We want to break free! [Archives:2004/774/Viewpoint]

September 20 2004

A meeting will take place on September 24th in New York City – which I will hopefully be attending provided my US visa is issued on time – focusing on the question of 'How to achieve reform in the Arab World?' This meeting, which will involve the civil society along with governments from the region, will also be an opportunity to analyze the problems that caused such a level of backwardness and vulnerability in the Arab world of today.
It is no secret that the Arab Human Development Report clearly indicated that Arabs are last according to all development indicators including education, economic prosperity, level of income, health, technology, and many other issues.
Yet, whenever we focus on reform, we ask, “where should we start?”
For me, the question is very easy, and the answer cannot be found in our countries. The question lies elsewhere. It lies in a country, any country, where there is freedom of thought and action.
Arabs in exile in the USA, Europe, Australia, and in other modern countries, have proven to be productive, healthy, educated, and superior in their positions. In fact, they are, in many cases, much better off than the original citizens of the state they live in. Why didn't Arabs in their homeland become as creative and enlightened? Why do our generations keep on striving to make ends meet while their brothers living abroad are progressing and contributing to science, education, and technology, and hence are contributing positively to the countries they stay in?
It all comes down to 'freedom', this magical word, is the one that would solve all our problems and miseries. Freedom which empowers humans with dignity is what we need the most.
Our human rights, which we have been stripped of since early childhood, need to be restored. Our spirits and minds, which have been shackled for decades, need to be liberated. We must regain the title of 'free humans', which we have been deprived of for a very long time.
How can a nation progress and excel if its individuals have their minds caged and thoughts censored? How can a person be inventive if he is warned that anything that crosses his/her mind which violates the regime's laws and ideas is strictly prohibited? How can a person begin changing society if he himself cannot change due to the excessive restrictions he is exposed to every single day?
All questions bring us to one conclusion: enslaved humans can never make strong nations. Enchained minds and souls cannot fly into the world of prosperity and create a life that deserves to be lived.
For an average of 30 years, Arabs have continued to live in a state of imprisonment of mind and soul. They have lived in the darkest ages of their entire history, as they were not free to talk, to write, or even to think. Now, we've seen a report that shows the gloomy picture of where we have arrived and a worse scenario for the future if we continue down the same path.
We miss our freedom very much; the freedom that our God had given to us, and our religion, Islam endorsed. “Have you enslaved people while they were born free?” is a famous question raised by the second Islamic Caliphate Omar bin Al-Khattab. Why did we drift so far from our own religion's teachings?
Today, we are heading towards a crossroads. It is time to decide whether we will continue to live as slaves for our entire lives, or regain our lost freedom and human rights. Will we live as dignified humans who can contribute, think, talk, write, and act freely under a rule of a law that respects our freedom, or will we remain subservient to a law that has been drafted by regimes to ensure we remain slaves to their continued power?
If the world is still not aware of what made us sink into backwardness and vulnerability, then we will have to shout louder and louder: “We want to break free!”
Then what we need to do is to start actual steps with the help of civil society and the free world, to prove that we need liberation and want to live our lives as true humans, with dignity and pride!