This is a rant. No more, no less. Anyone is free to critique it as long as they keep in mind that this is in fact, a rant. I say this now because by the time people finish reading a blogger’s posts these days, they tend to forget that.
I’ve had this conversation regarding religion with three different people in the past week alone and I thought it may be a God given sign that I should probably write it down.
Islam is the solution…this is a very common answer that finds its way into a conversation about the Arab condition. Be it about Israel and Palestine or unemployment and poverty, low GDPs and GNPs or corrupt leadership; the solution is Islam. This is usually said with a small sparkle in one’s eye, as if remembering the unrequited greatness of an empire now passed; now a fairytale our fathers tells us as children.
So when people tell me that Islam is the solution I don’t know what they mean anymore.
I am a practicing Muslim. And I say this because although I pray 5 times a day I see it as (a); an act of individual worship and (b); a foundation of character. But I don’t see it as a solution to the problems my generation faces today.
When people say that Islam is the solution I get sudden mental flashes of the morality police marching down streets burning books, whipping indecently clothed men and women, and the strict application of an extreme interpretation of Islam. Because this is where we are today. Islam is not being introduced by degrees nor is it progressing as it once did. Instead, the religion remains in center field while society swings from one extreme to another; like a pendulum that never comes to a complete stop.
It can be used to cure and it can be used to do a lot of damage; but in the hands of the common man it has far greater potential for the latter.
I won’t deny that I would like to see religion flourish in the Arab world as perhaps it once did, but I would like to see it happen naturally; without the imposition. I don’t know how that picture looks like but I imagine a society inspired plays some role. What I do know is that imposing a functioning religion in a dysfunctional environment will yield dysfunctional results and we see that today in many instances.
From a personal perspective, I have an invested degree of faith in my religion but I don’t trust many of its adamant followers, and I trust their aspirations for an Islamic society even less.
Every time I turn on the TV to see yet another long bearded sheik discussing Islam, I see nothingness. There is absolutely no inspiration there. Not an ounce of hope or motivation. What they have to say is merely a statement of how immoral our society is today and how applying the Islamic principles will solve everything. And while I don’t deny that Islamic principles are excellent foundations for a society, I often wonder where we’re supposed to go from the ground floor. You fill the mosques; and then what?
These are just some of the reasons why I believe that currently, Islam is not “the” solution we are looking for. To say nothing of the difficulty in creating a religious society.
I think the Arab world’s solution comes in a much simpler package: Education.
I don’t know why education is so overlooked these days when it can be our silver bullet.
For poverty, unemployment, drugs, crime, self-sufficiency.
Industrial giants like China, India and Japan are investing massively in education and yet we seem to be grateful just to be able to read and write; if that.
Millions of degrees, but degrees have to mean something. The fact that we see little output and/or impact from all the so-called educated masses is evidence that they don’t. Moreover, an education is meant to inspire, not a recitation of facts (if that), but something much more. Whether its elementary school or graduate school, educational institutions should be able to open the doors of imagination; university should be an experience. And from that innovation follows. And from that progress follows.
We don’t have that.
Kids go to school (if that) and hardly any of them have any aspirations. We as a society don’t embed that in our children, and the sorry excuse for a system that our governments implement doesn’t help. We tell them to be doctors and if they don’t have the grades then they should be engineers and if they don’t have the grades for that they should become this or that. The private sector has a pool of unemployed ‘educated’ workers who are by any set standards unemployable and more or less uneducated. Unprepared. Uninspired. Unmotivated.
We overlook both education and inspiration; especially the latter for some reason. We reduce it to pipe dreams. Ironically the only thing that has ever induced progress in the world, in any civilization including our own, has been inspiration, dreams; drive. When that rare instance of a small group of committed people come together in our region with the desire to change their world, we cast them down. Ironically, it’s the only thing that ever has.
You educated people; you create entrepreneurs. You create ideas that create industry that create jobs that create on and on and on and on and on. This is the infinite appeal of education and we don’t seem to get it.
The paradigm desperately needs to shift.
The public sector and the private sector need to sit down and create something efficient. People need to educate their own kids. To put in them the overwhelming thought that they can be anything they want if they want it bad enough. Let them look at a map and think about the world in the global sense, instead of the limitations of their classroom or neighborhood.
Without that, we will fade in to historical obscurity. Still waiting on Islam to come and change our world.