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MATIERE A REFLEXION
The Culture of Slaves

 

1. In the name of honor, a father may kill his daughter or a brother his sister, to undisgrace himself. The act, which violates the teachings of Islam, implies that our concept of 'honor' does not go beyond the area between a woman's legs.

In our culture, killing women in the name of honor is not a crime; it is simply a way of undisgracing oneself. We do not see any disgrace in flattering a tyrant, yielding to him, accepting his injustices, or putting up with his nonsense. As for the high values of telling the truth, keeping a promise, helping one another, doing one's job honestly, and being courageous and manly, we do not find them to be hyponyms of the word 'honor'. Such values are adopted only by free, self-ruling, and proud democratic peoples. It is in the Western, and not the Arab, culture that these values are hyponyms of 'honor'.

But whatever brought this culture into existence?

It's the Eastern Arab despotism – a hell of oppressive fire that keeps pouring down on the layman's head, burning his mind, and surrounding him from everywhere. The only outlet for his pent up agony and furious protest is the woman who happens to be under his rule as per cultural dictates. Where he fails to have real honor, in the sense of the sublime values of courage, truthfulness, promise-keeping, audacity, etc…, he buries his usurped honor between the legs of his women. If any of them mishandles his 'honor', he immediately kills her to convince himself and others that he does have honor. He fails to realize that his real honor was long gone by when he agreed to be enslaved and humiliated by despots.

This wrong notion of honor, as conceived by Arabs, is just one bitter fruit of the culture of slaves.

 

2. Another fruit of the culture of slaves: we don't find it objectionable to be wronged by fellow kinsmen, but we raise hell when the offender is a foreigner. The elder brother often seizes the greatest portion of an inheritance, and women rarely get their IFY: kashida; MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt; DIRECTION: ltr; LINE-HEIGHT: 150%; unicode-bidi: embed; TEXT-ALIGN: justify; TEXT-KASHIDA: 0%">This wrong notion of honor, as conceived by Arabs, is just one bitter fruit of the culture of slaves.

 

2. Another fruit of the culture of slaves: we don't find it objectionable to be wronged by fellow kinsmen, but we raise hell when the offender is a foreigner. The elder brother often seizes the greatest portion of an inheritance, and women rarely get their inheritance rights, although they are prescribed by the teachings of Islam. We accept this injustice as a matter of fact, but if the very same injustice comes from a foreigner, we become furious and protest.

 

3. It follows then that we have the double standards that we denounce and accuse others of adopting. Our proverbs capture this duality. Consider this Egyptian proverb, "He who loves you will swallow stones for you, but he who hates you would love to find faults by you." No trace of tolerance can be seen in this proverb, since a tolerant person will "swallow stones" for you and for everybody else without discriminating a friend from a foe. According to the proverb, the injustices of the loved ones are agreeable, but those of the "enemies" have to faced with the strictest resolve.  The proverb bullies those it considers "enemies" and interprets all their actions in the light of a theory of conspiracy and ill intentions.

There is also another proverb which literally translates "Hits from a lover are as delicious as raisins." The implication is that anybody who hits you will be in big trouble, well unless he qualifies in the category of 'lovers'.

A third proverb says, "It's an honor to be beaten by the ruler," that is, you will be greatly honored if the ruler generously takes notice of you and singles you out from among the trivial masses to give you – alone – the pleasure of being tortured by him.

For this reason, torture crimes continue to be taken for granted as a genuine right of the ruler, and an honor for us. Well, that was that until the winds of liberal ideas, along with a culture of human rights, blew from the West, and until Western organizations came to our countries to spread awareness and encourage us to respect our humanity.

With donations from the West, some organizations were established to oppose the torture suffered by the elite thinkers. Then we "discovered", too late, that torture is also suffered by the ordinary people as a routine matter. The "discovery" came as a result of persistent efforts of Western organizations. Consequently, the call to stop torturing in police stations has recently become loud.

However, some of us still cannot give up their culture of slaves. They insist on considering western human-right organizations as nosy conspirators, who intervene in our most private business, including the ruler's right to kill and torture whomever he wishes.

