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Medieval thinking gobbles tolerance attitudes in Mideast West-educated Arabs in quandary

IT IS certainly difficult to deal with or adjust to mediaeval ways of thinking especially in this day and age! However, one of our continuing cultural and intellectual crises in the Middle East seems to revolve around a distinctively mental paradox: dealing with what seems to be a pervasive Middle- Eastern mental propensity to use mediaeval thinking in a modern world. In fact, what seems quite perplexing in this twenty-first century world is the apparent refusal of some Arabs to adjust to the realities of a changing world.

On the one hand, it is difficult for Western educated and tolerant Arabs and Muslims to find a voice in a Middle East which seems engulfed in backward thinking. On the other hand, it is perhaps baffling for outside observers to make sense of some of the current cultural, political and social developments in the ME. One cannot become tolerant in a cultural environment which seems to equate tolerance with treason; collaborating with the enemies of the nation ... etc.

Thinking outside the box about some of our Middle Eastern problems, like the festering sectarian conflicts, becomes quite challenging when one notices that hundreds of thousands of people continue to adhere to anti-modern, anti-progressive and anti-tolerant ideologies. One can’t blame the apparent determinism and backward thinking in the Middle East on sentimentalism alone.

Our cultural and historical situation in the Middle East might share some similarities with some East European sentimentalism; but things can get unexpectedly worse in our region! The sudden flaring up of sectarian animosities in the ME is predictable when put side by side with already simmering racial prejudice, sectarian biases and lack of cultural and religious tolerance.

Moreover, it is very simplistic nowadays to blame previous Western colonialism and “imperialism” for some of the cultural catastrophes of the Middle East. Some Middle Easterners seem genetically engineered toward intolerance, extreme sentimentalism and inhumanity toward each other and against the world.

The following is not a flare of calculated exaggeration; but an articulate portrayal of what seems to be happening in the Middle East: unmitigated and uncontrollable rage against whatever is tolerant, pluralistic and democratic.

Western educated Arabs have few options to choose from in the Middle East: continue to preach tolerance in their societies and by default become accused of being “Western or Zionist collaborators,” traitors of the faith or simply ignored. The other alternative for Western educated Arabs is to get away from this medieval hell as soon as possible! Perhaps the last option is the safest route to Elysium.

khaledaljenfawi@yahoo.com


By: Khaled Aljenfawi

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