Saturday, June 2, 2012

Existential Questions Facing the Muslim World

by oldschooltwentysix

I never had a distinct awareness of Harold Rhode until I read Existential Questions Facing the Muslim World, his recent article at Gatestone Institute

Rather than getting into a debate over who he is, as many prefer to do, perhaps a better route is to examine what he says. You need not agree with the substance, but in my mind there is certainly value to look at different sides of the issues, particularly when they are controversial in scope.

The article begins:
Many parts of the world, such as Korea, China, and India - basically medieval kingdoms fifty or sixty years ago -- are now among the pacesetters of the modern world, both producing, and improving on, existing inventions. The Muslim world, however, often better off than these countries just half a century ago, has remained as it was, or has even, in many instances, deteriorated.

This inertia in the Islamic world seems to stem not from any genetic limitations, or even religious ones, but purely from Islamic culture.

Although one can gain some insight into Islamic culture from books and other written material, if one is to really understand the Muslim world, there is no substitute for sitting in coffee or tea houses, spending time with Muslims, and asking them questions in their own surroundings and in their own languages. A result of these approaches would seem to indicate, with respect, some of the factors citizens of the Arab and Muslim world might wish to consider to use their extraordinary talents even more fully:
Whether anyone reading here wishes to delve into the factors with Rhodes is a personal choice. The topics he addresses are:
  • The Ability to Question
  • The Role of the Individual vs. the Role of the Group
  • Encouraging Creativity
  • The Ability to Admit Failure and Learn from It
  • The Learning Process
  • Taking Responsibility for One's Actions
  • How Information Is Passed On To Others
  • The Western Concept of Compromise
  • The Western Concept of Peace
  • Book Publishing
  • The Status of Women
  • The Oil Curse
He concludes with reference to Palestinians and Jews:
Palestinians, as well, are easily capable of accomplishing what anyone else does, if only their education, governance and cultural incentives were changed from destroying their neighbor, Israel, to building a felicitous society. Palestinian political leaders, however, seem to have decided that the rewards from the international community, at least for them, will be greater if they are seen as victims receiving perpetual handouts, rather than as leaders receiving rewards linked to accomplishments. The economic system seems to have evolved into bribes in exchange for promises that are never kept, followed later by the request for still more bribes.
Ironically, all genetic analyses of the many ancient Muslim Palestinian families indicate that they are largely from the same genetic stock as Ashkenazi Jewry. [...] So what is the difference here? The Jewish culture encourages questioning and thinking from an early age, whereas the Palestinian Muslim culture does not. What is encouraged instead is the unexamined acceptance of whatever is set before one, whether on government-run television or in government-written textbooks. Religion has nothing to do with this situation; Islam therefore is not the problem: Islamic culture is. Only when Muslims address their culture head-on can there be any real hope for their world to overcome its self-imposed limitations and start fully contributing to the wonders of the 21st century.
I suggest the article is both informative and thought provoking, and worth a full read, no matter one's persuasion, including those who habitually reject most anything uttered by political adversaries, and will leave it at that.


  1. Thank you oldschooltwentysix

    I've crossposted at the Bar and Grill

  2. School,

    this is a very interesting piece on a number of levels.

    What grabs me immediately is that you are a western Jew who is so bold as to offer transformational suggestions to the Muslim world.

    Who does that?

    Everybody criticizes everybody, but ideology and social-political alliances determine who is fair game and who is off limits.

    You, my friend, are very definitely treading on the proverbial "thin ice," because westerners, and certainly western Jews, are supposed to be in no moral position to judge allegedly marginalized groups.

    Shame on you! You should be ashamed of yourself, goddammit!

    1. As I told you at my place, I am not afraid to examine issues, and cannot control what others may think. That is up to them.

      I think a spectrum of ideas are necessary to understand why. How else can one acquire knowledge, except by the discourse of competing thought, held up to reality?

      I am not really judging so much as trying to figure things out. There are enough that already judge and want to restrict what others have to say, unless, of course, it is agreement. They get way too personal, too.

      Why should anyone be afraid to consider what was suggested by the article, particularly because it seems to conform to practice, at least to a significant number of observers?