It is interesting to note that this genuine culture of ours, the institution of torture, affected some Americans who occupied a major academy specialized in the art of torture, namely Abu Ghraib Jail. Encouraged by some Iraqis, some Americans practiced this Arab technology, but were immediately detected by the ever alert American press, and they were scorned by the American merciless public opinion. Investigations started and there were apologies from President Bush and the Secretary of Defense, confirming that those actions, though familiar to the Middle East, are no part of an American culture. Amid this media bustle, the perpetrators were made to appear in court and convicted.

What have we done? We indulged in cursing the United States, and its barbaric techniques in torturing, forgetting what we do ourselves. In other words, it is we who have double standards.

 

4. In the Middle East, religious, sectarian, and ethnic groups are persecuted in different degrees. Such persecutions are obliterated, even when they become massacres of ethnic 'cleansing', as in Iraq and Darfour, Sudan. Once obliterations are unsuccessful, and the West intervenes to settle justice and defend the persecuted, we accuse the West of intervening in our domestic affairs and conspiring against Arabs and Muslims. This was the case when the United States and West interfered to rescue the African Muslim victims of Darfour from massacres staged by their Arab and Muslim "brethren". In cases, the obliteration is so severe it ignores the US and Western role in protecting the Muslims of Kosovo from genocide crimes committed by Christian Serbs. Here is the rationale: we should not mention any positive move by the US or the West. At the same time, we shout at the top of our voices when an American Wahabi organization sends a false complaint to the Arab newspapers protesting against a discrimination it alleges in the Muslim American community.

 

5. The culture of slaves is a bad coin with two faces, one consisting in yielding to, and enjoying the injustices of, the oppressive kinsman, be he a brother, father, or ruler; and the other consisting in hating the other, that is the foreigner, just because he is alien and different from us.

For us, the term 'foreigner' has many senses ranging from the fellow countryman who differs from us in terms of religion, sect, ethnic background, and/or language, to a alien non-native stranger. The greater the differences and the stronger the foreigner is and the higher the friction, the greater the enmity, no matter how good he may be to us. This applies to the West in general and the US in particular: if the US does something good to us, it's a conspiracy; and if the US government acts in quest for the interests of US people – which is the duty of any government except, of course, our holy governments – the US President is attacked because he does not act in favor of Arab countries, as if he were the president of the United Arab States, and not the United States of America. At the same time, local despots commit all kinds of crime, and find someone who justifies their crimes, defends and glorifies them, and interprets their fiascos in the light of a US-Israeli conspiracy. This unhealthy state of affairs is captured by the aforesaid proverbs: we regard the torture we receive at the hand of the ruler as a great honor for us; we find it as delicious as raisins; and we do in practice "swallow his stones," but wish to find faults with the US. If the US fails us by not committing the faults we wish it did, we respond by offending her in advance, just to let go of our frustration, helplessness, failure, and oppression.

6. It is the culture of slaves which transforms an ordinary person into a despot if he happens to gain access to power.  Once a ruler, he will respond to the stimuli of this culture, and will always be urged to be a despot. Thus, by chance and other factors, some criminals and unfit individuals became rulers. Once they "rode" their peoples, they became, according to this culture, godkings or demigod rulers in societies that claim they believe in God alone.

When President Sadat looked around for a vice president with special specifications, the only person he found was Hosni Mubarak. During Nasser's reign, Sadat had managed with his shrewdness and submissiveness to win Nasser's sympathy and trust, and so was chosen as vice president. Once in power, he decided to choose a deputy short of wit, ambition, or innovative thinking. The only person he found with these specs was Hosni Mubarak. That was the first chance. The second was the sudden assassination of Sadat, which abruptly brought Mubarak to the rule of the biggest Arab country. That was a position he never imagined or endeavored to secure, because it was far beyond his ambitions and potential. This was evident in his early years when he declared he would rule for only one term. But the culture of slaves made it easy for a person with modest faculties as Mubarak to continue the first term, and a second term, too. Feeling supreme, he finished a third term, and then the fourth. The ruling chair now seems to be a natural extension of his behind. He cannot now, at his old age, sit on anything else. Fed up with the corruption, looting, hunger, oppression, torture, extended and hereditary rule, a few thousand Egyptians took to the streets chanting slogans asking Mubarak to go. But still he refuses even when he hears people cursing him.

 

In Iraq, Saddam Hussein emerged as a thug with a criminal record to rule Iraq. Once in power, he damaged his own country and the countries around him so badly that the international community had to interfere twice to save Iraq and Iraq's neighbors from this merciless tyrant.

