Monday, November 05, 2007

A post for my fellow Arab bloggers

This might surprise people but I am against the United Nations, against Human Rights and against secularism and democracy. This is is not because I am an apologist for dictatorships, torture and religious fundamentalism. I just refuse to accept these concepts a priori as something which I must see as "good" even though their goals are admirable. In placing my full support for such concepts I feel I am being hypocritical to myself by accepting the values and world view implicit in these goals, as well as the historical and geographical context which created them.

Let me elaborate using the following example. Let us say I am an average Arab citizen who is against America's meddling in the Middle East and it's occupation of Iraq. In a demonstration I would chant anti-American slogans, burn their flags and then when all is said and done, go home, watch Friends on my satellite dish and drink a nice cold Pepsi. When I blog and reject American interference in the Middle East, politically and militarily, I also reject the "Pepsi" equivalent of politics, philosophy and humanism which they present to me as universal. I reject their universality, Pepsi is not the only soft drink available and I can achieve the same effect by having "Sinalco" cola for example. In this way, I undermine another means that they continue to dominate us with by selecting an alternative -if none is available then I would create it.

I question and inspect the assumptions implicit in the idea that human beings have "rights" rather than "duties", that an individual is free from (negative freedom) rather than free to do (positive freedom) and that a group of people who are inherently selfish and self maximising by their own admission would somehow come up with the most ideal government in our non-ideal world. I reject these assumptions and try to explore other options, I am admittedly not always successful.

I wrote this post for fellow Syrian bloggers in particular and Arab bloggers in general. Like many of you I boycott American and Israeli products, the only difference is that I have chosen to take this beyond the material and up to the level of my thought as well. I guess I'm trying to deconstruct myself or, as Descartes once said, I am taking my apples out of my basket and examining each one to see if it is rotten. I invite you all to do the same, though you do not have to. I hope this helps you all understand where I am coming from if I criticise or disagree with you sometimes.



Ibn Bint Jbeil said...


arabs and muslims are familiar with concepts of democracy and human rights, before the western colonialist united nations context in which they were imposed by name only upon the people of the east. muslims have a tradition of human rights in their doctrines and by their statesmen, that were very advanced, and have a lot of potential for progression and evolution.

وسيم said...

Yislam Timak ya IBJ, part of what I try to do is remove the stereotypes we as Arabs have been placed within and also that we perpetuate ourselves. Once we can break free from these chains of the mind, I think we can recognise the great potential we have within us.

Ibn Bint Jbeil said...

an interesting book:
bayna 3ali wal-thawra al-faransiyya by george gordaa, a lebanese christian author who compares in this book concepts of human rights from the time of the early days of islam and some of ali's statements and letters, through the decleration of the rights of man during the french revolution.

وسيم said...

That, my friend, is going straight to the top of my to read list, straight after Nahj al Balagha and Ihya 3oloom al deen 2,3,4 and 5 :)

Damascene George said...

I'll leave arguing about modern values, rights, duties and the other minor :) issues for later on.

But for now, when you say: "I am against the United Nations, against Human Rights and against secularism and democracy." You are not examining your apples, you're just throwing them away.
This is in fact my main reason to boycott any boycotting campaign. You have the right not to endorse any concept you dislike. But boycotting the the concept, the people behind it, and anything related to it, is extremism.
Now when you back IBJ about how democracy and human rights have their deep roots in the Islamic culture, it becomes much more paradoxical to refuse the concepts instead of elaborating on them!

وسيم said...

Hi DG,
I'm not sure what led you to the conclusion that I am throwing the apples away. I did say that I recognise the benefits in these concepts and admire them, however as a matter of principle and based on the context we as Arabs find ourselves within, I must refuse them. A similar situation happened recently with the decision of some British academia to boycott all Israeli academia. There was complete and utter uproar about this, with many of the arguments you presented too. It is not extremist to boycott the concept, the people behind it and anything related to it, that is in fact the very essence of boycotting something. So by your definition, I'm happy to be called an extremist :)

As for what IBJ and myself believe, we did not argue that democracy and human rights have their roots in Islamic culture but that similar attempts at social justice and the worth of the human being existed there as in other cultures. It is not paradoxical for us to boycott those first values and labels I mentioned. The problem is you accept these terms (and their inherent implications) as essentialist when what we are saying is that they are not. Democracy, human rights and secularisation are means to an end and not the end. As such, we need to explore other means that do not subjugate us within a world view that is not suitable for us nor accurate.