19 November 2006

Arab Illiteracy and Other Omens of a Stormy Future

The causes of Arab underdevelopment identified in the report are lack of freedom, marginal participation of women in public life and educational backwardness.Arab people enjoy least freedom compared to any other region in the world — less than even the countries bordering southern Sahara. Civil rights are mostly ignored though they are incorporated in constitutions and legislations in those countries. There are several impediments for the free functioning of the agencies that are supposed to ensure these rights. Arab women get the least opportunity to participate in the economic and political activities compared to any other place in the world. The level of education among Arab women is the lowest in the world. More than 50 percent of them are illiterate. One of the most alarming facts revealed by the report is the backwardness of Arabs in the field of science. The level of education in the region is falling while the per capita spending on scientific research and development is the lowest in the world. In 1996, it was 0.4 percent of the GNP which is one-third of what Cuba spent on scientific research. In 1994, Israel allocated 6.35 percent for the GNP for research programs while in Japan it was 6.9 percent. Naturally, the educational backwardness increases the rate of illiteracy among Arabs. More than 65 million people, which accounts for 43 percent of the Arab population, are illiterate.Source.

* Islamists who do not recognize that humanistic ideas can serve as a basis for society. In their view, everything has existed in the past, and is present in the holy text [the Koran]. The present and future are not in our hands, but in the hands of a force that propels us like puppets. According to these Islamists, the proper way to live is to return to the times of our forefathers, in the seventh century, and to adopt the principle of the Shura [the consultative council] of early Islam.

When it is argued that the Shura never convened in the early Islamic era, that its representatives were appointed and not elected, that the idea of a society like that of the forefathers is imaginary with no basis in historical fact... they have no answer except to curse those raising these questions and to accuse them of heresy.

Al-Houni concludes that there is no point in arguing with Islamists so long as the starting points are different. The Islamists consider the past to be the pinnacle of humanity, whereas Al-Houni's starting point is human experience and history as an unending process.
Source.

Arabs seem to be caught in their own traps of illiteracy and primitive modes of thinking. There may be no escape whatsoever. Sadly, the younger generation of arabs is not only huge, but illiterate, and oddly drawn to violent and irrational strains of Islam. It does not look good for the arab world, and anyone who must deal with it.

Of all the sins Bush is guilty of, over-optimism in dealing with the arab and muslim world may be his greatest.

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