An intellectual earthquake in the Middle East

Dr. Norman Bailey

Ideas are circulating in places like Kuwait and Saudi Arabia that indicate a tectonic shift.

During recent months, pubic and media concentration on viruses and politicians (I will refrain from commenting on the similarities between the two) has caused little attention to be paid to other significant developments, such as the Turkish-Russian confrontation over the Syrian offensive in Idlib province.

One of these developments, of potentially major significance, is the increase in published comments by non-clerical intellectuals in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, the UAE, Oman and Egypt attacking radical Islam, the Jihadist mentality and praising Western values and practices.

In examining such writings, one must always keep in mind that in those countries nothing is published unless the censors have passed it, which means that even it not reflecting government policy, the authorities have no objection to it.

A few examples of such commentary, taken from the "Voices from the Arab Press" section of the Jerusalem Post Magazine, follow:

"...these calls to boycott Valentine's Day must end. The people of Saudi Arabia are, above all, human beings: They share the same humanity with the rest of the world, including opportunities to celebrate joyous traditions without being challenged about their commitment to Islam."

"Unlike coronavirus, the sectarian virus will not go away simply by wearing face masks or isolating ourselves indoors. The Kuwaiti people must speak up and take action. If they reelect sectarians into power. the sectarian virus will continue to plague our nation. Sadly, there is no cure or vaccination that would help us."

"This is the difference between these two worlds: One enshrined the universality of law under democratic rule, while the other bends and twists laws to meet the interests and needs of a regime." (Saudi comment on Western vs. Turkish attitudes and policies towards immigration.)

This phenomenon, coupled with the many recent manifestations of increasing openness to the West, including Jews in general and Israel in particular, would seem to indicate at least the beginnings of a tectonic shift in a large part of the Sunni Muslim Middle East away from religious and Jihadist fanaticism, not only on the political but also, and just as significant, the intellectual sphere. One can only hope this tendency continues and strengthens.

Norman A. Bailey, Ph.D., is Professor of Economics and National Security, The National Security Studies Center, University of Haifa, and Adjunct Professor of Economic Statecraft, The Institute of World Politics, Washington DC. He was formerly with the US National Security Council and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - - on March 19, 2020

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2020

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