Lebanese philosopher Dr. Ali Harb was featured in a two-part series on Al-Hurra TV (U.S.) that aired on February 3 and 10, 2019. He said that while colonialism had its drawbacks, it created great opportunities for the Arab world and Arab societies to join modernity and emerge out of the Middle Ages. He said that Pan-Arabism, left-wing thought, and other ideologies caused an overall decrease of freedom in Arab societies relative to the era of liberalism and enlightenment, and that the return of religion brought about the hijab, civil wars, the age of terrorism, and the return of colonialism. Dr. Harb said that the Arab world does not produce knowledge or participate in the creation of civilization and added that Arabs needs to change the way they think, see the world, and deal with their heritage and religion.
Following are excerpts:
Dr. Ali Harb: The Arab world wanted to be liberated from colonialism. What was the result, 200 years later? Religion has made a barbarous comeback.
All of us – our ideology, our clothes, and our new values – are the fruit of modernity. It is true that colonialism had its drawbacks, but it opened up great possibilities for Arab societies. It gave them the opportunity to join modernity, ever since Napoleon arrived in Egypt, and ever since the first publishers arrived at Mount Lebanon… So today, we are the fruit of the modern world. We emerged from the Middle Ages because of colonialism.
The best era of the Arab world was the age of revival, enlightenment, and liberalism.
So when the ideological era arrived – be it the Pan-Arabs, the left wingers, or whatever… The level of freedom declined compared to the days of Taha Hussein.
Interviewer: The terrorism emerged from within us. The ideology and heritage is ours. [The West] exploited it all, but that's a different story. We cannot exculpate ourselves and say that it is all made in America or the West.
Dr. Ali Harb: The return of religion invited Western colonialism and the superpowers back. It brought about the return of the hijab, drowned us in civil wars, and established the age of terrorism.
The Arab world is paralyzed, powerless, and torn by civil wars.
Interviewer: By God, it is more contemptible than that.
Dr. Ali Harb: It does not produce knowledge or participate in the creation of civilization by generating knowledge and technology – unless one lives in a European country, where he can be more productive.
Interviewer: So what is the solution?
Dr. Ali Harb: First of all, we need to change the way we think and the way we see the world. We need to change our way of dealing with our heritage and religion. I, for example, started with myself. I no longer define myself by a religious label.