Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Arab world in convulsion

By Jean H Charles:

The world has changed after Jesus the Christ, God made man, came on earth some two thousand years ago. His mission is to redeem mankind from his state of sin and to offer to each man and to all men the possibility of eternal life if he profits of his free will capacity, to lead a life hospitable and charitable to each other.

Jean H Charles MSW, JD is Executive Director of AINDOH Inc a non profit organization dedicated to building a kinder and gentle Caribbean zone for all. He can be reached at: 
The world has changed also since Mohamed, born in 572 AD in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, instituted the Muslim religion based on dreams he said he received from God, edited into the Koran, which is a compilation of verses for human conduct and moral practice.

To understand Christianity, the life and the preaching of Jesus have been studied thoroughly and through the ages. It is, as such, fit and proper to look into the upbringing and the transactional analysis of Mohamed to understand the Muslim culture.

Orphaned at a young age, Mohamed was raised and educated by his maternal uncle Abou Talib, a trader who travelled widely in the Middle East. Issue from the clan of the Koreishites, former nomads who became big commercial conservative entrepreneurs, they were isolated from and by the Jews and by the Christians.

At the age of 25 years old, Mohamed met the woman of his life, Khadija, a widow of 40 years old, independent and owner of her own business that she inherited from her deceased husband. He found in her a wife, a mother and stability. She bore him seven children, three boys and four girls. He lost the four boys, causing the casting of his personality as half a man, an abtar according to the custom and culture of the time.

Mohamed suffered a nervous breakdown with epileptic bouts, according to Ernest Renan, a prolific chronicle of the life of Jesus and of Mohamed. In one of his sleepless nights he revealed having received from God revelations edited into verses that became the Koran. He started to preach and to convert the members of his community.

His wife Khadija was the first Muslim convert. Through diplomacy, fights, struggles, cunning and proselytism, Mohamed succeeded in creating a universal religion from the Middle East to Asia, from Asia to Africa and from Africa to Europe. He was stopped at the gates of Europe by Charles Martel in 732 and by the Crusade invoked by Pope Urban II, who organized the Inquisition, an international armada led by King Louis VII of France.

Contrary to Christianity in general, and Catholicism in particular, the Muslim religion condones the intermingling of religion with politics. It does not accept the free will instinct of each individual. Bin Laden, a wannabe successor to Mohamed, wanted nothing but a Caliphate, a universal empire ruled by the verses of the Koran, with the law of Sharia imposed upon all men.

In the Muslim world, there were voices raised to support the concept of laicization and of nation building. Mustafa Kemal in Turkey was the prime example. The clan politics, the patriarchal doctrine, the veiled discrimination against women were and has been the hallmark of all if not most countries with a Muslim culture.

I had my personal encounter with the Arab culture when I visited Morocco some years ago. On the plaza of Marrakech, around the vendors and the snake charmer, I met a beautiful young lady named Fatima (the most revered name in Catholicism and the Muslim world). I felt she met the criteria for bringing her back home to meet my mother.

To approach Fatima I had to buy a jalaba (the long robe worn by men all over the Middle East) to pass for a Moroccan. I was seen as a wolf amongst the sheep because I had forgotten my tennis shoes in my maquillage to become a local. Fatima faced the risk of being flogged or stoned for daring to speak to a foreigner.

It has been as such until December 17, 2011, when a young man of 26 years old, named Mohamed Bouazizi, from Tunisia, decided to set himself on fire after he had been humiliated by a female public servant for selling fruits on the side of the road without a permit. Armed with a college degree he could not find work anywhere in the country.

This self immolation touched a chord in the anger and frustration of the people from their inept, incompetent and corrupt leaders. What the Muslim religious uprising could not produce in decades in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, has been accomplished in days by the citizen uprising for decent living, for jobs and for education.

After 23 years of repressive ruling, Ben Ali, a bulwark of the western powers against fundamentalism, was catapulted as a weak and rotten apple. His wife, a collector of villas and bank accounts instead of shoes like Imelda, was also thrown out of the country.

The Jasmine revolution as it has been called has extended to Egypt, butting out Mubarak after thirty two years in power. It is threatening Kaddafi in Libya, who has ruled this rich oil nation for the last forty years. It has ramifications in Yemen, Jordan, Syria, Iraq and Bahrain.

The convulsion will produce a calming effect for the citizens of the region if they follow the Renan doctrine of nation building: turning the military into an instrument of development as in Vietnam, stabilizing the citizens in their territory with their culture, adequate infrastructure and ethical institutions as in Malaysia (a Muslim nation) and, last but not least, leaving no one behind, as in the United States under Lyndon Johnson circa 1968 that finally produced Barack Obama, a black president accepted by all.

The ingredients of the solution include a complete rupture with the past by accepting laicization, federalism, the rule of law, education for all, the respect for local culture while immolating the sacred cows such as tribalism and clan politics.

The Jasmine revolution must not follow the Haitian revolution of 1804 and the people power of 1986 that failed to provide a minimum standard of welfare and wellbeing responding to the aspirations of the majority of its people.

May the sweet scent of the jasmine, with its white colour that shines in the middle of the night, spread throughout the Middle East and from there throughout the world!

March 5, 2011