Technology and information have often changed the course of history. The printing press made books readily available to the masses. Radio, television and satellites have made the world a global community. Computers have created instantaneous communication.
Some observers say fax machines were instrumental in crushing communism and bringing down the Berlin Wall.
The clash of civilizations between the West and the Arab world has long been a topsy-turvy contrast of ideas. To Westerners the Middle East seems to be a place where up is down, top is bottom, facts are fiction and left is right.
Today in Saudi Arabia, there is a movement underfoot that goes largely unnoticed in the West. In a country where “liberal” might be regarded as “conservative” by Western thinking, increasing numbers of writers are expressing views that disagree with traditional Islamic beliefs.
On June 30, Khalaf Al-Harbi, a liberal columnist, wrote an article for ‘Okaz, the Saudi daily government paper deploring many facets of the Islamic Arab world and the disregard for human life. Following are some excerpts which demonstrate a new wave of thinking in that region.
“No unusual expertise is needed to divine that today there will be many killed and wounded in various regions throughout the Arab world: In Egypt, large clashes are expected, and there is no way of predicting the scope of the fatalities that will be caused in their wake; in Iraq, there is a high likelihood of suicide bombings, the victims of which will be people who have no connection with the sectarian and political crisis that has divided the country for over a decade; in Lebanon, one or more will be killed because the state is a nonentity and is completely impotent to take control of the armed militias; in Syria, where all the cities and villages are drowning in a sea of blood, the news will report dozens killed, and none will react. And this comes on top of those who may be killed in Yemen or in Libya, [but] there isn’t room in the news for reports on them.
“This is a red Arab day, like all the days that have passed and those that are to come. (This is) a gray era, when the only ones working are the carpenters making coffins, and the textile vendors who arrange white shrouds in front of their stalls. This is an Arab world that does not value human life: a teacher makes his way home (and suddenly) his intestines are blown in all directions (by) a car bomb – and no one will notice but his children, who wait for him at lunch; a woman in Damascus facing an artillery bombardment tries to hide her children under the stairs, but the stairs collapse on her – and this doesn’t shake the conscience of a single person in the world; a peddler wanders through Cairo seeking loaves of bread for his children, but becomes a fatality (when caught in) a bitter clash between the two parties who are fighting for control (of the country).
“Even the crying of children who have lost their fathers and mothers is no longer heard, because the calls of those inciting to killing and destruction overpower all other voices. It is the barbaric calls for revenge that dominate the media and social networks. There is no time for tears. Furthermore, the entire news broadcast (is devoted) to the blood being spilled in the streets. No space remains for intense personal emotions – because that space is devoted to barbaric passions and lust for vengeance. (The Arab nation) is a nation that (spares) her foes the bother of abandoning it, because it has abandoned itself.
“This evening, under no circumstances will I go anyplace in the world; I will make do with watching the news. I will look at the numbers killed and wounded in the other Arab countries. I will imagine the emotions of children who (are) bewailing the loss of their family members. And I will ask: Why haven’t the Arabs discovered a path to freedom that does not involve eliminating their humanity?”
In the popular 1993 film
We now live in a new age where the internet affects people’s lives in many ways. Hopefully Khalaf Al-Harbi is correct and in this new world “information finds a way.”
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About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world.
His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.
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