical facts, but in order to better appreciate other cultures and civilizations one needs to have lived in them and immersed oneself in their daily life, in order to realize certain values and the feeling of each civilization.
Men feel strong when they know their subject but they withdraw into themselves when they approach an unknown subject. It is actually a weakness not to respect another culture. The weakness is dangerous as it invites men to aggression or to supremacy dreams.
Today I am trying to sort out among certain cultures and civilizations which I have come to know. I have barely learned to distinguish between the deep values and the superficial ones.
In fact there is good in every culture and in every civilization. It is upon us to know how to extract it. One needs to find the links that unite us. Tolerance and respect for others is the elementary base of coexistence and of peace.
One should accept people as they are, without trying to force upon them our will and our way of life. As Oriental wisdom has it: “Those who do not honor the stranger and the man of another tribe, is not worthy of being called the son of a great nation.” Those who do not respect this principle harm others.
We recognize that democracy does not have the same meaning in every culture. It varies from nation to nation and depends on their culture and their way of life. What is good for one nation is not always good for another one. It is essential that each nation should be able to blossom and realize its potential according to its way of life, in security and in peace.
Copyright 2008, Emile Tubiana