Arabs leaders in search of Proactive Leadership

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“It was under the influence of Arabian and Moorish revival of culture and not in the fifteenth century, that the real Renaissance took place. Spain not Italy, was the cradle of the rebirth of Europe…It is highly probable that but for the Arabs modern European civilization would never have arisen at all; it is absolutely certain that but for them, it would not have assumed that character which has enabled it to transcend all previous phases of evolution. For although there is not a single aspect of European growth in which the decisive influence of Islamic culture is not traceable, nowhere is it so clear and momentous as in the genesis of that power which constitutes the paramount distinctive force of the modern world and the supreme source of its victory.”

— Robert Briffault (The Making of Humanity).

….” Time is not on our side… as long as our thought, our psychological make-up and our culture remain deformed and disabled. It is our responsibility to look at our selves critically and to face up to our shortcomings.”

— AbdulHameed AbuSulayman (The Crisis of Muslim Mind)

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Historically, to the Arabs mind, the originality of thoughts and knowledge-based discoveries viewed history as living movement and consequently, they were most gifted and proactive people to establish Islam as a successful system for human change and development leading to progressive Islamic civilization that transcended its contributions to the European Renaissance and Industrial emancipation. But coming to the mid 20th and 21st centuries, the Arabs under the influence of transitory oil exporting economy compromised the objectivity with neo-colonial supported authoritarianism and Islam is living in conscious denial except symbolic rituals to pray and be counted to be as Muslim at birth time and death roll call. The contemporary history is devoid of those historical references and exhibits blank pages without any mention of Arab-Muslim leaders representing the interests of Islam and of the contemporary Muslim Ummah. They have all on this God-given planet except Islam as system of life and proactive visionary leadership to deal with the present and articulate a conducive future for the Arab-Muslim world encompassing intellectual security and credible political standing in global affairs. To the Arabs and Muslims in general, this is the singular most tests of intellectual foresight and political wisdom.

Leaders Create Leaders – Arabs had the Knowledge-based Pioneering Civilization

Arabs were the pioneer in knowledge, change and human development. The Holy Qura’an focuses on “change” as an essential precept for societal development and collective emancipation of the masses. “Allah does not change the conditions of people unless first they change themselves.” The Al-Qura’an defines the principal obligation to all the believers. Once the Arabs ignored Islam in policies and practices and opted for the petro-dollar illusion of the economic prosperity, they shifted the wealth of knowledge and experiences for exclusive materialism what over the centuries was developed by the Islamic civilization for human change and development. The concept of “change” was built-in the consensus-based advisory and consultation of the Islamic policy making process. For almost 1000 years, the Arabs leaders enjoyed global credibility when their decisions were outcome of the Islamic system of public consensus. Could the Arab leadership THINKING be changed and reformed to reconnect with the needs and aspirations of the Muslim citizens of the contemporary world? The 21st century effective leadership demands wisdom of the art of ingenuity, tactfulness and equally important, transformational leadership to make the difference in highly competitive social and politically dominated norms of global challenging leadership. The comprehensive phenomenon includes knowledge-based proactive vision, effective strategic communication, listening and learning, self-confidence and be able to articulate a visionary picture of the future for the best of the people. The leadership consciously knows being the responsible leader – a self recognition credibility factor that appears missing across the Arab-Muslim world. The challenges of time and contending forces of history that produce genuine leaders do encounter the real world problem to manage or to solve them.

Leaders create leaders. For long, the Arabs leadership presence is missing on the Western political radar screen because they are passive, subservient to the Western masters, and do not THINK nor have the moral and intellectual capacity to come up with any credible challenge that should define their specific standing and draw attention to their role and vitality in the complex changing politics of the 21st century. The US history seems to have produced new leaders in their struggle for nation-making and nation-building. The resulting leaders knew well their strengths and weaknesses and of the people around them who made it happened. Not so, in the Arabian arena, leaders are born out of inherited system and show complete disregard to the legitimacy principle of being informed leadership. To the Western leadership, criterion qualities are known, acclaimed and achieved. What have the petro-dollar rich Arabs or Muslims leaders accomplished in the contemporary world? One factor appears prominent that the contemporary Arab leaders have effectively dismantled the traditional “Deewan” institution of public consultation and consensus-making and instead opted for the Western opinion oriented paid foreign advisory to manage the political governance. They continue to live in isolated palaces away from the public interactive inputs. Most palaces are manned by foreign security establishments with direct linkage to their national policy interests. President Saddam Hussein had 15 or so palaces built for his overlapping interests, now all are occupied by the US and British occupying forces in Iraq.

