August 8, 2002 Special Dispatch No. 409

Former Libyan PM: Why Do Arabs Ignore Their Flaws

August 8, 2002
Libya | Special Dispatch No. 409

Former Libyan prime minister Abd Al-Hamid Al-Bakkoush published an article in the London-based Arabic daily Al-Hayat titled, "Hasn't the Time Come to Stop Hiding the Flaws." The following are excerpts of the article:

The Arabs Ignore Their Shortcomings and Make Them Virtues
"They say that the camel cannot see his hump. Perhaps this is somewhat descriptive of our behavior. Yet while the camel cannot see, we… do not want to see…"

"Anyone following the affairs in which we engage and of which we write or speak in this era will easily discover that we obliterate our cultural, political, and economic defects. Any observer will discern our supreme efforts to ignore our shortcomings and present them as virtues."

"We do not consent to harbor any flaw, in neither our past nor our present. With regard to our future - well, it is a campaign of achievements and triumphs that cannot be described or enumerated."

"If by chance we admit to any defect, it is the exception that proves the rule - [the rule] according to which we have no flaws. Panic grips us at every criticism. We are furious at anyone who mentions shortcomings to us… and act as if we were a 'beautiful garment,' brilliant in its whiteness, made ugly only by the mud slung at us by our adversaries who hate our national identity and lie in wait for our religions."

The Arabs Blame All Problems on U.S. Conspiracies
"See how the West and its leader America conspire against us with the aim of spoiling the wonderful relations among the various [Arab] countries. See how every time one Arab grabs another by the throat we attribute it to a foreign scheme. Wasn't Iraq's invasion of Kuwait an American plot carried out by the U.S. ambassador to Baghdad…?"

"We ignore - and if only we did not know the truth - that we have such a quantity of harmful caprices and ambitions that no one could have sown them in our breasts. We keep making mistakes and then act as one to conceal the intentions [behind them], and obliterate what is clear to all."

"For some time we have been dealing with the Palestine issue. Although our defeats at the hands of the Jews came successively, one after the other, no observer could hear us utter a single admission of defeat - as if we have been racking up victories over the Zionists since 1948."

"Yes, we have toppled Arab thrones we did not like, and established various kinds of republics - even the kind that is inherited [i.e. the Assad regime in Syria]. Likewise, we have nationalized property and capital and founded revolutionary and socialist parties. We have eliminated agents and foreigners and never ceased giving speeches, singing songs, and organizing demonstrations. Are these not all achievements and victories?!"

The Arabs Do Not Take Seriously Either War Or Peace
"To date, we have not acknowledged that we did not take the eternal Palestine problem seriously; thus, we can be seen beating the drums of war and clearing our throats in order to threaten [our enemy] while not [really] thinking of war and not preparing to wage it. Furthermore, even after we declared that peace was our final option, the signs of our lack of seriousness are still evident in us; thus, we do nothing to achieve peace. We dream of achieving what the victors achieve when they sit at the negotiating tables; yet we ignore, with clear naiveté, that in the final analysis anyone incapable of enduring war gets the loser's share in negotiations."

"This lack of seriousness also controls our outlook on the future relationship between us and the state of the Jews. We see those who support the [theory of] the conflict of civilizations - those who talk about [the conflict] being one of survival, not one of borders - grabbing each other by the throats and talking excitedly. Some talk of the establishment of a united Arab state, while disregarding [the fact that] disintegration is a mental condition, not a condition contingent upon borders. We also ignore [the fact that] the establishment of the great Arab state will, in our present situation, be nothing more than the establishment of an empire, in the face of whose violence the cruelty of the Jews will pale."

On the Backwardness of Muslims
"Others among us also ignore the facts of our time. They do not go forwards, but backwards, and dream of the Muslim state that was. In their opinion, it is enough to be God-fearing - at which we are not sufficiently earnest - to ensure that Allah will arrange victory for us in all our battles with our enemies…"

"Oh, how we would wish that our defects would begin and end with lack of seriousness and placing the consequences of our failures on the shoulders of others. But things do not go as we might wish. The absence of the virtue of modesty and the loss of the trait of open-mindedness are two examples of the many flaws that are too numerous to count in this article."

The Arabs Are Outside the Circle of Progress
"We ignore [the fact that] we are outside the circle of progressives in this era. We make an ongoing effort to hide this flaw, by boasting of our ability to consume the [West's] achievements, or by attributing these achievements to our 'spiritual' civilization - [while in fact] the legacy of [our civilization] is no greater than memories we compete amongst ourselves in talking about. We imagine ourselves to be superior to the culture of the West; in moments of modesty, we [merely] state that we refuse to learn from Western culture."

"Although we consent to consume its achievements, we continue to call it by the names we most loathe, and are glad that this allows us to conceal the backwardness from which we suffer. Isn't someone who consumes achievements the same as someone who attains them??!… We do not lack for audacity in claiming that it is we who taught them [the West]; we do not hesitate to present our efforts at saving their 'material' culture from perdition…"

"Are we not like the bearers of a message of progress who lost it [along the way] - but deny it?" [1]

[1] Al-Hayat London), July 31, 2002.

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