Saturday 9 September 2006

Imagine There's No Religion...

The Arab-Muslim world's resistance to glocalization is something that some liberal Arab commentators are now focusing on. Consider a May 5, 2004, article in the Saudi English-language daily Arab News by liberal Saudi journalist Raid Qusti, titled "How Long Before the First Step?"

"Terrorist incidents in Saudi Arabia are more or less becoming everyday news. Every time I hope and pray that it ends, it only seems to get worse," Qusti wrote. "One explanation to why all of this is happening was brought up by the editor in chief of Al-Riyadh newspaper, Turki Al-Sudairi, on a program about determining the roots of the terrorist acts. He said that the people carrying out these attacks shared the ideology of the Juhaiman movement that seized the Grand Mosque in the seventies. They had an ideology of accusing others of being infidels and giving themselves a free hand to kill them, be it Westerners-who, according to them, ought to be kicked out of the Arabian Peninsula-or the Muslim believer who does not follow their path. They disappeared in the eighties and nineties from the public eye and have again emerged with their destructive ideology. The question Al-Sudairi forgot to bring up was: What are we Saudis going to do about it? If we as a nation decline to look at the root causes, as we have for the past two decades, it will only be a matter of time before another group of people with the same ideology spring up. Have we helped create these monsters? Our education system, which does not stress tolerance of other faiths-let alone tolerance of followers of other Islamic schools of thought-is one thing that needs to be re-evaluated from top to bottom. Saudi culture itself and the fact that the majority of us do not accept other lifestyles and impose our own on other people is another. And the fact that from fourth to 12th grade we do not teach our children that there are other civilizations in the world and that we are part of the global community and only stress the Islamic empires over and over is also worth re-evaluating."

It is simply too easily forgotten that when it comes to economic activities, one of the greatest virtues a country or community can have is a culture of tolerance. When tolerance is the norm, everyone flourishes- because tolerance breeds trust, and trust is the foundation of innovation and entrepreneurship. Increase the level of trust in any group, company, or society, and only good things happen. “China began its astounding commercial and industrial take-off only when Mao Zedong’s odiously intolerant form of communism was scrapped in favour of what might be called totalitarian laissez-faire,” wrote British historian Paul Johnson in a June 21, 2004, essay in Forbes. "India is another example. It is the nature of the Hindu religion to be tolerant and, in its own curious way, permissive . . . When left to themselves, Indians (like the Chinese) always prosper as a community. Take the case of Uganda's Indian population, which was expelled by the horrific dictator Idi Amin and received into the tolerant society of Britain. There are now more millionaires in this group than in any other recent immigrant community in Britain. They are a striking example of how far hard work, strong family bonds and devotion to education can carry a people who have been stripped of all their worldly assets."

(excerpt from "The World Is Flat" by Thomas L.Friedman; to be continued)