Arab World Besieged by Modernity

[Sunday Times-UK] Adam LeBor - No fully sovereign Arab state is a democracy with meaningful independent institutions where power passes peacefully by popular vote. Economies are sclerotic, but human-rights abuses are flourishing. South Korea and Taiwan export more manufactured goods in two days than Egypt in a year. Since 1950 the Arab population has risen from 79m to 327m, but real wages and productivity have barely moved since 1970. Poor economic opportunities, endemic corruption, education based on rote learning, state-sponsored Jew-hatred, soaring youth populations and unemployment are a recipe for social catastrophe. Add the rise of radical Islam and the growth of al-Qaeda and the mix becomes something explosive. A millennia ago Arab and Muslim thinkers, writers, scientists and doctors led an intellectual revolution that is still shaping our world. An explosion of knowledge and ideas caused Arab scientists to leap ahead of their European contemporaries. This vigorous intellectual curiosity was rooted in Islamic thought and the concept of ijtihad, of continually reinterpreting Islamic law to meet the demands of the contemporary world. In the Muslim empire in Spain known as Al-Andalus, Cordoba, Seville and Granada were the jewels of Europe, where art, learning and culture flowered. The great Jewish thinker Moses Maimonides was born in Cordoba and wrote in Judeo-Arabic, Hebrew words transcribed in Arabic. When the Catholic kings expelled Spain's last Jews in 1492, Ottoman Sultan Bayezid II sent a fleet of ships to fetch them.

2008-12-23 06:00:00

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