History is not dormant but a Living Movement

The oil exporting rich Arab leaders see history as fixed and abstract artifacts, not a living force to determine the future. Islam viewed history as a living and continuous movement forbearing real inevitable development for the collective good of the humanity. Ibn-e Khaldun, the pioneer Islamic thinker conceived the process of change enshrined in the progressive Islamic civilization for almost 800 years. Allama Mohammad Iqbal, the poet and philosopher of the Esat, further the concept of change by envisaging human progress through the concept of self-actualization (“Khudi”). Today the masses and the leaders alike are ignorant of their own glorious history. If the contemporary Arab-Muslim leaders were open to listening and learning to consciously accepting the advice of Muslim scholars, they can reform themselves and are capable of navigational change. There are countless problems but nobody cares to discuss the issues of primary interests to the Muslims across the globe. To the Arabs, it is a progressive age of catastrophically times requiring courageous thinking and honest reflection on the real world. Arabs and Muslims became prisoners in their own time and habitats by discarding Islam as a comprehensive system of human happiness and success.

The US Model of Collapsed Imperialism and the Followers Arab Leaders

Caroline Myss (“Dark Times Require Transcendent Responses”, OpenEd. com: 04/17/2010), an expert in medical intuitive, human motivation and well being clarifies “Our nation was founded by political mystics”, the profound psychological, moral and political problems of contemporary America. It could well be implied to the Muslim world quite rationally. Caroline Myss explains the imperatives of the American tragedy:

“This is the most historically profound time to be alive.

Our politics are a catastrophe of a proportion that can’t be measured. They are creatures from the last century trying to combat problems coming at them from a new millennium.

Predicaments don’t have solutions. They shape us. One dialogues with a predicament. People at the top are from an old world and believe in an…Bottom up people have more to gain by being open. Bush Cheney were so dangerous to the turning point of this country. It is because of this war.. policies, expense, deregulation policies– the procorporate policies of Bush Cheney admin that our country is now broke. We don’t have a chance to recover. …..Where are we going to go? We are imploding in our own culture.”

Where do the Arabs and Muslims stand today in search of a promising future? If the Islamic world was looking for credible success in worldly affairs, it could not have come out of nowhere except Islam as a system of life. Dr. AbdulHameed AbuSulayman (Crisis of the Muslim Mind) reflects on the essence of Islamic factor:

“The basis of Muslim strength and ability, as well as creativity stems from faith in the face of obstacles and challenges and in determination to discover and use the appropriate means in accordance with the laws of nature…the early generations of Muslims understood this and the result was that they were successful.”

After the 9/11 events, the Western mythologists have carved up distinctive political scenarios and clichés to dwell on fear-mongering amongst the Western masses and biased news media propaganda against the Muslims and Islamic civilization. The Arab-Muslim leadership has ignored the relevance and importance of these developments culminating into a culture of conflict-making and conflict-keeping in the Western cultural and political environment. The new vigorously propagated myth of “Islamic terrorism” was manifested by the Western elite to harm Muslims and Islam as a system of life. This singular challenge affecting all affairs of the Muslim world was never taken up by any Arab-Muslim leader, government or religious scholars. Likewise, the issue was subsided by various paper-based Islamic organizations currently functional and claiming to be the guardian of the Arab-Islamic interests. The religious scholars lost sight of the political affairs affecting the interest of the Muslim Ummah. Leaders tend to bribe the religious scholars to remain neutral or silent on issues of primary concerns. The proactive THINKING and intellectual collapse is evident in all of the Arab-Muslim affairs.

