Saudi Shura Council Member Ibrahim Al-Buleihi: Progress for Arab and Islamic World Can Only Come from Western Civilization
Following are excerpts from an interview with Saudi Shura Council member Ibrahim Al-Buleihi, which aired on Rotana Khalijiya TV and was posted on the Internet on July 23, 2012.
Interviewer: We Arabs are a consumer society, even though there has been some change. But to what extent? Are we about to leave our backwardness?
Ibrahim Al-Buleihi: Oh no, we haven't even begun, because we have yet to acknowledge that we are backward. Perhaps 10-20% of the people are aware of this backwardness, but the majority do not even realize it.
Interviewer: So our problem is that we are backward and don't know it...
Ibrahim Al-Buleihi: Exactly, we don't know that we are backward. On the contrary, we treat [Western] people are if they were carpenters or blacksmiths. We treat the people who created this great and lofty civilization as if they were carpenters and blacksmiths. We view them as mere laborers, while we consider ourselves to be men of thought, science, and culture, who embody everything you aspire to in life. This is the exact opposite of how things should be.
Interviewer: Why are you so pessimistic?
Ibrahim Al-Buleihi: That's the reality. If we were to send back to the prosperous [West] everything we got from it, what would be left? Even the 'Aqqal headband you are wearing was made in Britain. We are incapable of producing anything.
We can't do without [the West]. If you have a headache, you need to swallow the aspirin that they made. If you want to travel, you must take a plane or a car, if you want to get some sleep, you must turn on the airconditioning, and the same is true of all the implements of civilization.
Interviewer: Civilizations complement one another...
Ibrahim Al-Buleihi: Complement?! What have we given them?
Interviewer: Oil, the religion of Islam...
Ibrahim Al-Buleihi: The oil came from Allah, and on top of that, we need the West to extract it. If not for their industry, our oil would be worthless. It had been in this land for centuries, yet we did not benefit from it in any way. Oil became valuable only when others came up with inventions, and later came here to extract it from our land.
Civilizations are measured by their ability to change. We are exactly the other way around. We believe that the measure of success is unchangeability, and this is a great problem.
If societies remained static, civilization would not develop. Their development is dependent upon their willingness to change.
The reason that the West developed is that it stemmed from Greek culture, which was founded on the objective use of reason. When this great beacon of light was extinguished in the Middle Ages... The great mathematics [of the Arabs] had a role in the development of the West, but I still believe that the Anglo-Saxon culture is the source of modern culture.
The problems of the Arabs in societies that were occupied, like Egypt or Iraq, was that the colonialists left too early, before they had established [democracy]. As a result of the British occupation or colonialization, Egypt was preparing to become a democratic country. There was cultural and political pluralism. Egypt was on its way to become a democratic country, if not for the  coup, which was dubbed a "revolution."
Are we enslaved by our identity, or should it serve for our development? History, identity, and culture should belong to society, and not vice versa. Otherwise, it is as if you are locking yourself in a cage.
People are not unchanging, like rocks or trees. A person needs to change. One should choose one's own identity, rather than have it imposed upon him.
Interviewer: Let's talk in practical terms. You say that we suffer from backwardness, while culture and prosperity are limited to the West...
Ibrahim Al-Buleihi: ...and to people who borrowed them from the West. When I talk about the development of the West, some people say to me: What about Japan and China? If these countries had not emulated the West, they would not have progressed. Their progress was determined by the extent to which they borrowed from the West.
Interviewer: So our opening up to the West will determine our development?
Ibrahim Al-Buleihi: Absolutely.