November 3, 2005 Special Dispatch No. 1019

Liberal Tunisian Researcher Dr. Iqbal Al-Gharbi: Muslims Must Take Responsibility for Past Mistakes

November 3, 2005
North Africa, Tunisia | Special Dispatch No. 1019

In an article titled "Whither the Arabs and Muslims in the Age of Forgiveness and Pardon?" liberal Tunisian author and researcher Dr. Iqbal Al-Gharbi wrote about the current worldwide proliferation of public apologies for the sins of the past, and the conspicuous absence of that phenomenon from the Arab and Muslim scene. Published in the new reform website, Al-Gharbi stated that the Muslims must take responsibility for their past, must stop blaming others, and must be self-critical. [1]

The following are excerpts from her article:

The Wave of Apologies and Repentance in the World Has Swept over Us

"...In recent years, a wave of conscience-purging, apologies, and repentance by the world's tyrants and rulers has swept over us. The list of those who are regretful and who seek forgiveness and pardon is long:

"The Catholic Church apologized for its old stance towards the Jews and for the Inquisition… French society was torn with remorse for its stance in the Dreyfus trial, and for its stance with regard to the Vichy government that collaborated with the Nazis, and it opened up [for discussion] the issue of the heinous disappearances and torture that took place in its former protectorate Algeria.

" Switzerland is suffering stirrings of conscience with regard to her neutral stance [in World War II]. British Prime Minister Tony Blair apologized to the Irish, and Russia publicly apologized to the people of Eastern Europe for the harm done to them in the past. South Africa established a commission for the exposure of the [historical] facts regarding the apartheid regime and for public reconciliation…

"For the first time in history, this noble phenomenon [of self-criticism] includes also Arab countries such as Morocco, which established a commission for justice and reconciliation and organized public testimonies, aired live on radio and television, by the victims of torture who had suffered from abductions, abuse, and arbitrary trials over the past 40 years... Similarly, Algeria voted for a national peace and reconciliation charter, in an attempt to seal the bloody civil war of the past decade...

"Even the 'New Empire' [the U.S.]… is not hiding its pangs of guilt with regard to slavery from which the American blacks suffered for centuries, and with regard to the innocent victims of the Vietnam war...

We, the Muslims, Still Insist that We Are Always Innocent –and Always Victims

"In this context of the awakening of the conscience of nations seeking to put an end to the sad past and move on to a more humanitarian and benevolent stage, the Muslims… resist these examples…

"We still insist that we are always the victims, and that we are always innocent. Our history is angelic, our imperialism was a welcome conquest [futuhat], our invaders [ghuzah] were liberators, our violence was a holy Jihad, our murderers were Shahids, and our defective understanding of the Koran and the daily violation of the rights of women, children, and minorities were a tolerant Shari'a.

"Since our societies have known, to date, only a culture of resentment... of hatred, and of seeking vengeance – [the question arises] whether we are capable of reconsolidating cultural, moral, and humane relations with the other?... Is it possible for us to abandon our current cultural heritage that is full of great illusions and of denigration of the other?...

"There is no doubt that aggression, invasions, and wild acts of annihilation are engraved in human history and widespread across the globe – amongst both Muslims and non-Muslims. But what differentiates us today from others is the extent of our awareness of history... and the extent to which we justify [past events] in the name of Islam...

"Why Do We Insist on Beautifying Our History and on Living Outside It?"

"What must head our agenda today is the reexamination of our rich and complex Islamic history... [Yet] what is happening today is an attempt to falsify our history… in line with the extreme Islamist movements that call for... a return to the illusion of the purity of the era of the first caliphs.

"This comes at a time when the historical facts show clearly that the [early Islamist] state that we ennoble with an idyllic nature was a state of civil strife... Why are we hiding the facts and misleading our children? Why don't we call things by their name, and set them in their historical context? Why do we insist on beautifying our history and on living outside it?

"The new ideological atmosphere [in the world] obliges us to adopt human rights, and to treat these rights as a cultural value and as an achievement – not as merely a tactical maneuver, waiting for a change in the international balance of power, or for the establishment of an Islamic caliphate...

"We must take a number of practical steps:

"The Islamic [world] must renounce, once and for all, the Islam that is awash with accusations of unbelief [against other Muslims]and treachery, that divides the world into the camp of Islam and the camp of unbelief, the camp of war and the camp of peace. This division destroys any serious dialogue between religions and cultures.

We Must Apologize to the Christians and the Jews

"We must renounce the dhimmi laws that fill the books of jurisprudence, and apologize to the Christian and the Jewish minorities [for the past]. We must put an end to our changing of the facts, and to the miserable fabrications that we created in an attempt to prove that these minorities enjoyed a high status in the Islamic state, based on specific historical events presented in a truncated fashion and not in full.

"The best example of this is the famous Pact of Omar that we present as the supreme example of tolerance and coexistence [when in fact it set restrictions on minorities].

We Must Apologize to the Africans for the Slave Trade

"We must assess Islamic history objectively, and issue an historic public apology to the Africans who were abducted, enslaved, and expelled from their homes... The Arabs and the Muslims played a sizeable role in this loathsome trade. They alone caused the uprooting of 20 million people, from among the victims of the slave trade that numbered about 400 million people.

We Must Apologize to the Isma'ili, Bahai, Alawi, and Druze

"We must apologize to the religious minorities and the small schools of Islamic thought, such as the Isma'ili, the Bahai, the Alawi, and the Druze, for the humiliation and denigration they suffered [under Muslim rule].

"Why don't the Sunnis ask forgiveness from the Shi'ites for the slaughter at Karbala [in 681], and for the assassination of Hussein [the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad], so as to bring to an end the painful past – like the Vatican [asked] pardon for [its accusations against the Jews for] the murder of Jesus...

"By bearing responsibility for our deeds and mistakes, we will abandon our narcissistic self-aggrandizement. Psychology teaches us that every person and every cultural group becomes more mature as it moves from the stage of placing responsibility and blame on others to the stage of self-examination and self-criticism..."

[1] Metransparent, October 17, 2005.

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