The US-Israeli Strategic Interests Survive on the Challenge of Animosity

Reflect on the freedom of Palestine and establishment of an independent state of Palestine as the major issue in the Arab world. For more than half a century millions of Palestinians have been displaced by force from their homes and the Arabs leaders are preoccupied in action-reaction games without any originality of thoughts and purpose to deal with the Palestine solution. Israeli and American policy strategists enjoy the mastery of innovative war games that cannot be seen or measured by conventional standards. Both need and survive on self-manufactured continued challenge of perpetuated animosity at home and abroad. They will develop a no-win situation war game theory, agree to disagree, providing substantial space for preemptive action to do the act and will facilitate no opportunity to the perceived enemy to maneuver for action even in extreme desperation. On Palestine, both parties have smart rules operated games to be conducted. If the Arab leaders are viewed of any relevance in a given global context to “milk the cow” (John Perkins, Confession of an Economic Hitman), the oil exporting Arab leaders would be engaged and they love to be seen doing something for the beleaguered Palestinians and it would be a stage act and nothing more. The US-Israelis will indulge in peace talks, gain the ground for desired results and camouflage another problem to divert the attention from the original issue and optimistically, achieve the aim without making any resolution of the actual problem at discussion. The Arab leadership lacking proactive and intelligentsia and scholarly advice and orientation, will have no chance to make any move for a balancing act to reverse the gains of the American-Israeli joint ventures. Peace talks are on record for more than half a century, but not in action and implementation. The innovative war game goes on for several decades with clear victimization of the Palestinians people and the Arab interests. The Arab leadership enjoys history of failure on all the fronts of the modern innovative warfare; Israeli leaders with established institutions and excellence in world wide networking have not lost any major conflict making games. They falsify the history to show the Arabs as the enemies of the Jews. Whereas, history has its own factual language that Jews were religiously persecuted by the Europeans, not by the Arabs. Throughout the history, Arabs had given protection, security and equal opportunities to the Jews to live happily and in peace. Holocaust happened in Europe, not in the Arab world. Alan Hart (Zionism: The Real Enemy of Jews, 2010), shares analytical perspectives- the two focal themes of the argument:

One is why Western support of Israel right-or-wrong has made the whole Arab and wider Muslim world an explosion of anger and humiliation waiting for its time to happen. The other is how Israel, the child of Zionism, became its own worst enemy and a threat not only to the peace of the region and the world, but also to the best interests of Jews everywhere and the moral integrity of Judaism itself.

In 1973, Anwar Sadat was poised to challenge the Israeli-American strategic hegemony; they saw the military challenge coming and rushed to negotiate peace and security arrangements with Egypt. Could the time and opportunities lost by the ignorant and egoistic leaders be regained? There are plausible and workable solutions for the Palestinian issue but the Arab leaders are not open to listening and learning and appear allergic to the role and value of Islamic consultation and scholarly advice. There are many competent Muslim scholars and experts in global security and conflict resolution to offer advice, guidance and help but those in charge of the affairs practice naïve scenarios and obsolete methods and end up in continued failure.

Arab Leaders Need Re-organization of Thinking and Actions for Conflict Resolution and Peace

Is the Arab leadership looking for political solutions from the US or the West European nations? How could the nations who are part of the problem, could be part of solution? Could the indifference towards the real world problems particularly the freedom of Palestine and the Arab-Israeli relations are seen as abstract issues occurring in the history making process? After almost 60 years of wait and see attitude, what the Arabs leaders have accomplished in securing a safe homeland for the people of Palestine? Amongst many pertinent factors, Israelis have the upper hand because they have learned to know the Arabs and their culture and develop scenarios which are helpful to their cause for survival and integration in the predominantly Arab civilization of the Middle East. The Arab leadership is handicapped and intellectually indifferent not to have known the Israelis and their varied cultural identities coming out of the European persecution for ages.

The Arabs failed to know and understand the reasons for Jewish animosity. There are linguistic and cultural barriers not to know the enemy. If there were institutionalized approaches to have knowledge and understanding of the enemy, would it not have been more useful for the Arabs to deal with the political animosity and discover workable alternatives and possible solutions? To fight the enemy, you must KNOW the enemy. Israelis know the Arab psychology and political culture; the Arabs have reaction but no evidence-based knowledge of the Israelis thinking and strategic priorities. Imagine, if there were direct social and cultural communications between the Arabs and Israelis, would today’s hopeless situation be not different and more open to possible human and political remedies? The prevalent Arab approach negates the principles of Islam. Islam sees Christians and Jews as People of Book and part of the Islamic faith- the progeny of Prophet Abraham. Islamic history provides ample evidence of social and religious interactions with Jews in the Arab world. Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him), when migrated to Madina, he concluded agreement with the Jews and identified them as part of the Muslim Ummah. The Muslim continued social and commercial relations with the Jews and Christians and invited them to the divine message of Islam. How could the Arab and Muslim thinkers and leaders ignore the salient features of the Islamic history and open mindedness to invite the humanity towards collective goodness? Where is the balancing strategic act? Could neutrality and indifference be a workable strategy in conflict management?

