March 17, 2017 Special Dispatch No. 6832

Saudi Columnist: The Future of Arabs and Muslims Will Remain Dark Unless They Subject Their Values And Heritage To A Critical Assessment

March 17, 2017
Saudi Arabia | Special Dispatch No. 6832

In an article titled "A Critical Look at the Past Is an Absolute Must," posted on Alarabiya's English-language website, Saudi columnist Mohammed Al-Shaikh wrote that the current rise of the radical right in the West is a reaction to violent Islamic extremism that espouses the values and culture of the past. He argued that the West discarded such backward ideas by subjecting them to logical critical thinking, and that the Arabs and Muslims will never move forward unless they do the same – namely renew their cultural beliefs using tools of logical criticism and confront the reasons that produced the culture of hate.

The following is the English version of his article.[1]

Mohammed Al-Shaikh (image:

"It is said that if the Europeans hadn't subjected their legacies, which they inherited from the Middle Ages, to scientific and logical criticism, they would still be repeating priestly statements that call for violence and base them on sectarian and religious pillars. Criticism based on reason does not care about emotions as much about logic and facts.

"Criticism cannot be scientific unless it is logical and emotions and wishful thinking should have nothing to do with criticism. I am completely convinced that as Arabs and Muslims we will not exit the whirlpool we are living in and will continue to suffer unless we adopt the same critical approach.

"Yes, we will eliminate ISIS and al-Qaeda, and perhaps also the Muslim Brotherhood. However, parts of our legacy, which led to the rise of these terrorist groups, is greatly capable of producing another ISIS, al-Qaeda or Muslim Brotherhood.

"The situation will continue unless we address the roots of this legacy, and criticize and analyze them in a way that has been done before. I know giving up emotions is very difficult especially if the matter is intertwined with identity but it is critical that we do so. There is no cure to the underdevelopment which bred terrorism unless through this painful confrontation.

"I believe that this is a necessary condition to survive in this era and co-exist. I am also aware there are 'traders' in underdevelopment and parties which thrive on keeping this legacy and presenting it as a sacred territory that cannot be touched. Those who observe the catastrophic consequences the Arab region is witnessing will inevitably reach the conclusion I am talking about.

"The second point we must note, particularly these days, is summed up by this law of physics – for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. The rise of extremist right-wing [in the West] was a reaction to Islamic extremism [that] became a reality by importing past concepts and culture and imposing it via violence and the power of weapons. This made the West and East fear us and our cultural heritage. They began to think of ways to protect their people of this lurking beast called 'Islamic terrorism' and this is what pushed communities, particularly in the West, to gather around right-wing politicians whose rhetoric is based on hostility toward foreigners and on restraining immigrants, particularly those form Muslim countries.

"I am of a firm belief that if we do not address our situation, renew our true cultural beliefs and tackle the reasons that resulted in this culture of hate, the future of Arabs and Muslims will remain dark.

"There is no other solution but to renew the legacy and differentiate between what is sacred and untouchable, like the Quran, and what is capable of being developed. We can either take the path to harmony with the modern times or wait for the downfall."



[1], March 14, 2017. The Arabic version of the article was published March 12, 2017 in the Saudi daily Al-Jazirah.

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