Brave Saudi Explains Arab Backwardness

An Open-Minded Arab Explains Why Arab Society is Backwards

This excerpt, from an interview on Al-Arabiya TV, is really great. The gentleman is Ibrahim Al-Buleihi, a former Saudi Shura Council Member.  He speaks with the authority of somebody who is well educated and experienced with both Arab and Western civilizations.  A transcript of this interview follows below the video.


This interview was originally broadcast in Dubai and Saudi Arabia on February 26, 2010.

TV = Al-Arabiya TV interviewer
IB = Ibrahim Al-Buleihi

IB
When we want to study a religious issue, we go back to our heritage. But when we want to study an earthly matter, such as why we are backward, while others are prosperous. We must search for the answer elsewhere, not in our heritage.
TV
Where is “elsewhere”?
IB
In the West, without a doubt.
TV
In the West, not the East?
IB
The East only emulates the West. Take Japan, for example. If not for its openness to Western culture, it too would have remained backward. The individualism of the Arab has been erased in this society . . .
TV
What do you mean by erased individualism?
IB
He [Arabs] is incapable of independent thinking and therefore, he always rejects what is rejected by society and accepts what is accepted by society.
TV
So “team spirit” prevails?
IB
It is the spirit of a herd, not a team. It is the spirit of the herd that cannot free itself from the captivity of the prevailing culture. Whatever society considers to be good, the individual considers to be good. He is incapable of independent thinking and of benefiting from the cultures of others. He is incapable of stepping out of the mold imposed on him since childhood.
TV
Should the Arab individual be rebellious, for example?
IB
Not rebellious, but he should seek the truth. He must not efface his self and dissolve into the herd.
TV
You criticize the Arabs and praise Israel. Do you think that the Arabs should follow the Israeli model?
IB
No. Israel did not create itself: it is an offshoot of the West. They are an offshoot of Western culture. That is why I compared Israel to Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. I want to make a very important point . . .
TV
Excuse me but I have a question. Do you consider the fact that some countries are offshoots of Western culture to be a good or a bad thing?
IB
It’s a positive thing.
TV
So we should be offshoots of the West as well?
IB
No, but we should benefit from this rich experience. It is the West that produced all this prosperity. To this day, we are a burden on the West. Even Japan admits that without benefiting from the West, it would not have developed.
TV
Prosperity in what?
IB
In everything. In the value, liberties and dignity of human beings, as well as in the development of science, technology and life. Do you believe that life today is the same as it was ten centuries ago? This tremendous change was produced by the West. Who else produced it?
TV
But shouldn’t the notions of the West – such as human rights – be viewed as an accumulated achievement in which all societies played a role?
IB
It is not an accumulated achievement.
TV
It was achieved solely by the West?
IB
Undoubtedly. Tyranny is a tremendous obstacle which makes any progress impossible.
TV
Do you believe that this theory applies to Iraq? After the fall of Saddam Hussein, whom you describe as . . .
IB
Iraq has not been permitted to achieve stability. The whole world has intervened in its affairs, as we have seen.
TV
The West, which you praise so highly, intervenes in Iraq.
IB
No, the West intervened in Japan’s affairs as well, and managed to save Japan from tyranny. Today, Japan is considered a model of democracy, of liberties, and of all the advantages that the West has produced.
TV
You have said that during their conquests, at the advent of Islam, the Arabs emerged from the deserts in order to conquer, not to learn. What do you mean by that?
IB
In my view, over the centuries, the Arabs believed – and continue to believe – that they have sufficient knowledge and wisdom and that they do not need to learn anything from others because they appeared on the stage of history in order to conquer, not to learn; to teach, not to study . . .
TV
As guiders, not people seeking the guidance of others.
IB
That’s right. This delusion of the Arabs persists to this day, even though the entire world has changed. The world has changed but they still believe that it is their duty to teach others, and it is the duty of others to heed them. The truth is that the Arabs have nothing to offer others, yet they continue this horrible delusion: this belief in one’s own perfection. The belief that others must learn from them makes it impossible for them to benefit from modern culture.
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