The Arab-Muslim world is not open to public discussion and consensus-building. Authoritarianism has forbidden the open human interactive communication and thinking for change, the process being the cornerstone of Islamic governance. Pretension found ample room to characterize leaders in the Arab-Muslim societies. The leadership cannot buy the much needed moral and intellectual potentials, qualities and abilities to formulate a durable personality. The dogma of failed leadership lingers on for several generations. There is no failing of the absent genius but it is the uneducated and egoistic leadership that has let down the masses in their quest for change and human development with the relationship of Islam. Conscientious and informed Arab masses do think, they have no leadership to represent their interests and priorities. The illusion of petro-dollar prosperity is used to buy people and support and silence the reason for critical analysis of the Arab political affairs. The end of European colonialism did not pave ways for the beginning of evidence-based Islamic values as the system of responsible political governance. The political governance enjoins hierarchical and authoritarian structures of the draconian age found as unsuitable to human needs and genius in this age. The Western industrialized nations have made great strides in institutionalizing the phenomena of change and development and its characteristics embedded in the modern leadership. The democratic process has opened up new vistas of human educational and intellectual pursuits as was the case with the progressive Islamic civilization during the 8th to 16 centuries in Al-Andalusia (Spain).

The US Not a Role Model but Produced Degenerated Politics

Caroline Myss attempts to look critically at the contemporary America and its degenerated politics:

“Our educational system is completely collapsing. We are allowing the lowest common denominator to determine what is being taught to our children– doctrines of the primitive frightened mind and …. are all removed.

All the great learnings that develop a person’s moral conscience, inner skills, capacity for discernment, to appreciate the arts, to refine themselves as a human being– are gone. These are the thinking arts. Technology is the money art. We’ve removed the thinking, refinement arts. We’ve replaced them with superstitious, evangelical crap– … racist, filled with fear. with superstars– Palin, Limbaugh, Beck. They have to have the courage to pierce through the bullies and take the consequences of bad media. Some of them have to be willing to go down in their career for the sake of the whole.”

The Arab Leaders Looking for Proactive Visionary Leadership

Successful modern leaders maintain strong profile in effective and responsible public communication. Being open to listening and learning without agreeing or disagreeing, public can reach the heart and minds of the political powerhouse. In Islamic governance, an ordinary folk can knock the door of the Caliph or Imam without fear of any retribution. It was guaranteed that ordinary citizens could question the Caliph and Ameer on official policies and practices. Today, leaders escape the reality and hide behind large solid walls of palaces protected by foreign mercenaries and security agents and unreachable by the common citizens. Voices of reason and honesty are dubbed as “extremism” and “terrorism” and imprisoned by egoistic dictators. Reasoning was one of the most precious values in the Islamic system of governance, yet this precept lives in denials across the Islamic societies.

When Islam was the point of reference in the governance, Muslim leaders were responsible, wise and knew the art of visionary leadership in the changing fortunes of time and history making. The leaders were always conscious of their strength and weakness and very able to listening and learning and making things happened for the people they governed. The best examples are found in the life of the Prophet of Islam (peace be upon him). Habab bin Munzir and Saad bin Moaz, the two ordinary companions of the Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him), offered strategic advice to the Prophet at the battlefields of Badr and Khyber, and he gladly accepted and implemented without being conscious that he knew more or that he was the Messenger of Allah. Are the contemporary Arabs leaders more knowledgeable and capable to live up to the challenges of the complex 21st century leadership? Most have not seen the light of Islamic knowledge and wisdom except being aware of the Machiavelli’s The Prince. How do you make them understand of the concerns and priorities of the Muslim Ummah? The Kings, Prince and Presidents live in palaces, and not with people. They are overwhelmingly egoistic with power and mostly abhorrent to Muslim scholars and avoid interactive communication with able and educated members of the Muslim societies. They wish to remain in a roller coaster ball game encircling the society without any positive attributes for change and reformation and diagnosis of their own sickness. In scientific terms, the prolonged sickness had worst impact on the mental and physical health of the nation. Caroline Myss takes up the argument:

