Modernity, and its concept of individual rights, is Western in origin. It evolved through centuries of philosophical and political debates, and then equally long periods of war to defeat those who opposed the principle of individual liberty. Eventually modernity and its off-shoot, citizenship, prevailed over the opposition and were more or less firmly established in the West and places beyond by the end of the last century.
Arabs were in close proximity to these ideas and the struggle that accompanied them. What, it might be asked of the Arabs, was their response to modernity? Even with all the apologia and obfuscation, the answer that cannot be evaded is that the collective Arab response has shown a preference for totalitarian ideology. In the period following the end of the World War II and European colonialism, there were three ideological responses that marked out the Arabs into three groups: secular Muslims, and orthodox Muslims divided into the majority Sunni and minority Shi’i sects.
Secular Muslims were mobilized by Arab nationalism embodied in the Ba’ath party. Sunni Muslims chose Wahhabism/Salafism embodied in the politics of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Taliban. Shi’i Muslims followed Khomeinism embodied in the politics of the clerical regime in Iran, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the Sadrists in Iraq.
All three ideologies and movements they spawned are totalitarian. For all their professed belief in Islam’s sacred scripture, Arabs — given their blood-soaked history of suppressing dissent and despite their close proximity to the evolution of liberal movements in Europe — have been engaged in suppressing or eradicating any form of individual liberty while making no allowance for their opponents. Arabs have shown by their conduct that tyranny is their preferred response to modernity.
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