At this age of reform,What should the Arab World do? [Archives:2005/878/Opinion]

September 19 2005

By Prof. Dr. Abdulaziz al-Tarb
From the address of the revolution at one time to the address of development and reconstruction at another time, now we have just arrived at the time of reform. Has the Arab world stepped into the phase of reform? How could we win this stage and not lose it, as we had lost promises and expectations at the previous stages?

To win this stage we have to know and realize what we want in order to gain wisdom and clear vision. We have to determine the terms and requisites at the level of action to obtain the will and resolution.

In this regard there must be dealing with the following facts:

First, It is certain at this sensitive and complicated stage we are in need of radical and comprehensive re-examinations of our situations and conditions in all dimension. These reconsiderations must stem from daring and courageous willpower, prioritizing the people and homelands interest to any other interest pushing towards genuine reform. It should not be merely a demonstration of superficial reforms, not depending upon deep and solid foundation.

Second, The reform we intend must be expressive of our will, visions and necessities, not imposed on externally, but the question is 'Where is the reform that we want and talk about?' Therefore, we have to begin with the actual reform before it is imposed on us without our will, in consequence of which we would be then regretful. We are in confrontation of situations that that would not bear the postponement of reform, it has become at a position of obligatory necessities.

Third, Where should the reform begin? Some would say we have to begin from the political reform, others believe it should begin by the religious reform. The truth is we need reform in those two areas of political and religious and in other areas such as the cultural reform. The political reform deals with authority and political institutions and organizations ” political parties and NGOs”, the religious reform is connected with those perceptions and concepts tending towards fanaticism, excessiveness, charging others of infidelity, refusal of the right of pluralism and difference, the right to express opinion and those concepts that visualize religion as not in harmony with civilized life and does not keep pace with changes and contemporary life. They try to indicate as if religion is positioned in villages, countryside, mosques, caves and desert communities.

The cultural reform tackles ideas and viewpoints with the intention of renewal and development of our branches of knowledge towards issues of heritage, history, the state and nation, pluralism, freedom, democracy, modernity and globalization and also to discern future with the wisdom of culture.

Fourth, The genuine reform begins from the state reconciliation with the people and return of the state to the people after it has become, as some rightfully believe, against the people. This is the state's problematic in our Arab sphere. The nation, in the legal custom, history and law is the source of legitimacy and source of authority in the state. The meaning of the state return to the people is that it should become for all the citizens. The citizen in this regard becomes treated with dignity and he can get his rights without any fear through justice and under the law. This necessitates the reformation of judiciary that re-grants the right to his owner by justice and equality.

Fifth, It goes without saying that reformation needs an organized and carefully studied program. The problem here does not always lie in the ability to working out the program, but rather in the will and resolution that is capable of conveying the program from the phase of power to the phase of action. It also lies in supervision and monitoring the course and stages of implementation and this requires attention given to administrative reform in the government institutions and ministries.

Sixth, It is imperative that we prove there is no contradiction between Islam and democracy, and between Islam and advancement. We have to prove the possibility of establishment of democracy in the Islamic societies and under the existence of the religion of Islam. Islam, in fact, is in possession of the strongest motives towards progress and consequently the Islamic societies are capable to advance under the Islamic religion and it can push forward these societies towards advancement. I emphasize this lest Islam should be brushed aside, as some would like to promote under claim of reform, or that reform could be contradictory of the religion with regard to identity or ethics and values.

We have stepped into the age of reform and the actual fear is that we would depart it without having reformed our condition. The companies and institutions that Yemen and other Arab countries have paid are willing to reconsider this study or that strategy as long as we would pay, i.e. ready to reconsider the strategy of wages, as I modestly have learnt in more than one Arab country, to restore the smile to the employee citizen's face. Would the government listen to one of its sons?