June 2, 2012

Existential Questions Facing the Muslim World

I never had a distinct awareness of Harold Rhode until I read Existential Questions Facing the Muslim World, his recent article at Gatestone Institute

Rather than getting into a debate over who he is, as many prefer to do, perhaps a better route is to examine what he says. You need not agree with the substance, but in my mind there is certainly value to look at different sides of the issues, particularly when they are controversial in scope.

The article begins:
Many parts of the world, such as Korea, China, and India - basically medieval kingdoms fifty or sixty years ago -- are now among the pacesetters of the modern world, both producing, and improving on, existing inventions. The Muslim world, however, often better off than these countries just half a century ago, has remained as it was, or has even, in many instances, deteriorated.

This inertia in the Islamic world seems to stem not from any genetic limitations, or even religious ones, but purely from Islamic culture.

Although one can gain some insight into Islamic culture from books and other written material, if one is to really understand the Muslim world, there is no substitute for sitting in coffee or tea houses, spending time with Muslims, and asking them questions in their own surroundings and in their own languages. A result of these approaches would seem to indicate, with respect, some of the factors citizens of the Arab and Muslim world might wish to consider to use their extraordinary talents even more fully:
Whether anyone reading here wishes to delve into the factors with Rhodes is a personal choice. The topics he addresses are:
  • The Ability to Question
  • The Role of the Individual vs. the Role of the Group
  • Encouraging Creativity
  • The Ability to Admit Failure and Learn from It
  • The Learning Process
  • Taking Responsibility for One's Actions
  • How Information Is Passed On To Others
  • The Western Concept of Compromise
  • The Western Concept of Peace
  • Book Publishing
  • The Status of Women
  • The Oil Curse
He concludes with reference to Palestinians and Jews:
Palestinians, as well, are easily capable of accomplishing what anyone else does, if only their education, governance and cultural incentives were changed from destroying their neighbor, Israel, to building a felicitous society. Palestinian political leaders, however, seem to have decided that the rewards from the international community, at least for them, will be greater if they are seen as victims receiving perpetual handouts, rather than as leaders receiving rewards linked to accomplishments. The economic system seems to have evolved into bribes in exchange for promises that are never kept, followed later by the request for still more bribes.
Ironically, all genetic analyses of the many ancient Muslim Palestinian families indicate that they are largely from the same genetic stock as Ashkenazi Jewry. [...] So what is the difference here? The Jewish culture encourages questioning and thinking from an early age, whereas the Palestinian Muslim culture does not. What is encouraged instead is the unexamined acceptance of whatever is set before one, whether on government-run television or in government-written textbooks. Religion has nothing to do with this situation; Islam therefore is not the problem: Islamic culture is. Only when Muslims address their culture head-on can there be any real hope for their world to overcome its self-imposed limitations and start fully contributing to the wonders of the 21st century.
I suggest the article is both informative and thought provoking, and worth a full read, no matter one's persuasion, including those who habitually reject most anything uttered by political adversaries, and will leave it at that.


  1. Thank you for this one, School, and I want to chew on it a bit before I respond.

    Nonetheless, you're treading on perilous ground here.

    One implication of what you are writing is that the Palestinians actually hold some responsibility for their own behavior and circumstances.

    In the minds of many, this would make you a racist.

  2. I know who I am, and I am not afraid to examine issues as I see fit, despite what may occur in the minds of others.

  3. I would not only suggest, but I would state as fact, that the Palestinian leadership consists pretty much solely of stone-cold racists who need to step out of the 13th century, and start defining themselves in terms of what they're for rather than what they're against.

    And this comes from one of the most liberally of liberally liberals anywhere. It's time we stopped playing footsies with terrorists and those who love them, and started declaring that just like every other people on earth, all need to be held to account.

    I only wish more folks like me could come around to saying this. But I'm sure they'd actually prefer to call me a 'racist,' too. Not that I care any more, though...

    1. They may not step from their imprisonment until they are challenged for their ideas.

      That is why they seek to criminalize insults.

  4. Jewish-American politics is getting all shook up due to the slow recognition that the progressive-left really does tend to side with political Islam over Israel.

    Where we go from here is open to debate and discussion and I certainly do not have that answer. All I know for sure is that political sands are shifting now in the American-Jewish community, or diaspora Jewish community, more than at any other point in my lifetime.

    1. I do not have a real clue if they are shifting, or in which direction, but it is healthy to look at matters in the sunshine. When that happens, illusions can evaporate and there can be a clear sense of the reality versus the aspiration.

    2. It seems to me that many liberal diaspora Jews... including two that I had dinner with this evening... are beginning the process of questioning old political assumptions.

      The first assumption is that Jews should support the progressive-left and the Democratic party.

      This question needs to be on the table, School.

    3. That is something for each individual to decide. What seems necessary from the Muslim world is something besides, and it should not matter one's political persuasion. One day it likely will not.