Are Arabs Keeping Pace with the Modern World Advancement?

So many countries have managed in a few decades and perhaps years to keep up with the modern science and technology in their multiple fields, thus advancing their status among the world’s big countries. Examples are many, including Germany and Japan which both rose from the devastation of World War Two to rebuild their countries with major achievements in the various spheres of life. East Asian countries followed suit in the eightieth of the 20th century, India in the ninetieth, as well as Turkey and Brazil rising as economic powers during the first decade of this century, specifically in 2003. In Africa, countries like Ethopia and Rwanda are making similar steps. Israel-though in a different way-, once branded as a ‘cancerous growth’ or the Jewish ‘wanderers’, realized early that science is the key to its ‘survival’, ‘steadfastness’ and ‘development’! Today, Israel, unlike Jewish individuals and groups in the USA, Europe and Russia who control power, money and the media, has turned into an international hub attracting startup companies mainly specialized in information technology and advanced software, including the electronic spying and surveillance equipment. It has become a marketplace selling its products to world countries to fight their own battles.

The Israeli Ministry of Public Security recently announced that “2018 was another record year in the export of cyber security systems with the value of contracts totaling 7.5 billion dollars.” Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, praised the technology sector in Israel and said it was “second only to Silicon Valley in the United States in terms of initiatives.  “Israel, whose population does not exceed eight million people, is far beyond its size in technology,” he concluded. Therefore, we ask, why do the Arabs refuse to awaken from their slumber to see that God has endowed them with all the requirements of progress? Who thwarted thoughts and plans of Arab reform leaders Mohammed Abdo, Jamal al-Din al-Afghani and Abdul Rahman al-Kawakibi, who, decades ago, alerted Muslims to their backwardness and called on them to join in on the path of progress?

In response to these two big questions, there are those who believe that the emergence of trends of religious extremism that had access to large financial funds (from internal and external sources) which have raised the slogan “Islam is the solution” is the context that has led to the destruction of the reform leaders’ project. These trends, according to some, succeeded in turning things to the opposite direction. Instead of being convinced that Arabs are still backward, and the ‘other’ is advanced by virtue of the intellect, science and respect of human rights, they say the West is ugly and unethical and we as Moslems are the best for one sole reason, being Moslem! This ‘logic’ adds: We must admit we are backward intellectually, technologically, scientifically, economically, politically and socially, lagging behind on all levels, but we are better than all developed countries ‘only because we are Moslems’! This political ideology has greatly contributed to weakening the nation. The question remains: The Arab world abounds with resources, the first easy step to make without much trouble on the path of civilization and progress, so why-then-we are still lagging behind!!!  In the modern era, only backward peoples stand waiting for what will come out of the earth in order to live, and believe that ‘wealth’ alone will make them rich without the need to use the mind, while man became the world’s most successful and profitable investment.

How painful it is that Israel advances in the possession of elements of power while our Arab (and Islamic) world lags behind in so many areas and fields  except corruption and tyranny,  at a time when illiteracy constitutes a major issue for Arab national security! Although its rate has declined significantly since 1970, illiteracy in the Arab countries remains high, compared with the world average. The 2018 statistics of ALECSO (The Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization) show that illiteracy rates in the Arab world have reached 21% which is higher than the global average of 13.6%. ALECSO added that these figures are “likely to rise in light of the educational conditions experienced by some Arab countries due to crises and armed conflicts, which resulted in the failure of about 13.5 million Arab children to enroll in formal education for being dropouts and non-enrolled.”

The reform of education is one of the most important and serious issues. It is closely linked to the well-being of people and improving their life conditions. It is a matter of vital importance to the whole society and indeed the entire nation. Therefore, it is necessary to start from early education, from which the human abilities emanate towards building a society that is proud of its identity, heritage and culture. It will then be open to the achievements of all humanity in the field of knowledge, and there the first step will begin towards building a successful society.

Yes, this can be achieved through carefully-planned management and development of the pre-university basic education sector to respond to the socio-economic and cultural needs of the society.  It is important to be firmly linked with the national identity that is inseparable from global trends and, of course, on the basis of a critical intellectual development that allows for questioning and debate rather than on the basis of indoctrination.