When a picture showed Saddam Hussein in his underwear in jail, the slaves were enraged, as they considered the picture a stab in the Arab honor. What honor could ever be associated with the biggest serial killer, or with the most pathetic loser and goofiest military commander in modern Arab times?  All his military victories were against crushed segments of the Iraqi people. All his triumphs were killing, raping, and destructions. I don't exaggerate when I say he is the worst Arab Muslim ruler I've ever read about. However, according to the culture of slaves, Saddam has become a hero.

Had we had the US-Western concept of honor, rulers like Saddam and Mubarak would have never made it to power. And if they had, they wouldn't have stayed for more than one day. As noted earlier, honor in the Western concept means truthfulness, honesty, pride, courage, and willingness to sacrifice for freedom and justice. Thus, to get rid of their tyrants, Europeans spent several centuries fighting sanguinary wars, the last of which was World War II. On the other side, we were, and still are, chanting slogans glorifying every leader, "With soul and blood, we give our lives to you!" And the minute our leader falls, we promptly leave him and run away, thus responding to the dictates of our culture of slaves who think with speedy feet when they cope with danger.

 

7. It is unfortunate that the culture of slaves is still the prevalent culture of some opponents of Egyptian tyrant Hosni Mubarak.

The popular revolt against his tyranny is the fruit of the persistent efforts of NGOs, and human right and democracy groups supported by the US and West. Going further, the US intervened in Iraq, deposed the terrorist Saddam that Iraqis failed to oust, enabled Iraqis to have their first real democratic elections that brought a non-Arab Muslim to rule Iraq, and prepared Iraq to be a pioneer of democracy in the Arab world despite the attacks of the terrorists, who are the real enemies of God and his Messenger.  Furthermore, it urged other countries in the region, especially Egypt and Saudi Arabia, to institute political, social, education and economic reforms, addressing the different political powers to claim reform from inside to silence the despots' pretentious arguments that reforms cannot be forced from outside.

Encouraged that much by the US, the Egyptian opposition took to the streets and chanted slogans against Mubarak. The Egyptian police acted its usual way, beating, arresting and torturing demonstrators, molesting and raping female protesters. When the US interfered and commanded the small pharaoh to stop hurting the free Egyptians, he was deterred, and the Egyptian security forces stopped cracking down on demonstrators. That is, with US intervention, rallying in Egypt became a legitimate right and an unpunishable act. Following a trip to Egypt by the US Secretary of State, in which she announced support for the opposition's democratic claims thus exercising more pressure on the old pharaoh, the opposition gained a wider scope for development and higher hopes for a peaceful democratic transformation.

But alas! Chances for this peaceful democratic transformation evaporated after some anti-US Nasserist and nationalist opposition leaders criticized the US Secretary of State's intervention in favor of Egyptians, and described her move, according to the culture of slaves, as intervention in the domestic affairs of Egypt.

The Egyptian opposition should have appreciated the US positive intervention, not just because it is the free people who give credit to those who deserve it, and not just because it is an Islamic value to thank whoever does you a favor, but also to encourage the US side to exert more efforts to shorten the period of suffering and end the dull nightmare incumbent now for a quarter of a century.

US foreign policy is not a charity establishment, but it represents US interests in the region. One of its prime interests, as it has recently realized, is to end local despotism, which gave birth to the radicals who attacked the US in 9/11 and earlier. For this reason, the US had to help democratize the Middle East. But democracy can be established only when people become aware that they should be free and willing to sacrifice something for their freedom. In other words, a culture of democracy must replace the culture of slaves, but this replacement will materialize only with efforts of the free intellectuals of the Middle East, and some appreciated help from outside. But if opposition leaders are furious with the US in advance, denying its efforts, and rejecting its help in principle, why then expect the US to keep its hand extended in the air when there is nobody to shake it?

The opposition has thus offered Mubarak victory in advance. The American hand, that once beckoned menacingly to Mubarak, commanding him to go, now had to pat the shoulder of the old dictator, giving him hope to stay in power until the Egyptian opposition becomes mature, and replaces its culture of slaves with the culture of freedom and democracy.

 

8. The ethics and legislations of Islam reject the culture of slaves and its rotten fruits.

It is odd that in promoting democracy and rejecting tyranny, the US does give expression to true Islam. Despotism, which has deeply implanted the culture of slaves, could not be farther from the true essence of Islam.


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