“Always in the history of humanity there has been horribleness– nightmares and waking up, nightmares and waking up. We have to find a higher way of looking at this or you’re going to be consumed by the negativity. I have learned to see things through grace, because I have to. At the end of the day… you can’t reason with a crisis, a catastrophy or disease.”

Caroline Myss explains a rational point, how to reason the unreason in such stingy and unhealthy political notions and practices undertaken by the political elite:

“…as a nation our sacred contract was one of becoming one of the most visionary nations ever born with a constitution crafted to protect the rights of the human spirit. I’ve never known a human being who has not gone to war in themselves, who has not felt that god has it in for them. I’ve never seen anyone who has surrendered to God…. be that congruent person. Until a person actually gets that, you are the final battlefield….at the end of the day, when I am screaming, screaming… like the civil war, the president was from the civil war, we were fighting for emancipation. This time we are fighting for our psychic emancipation. This is a momentous, archetypal return and the same ferocious venom is playing out in the congress and we can’t lose the republic”

If the Arabs and other so called self-styled Muslim leaders were keen to change the dormant moral and political clichés of the past and reform the institutionalized norms of authoritarianism, Muslim thinkers and scholars should welcome the opportunities to offer advice and expertise collaboration to open up new vistas of change and development, thus, returning to the originality of Islam as a way of successful governance. While being part of the problem, if the leaders continue to search for sustainable political solutions, the problem is in their thinking and their mind, not with the Muslim Ummah. History is not resurrection but fosters change and calls for new challenges to be dealt with. The verdict of history is that those who reject change and pretend to be dealing with the future are sorted out as worn out entities, burden on human conscience and part of the junk history. Would the besieged Arab-Muslim leaders dare to break the impasse and look for change and reformation of their own mindset and outlook for the future? Would they come out of the hollow laughter political aquarium and utilize the available resources of the Muslim scholars and experts in global peace, security and conflict management? Otherwise, if they cannot deal with present, how could they be a hope for future with a difference?

A century earlier, Robert Briffault (The Making of Humanity), made a candid observation which amicably represents the contemporary global affairs:

“The men who have most injured and oppressed humanity, who have most deeply sinned against it, were according to their standards and their conscience, good men; what was bad in them, what wrought moral evil and cruelty, treason to truth and progress, was not at all their intentions, in their purpose, in their personal character, but in their opinions.”

Islam is living and flexible to accommodate and deal with the changing human affairs and challenges of all the time to help articulate peace and honor for the Muslim Ummah. The criterion requirements are clearly defined and known to the Arab-Muslim elite involved in policy making. After a prolonged history of indifference and indecision, If the contemporary Arab-Muslim leadership is serous and sincere to making a Navigational Change to reconnect themselves with Islam and live up to the hopes of the Muslim Ummah, undoubtedly, Allah’s promise will come to rescue them and help them to facilitate a promising future of honor, peace and security:

“Allah has promised to those
Among you who believe and work for righteous deeds, that He
Will, of a surety, grant them
In the land, inheritance
(Of Power), as He granted it
To those before them; that
He will establish in authority
Their religion-the one
Which He has chosen for them;
And that He will change
(Their state), after the fear
In which they (lived) to one
Of security and peace.”

(Verse 55: Al-Noor, Al-Qura’an. Translation by Abdullah Yusuf Ali).

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Dr. Mahboob A. Khawaja specializes in global security, peace and conflict resolution with keen interests in Islamic-Western comparative cultures and civilizations, and author of several publications including Global Peace and Conflict Management: Man and Humanity in Search of New Thinking, Lambert Publishing Germany-May, 2012. His forthcoming book is entitled: One Humanity and the Remaking of Global Peace, Security and Conflict Resolution. He contributed this article to Media Monitors Network (MMN)

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