memri

October 26, 2017
Clip No.
6284

Algerian Historian Dr. Nasser Al-Din Saidouni: Arab Society Remains Tribal, Therefore Cannot Achieve True Renaissance

Algerian historian Dr. Nasser Al-Din Saidouni said that the Arab peoples, still in a "tribal" stage, have not been able to obtain the "internal stimuli" necessary to create a true renaissance, but instead "borrow European enterprises, imagining that they would save us and make us more progressive." Speaking in an Al-Arabiya TV interview on October 26, Dr. Saidouni said that "cultural stagnation" of the Arab and Islamic societies began in the 13th century, when they drew into a cocoon in an effort of self-preservation.

Dr. Nasser Al-Din Saidouni: "There is cultural stagnation that began, perhaps, in the 13th century, with the fall of Islam in Andalus, and the advance of the Christians, along with the attacks of the Mongols and the Tatars in the Arab East. The Arab Mashriq and Maghreb found themselves between a rock and a hard place – the Mongols and the Tatars in the East, and the advancing Crusaders and Spanish Reconquista in the West. Therefore, I believe that the Islamic and Arab societies at that time withdrew into themselves. Consequently, the Arab and Islamic world cocooned itself in an effort at self-preservation, rather than attempting to develop.

[...]

"Signs of backwardness became evident in the Islamic West, when the writings of Averroes were burned and he was treated violently, when Lisan ad-Din ibn al-Khatib was put to death, when Ibn Khaldun was forced to emigrate to the Mashriq, and when Al-Maqqari had to leave Tlemcen in the Maghreb for the Mashriq. These are all indications of withdrawal into oneself. Egypt continued to have [openness] to a certain degree, in the Mamluk era, but in face of the Crusader strikes in the Middle East, the attacks by the Mongols in the East, and the advance of the Christian Reconquista in the West, the Arab and Islamic world entered a kind of... I wouldn't say a coma, but a kind of..."

Host: "Desolation..."

Dr. Nasser Al-Din Saidouni: "Yes, desolation, and a kind of slumber. Historically, we entered a period of hibernation, from which we did not awaken until the Europeans landed in Algeria, when de Bourmont disembarked at Sidi Fredj [in 1830], and Napoleon at Alexandria [in 1801]. That is when the Arab world realized that the world was not as they imagined. They realized that there was something new. Something new, something called Europe.

[...]

"We have not been able to create a renaissance in the Arab world. All we have done is borrow European enterprises, imagining that they would save us and make us more progressive. But the truth is that the real awakenings, which took place in Japan, in the West, and elsewhere, were driven by internal stimuli, which the Arab peoples have not managed to obtain. Therefore, what we believed to be a renaissance is in fact the manifestation of something superficial, which does not impact the underlying structure [of society], which remains tribal. [Arab society] does not belong to the modern societies familiar to the West."