Thursday, November 18, 2010

Criticism of the Criticism of the Arab Mind

Hardly an original title to a blog post, but al Ghazali would surely forgive, and may in fact support, the premise behind using such an article. There is a phenomenon that is rapidly growing within the 'educated' circles of Arabs that I meet, the phenomenon whereby something called "The Arab Mind" is seriously debated and considered. I understand there are books written by Orientalist and Zionist authors which deal with such a subject, usually from an extremely derogatory standpoint, but to hear Arab students and lecturers using it wantonly without regard to the subject matter is very sad. I am aware of the very popular book by the late and respected thinker Mohamed Abed al Jabiry, but I have not read it and this critique is probably not related with the subject matter he deals with - or at least I am not in a position to make such a speculation.

Usually the critique of the "Arab Mind" is done by quite educated and urbane students and lecturers who tie this in with a sometimes barely concealed resentment of Islam in particular. To my surprise, their narrative is composed of an oppressive superstructure on the one hand, and a repressed intellectual minority on the other. This minority is the only part of Arab society that is capable of free thought or individuality. Secondly, to avoid being labelled as Westernised, there is a construction of Arabism and nationalism, infused by the very political ideologies of the regimes that they despise, and centered around ideas of freeing Palestine, which in their view help them to redefine themselves as Arabs, but without the uncomfortable baggage of Islamic history.

Under this umbrella, you get a cacophony of half-baked and misunderstood ideologies and even less misunderstood philosophies. There is no logical basis to their arguments and they appear to have also occupied the bastions of "Political Correctness", condemning and damning all those who are misfortunate to utter a sacrilegious statement in their presence. In their eagerness to destroy what they perceive to be an oppressive society and status quo, they create a new atmosphere where one is constantly forced to purge themselves of what they deem to be regressive thoughts and impulses. I find it incredibly tiring to be discussing a particular issue, only to be sidelined completely by one of these clueless rebels who take offence to a mannerism or particular word I use. The discussion, it seems, must always be about what interests these vain attention seekers. These interests are namely vague and ridiculous investigations akin to discussing the definition of the colour blue ad nauseum.

Most of the discussions I have concerning articles or posts that I write are not about what I actually have said, but about what I haven't said, or about the assumptions of these individuals. The discussion is then about my failure or success in measuring up to these assumptions. Luckily, I have learnt to ignore such distractions, but I am left deeply worried by these droves of individuals who have gone abroad to study at the world's finest universities and are returning to their home countries not with an education, but with an attitude.

The internet, twitter, facebook and the whole panoply of social networking and online collaboration has not given a voice to the voiceless, but instead it has provided a platform for the idiotic, ridiculous and petty squabblers. Coupled with slick graphic design skills, the inane is given a respectable and credible image. Ideas are no longer discussed for their own merit, but rather they are judged on how non-offensive and non-discriminatory to stupid people they can be. The greatest danger and challenge facing humanity at the dawn of the twenty-first century is not radical Islam or a Messianic United States, but stupid, amoral people with Macbooks and Twitter accounts.


Unknown said...

FTA: "stupid, amoral people with Macbooks and Twitter accounts."

In other words, people like you.

Maysaloon said...

I don't have a Macbook.