By Dr. Khalid Al Nowaiser
We are still the prisoners of a culture of conspiracy and inferiority
I am a proud and loyal Saudi citizen, but I am tired of hearing constant criticism from most Arabs of everything the United States does in its relations with other countries and how it responds to global crises. No nation is perfect, and certainly America has made its share of mistakes such as Vietnam, Cuba and Iraq. I am fully aware of what happened when the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the unprecedented abuses at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. However, what would we do if America simply disappeared from the face of the earth such as what happened to the Soviet Union and ancient superpowers like the Roman and Greek empires? These concerns keep me up day and night. Itâ€™s frustrating to hear this constant drumbeat of blame directed toward the United States for everything that is going wrong in the world. Who else do we think of to blame for our problems and failures? Do we take personal responsibility for the great issues that affect the security and prosperity of Arab countries? No, we look to America for leadership and then sit back and blame it when we donâ€™t approve of the actions and solutions it proposes or takes.
For instance, if a dictator seizes and holds power such as Egyptâ€™s Mubarak and Libyaâ€™s Qaddafi, fingers are pointed only at America for supporting these repressive leaders. If the people overthrow a dictator, fingers are pointed at America for not having done enough to support the protestors. If a nation fails to provide its people with minimum living standards, fingers are pointed at America. If a child dies in an African jungle, America is criticized for not providing necessary aid. If someone somewhere sneezes, fingers are pointed at America. Many other examples exist, too numerous to mention.
I am not pro-American nor am I anti-Arab, but I am worried that unless we wake up, the Arab world will never break out of this vicious and unproductive cycle of blaming America. We must face the truth: Sadly, we are still the prisoners of a culture of conspiracy and cultural inferiority. We have laid the blame on America for all our mistakes, for every failure, for every harm or damage we cause to ourselves. The US has become our scapegoat upon whom our aggression and failures can be placed. We accuse America of interfering in all our affairs and deciding our fate, although we know very well that this is not the case as no superpower can impose its will upon us and control every aspect of our lives. We must acknowledge that every nation, no matter how powerful, has its limitations.
Moreover, we conveniently forget that Americaâ€™s role is one of national self-interest, not to act as a Mother Teresa. Every great nation throughout history has used its power and gained ascendancy in order to serve its own strategic interests. America is not just its foreign policy. We must not forget who promoted education and respected learning, who took on research as a way to discovery, who made the airplane that carries us to our destination and the luxurious car we want to own, who created the Internet and developed social media that has transformed the way we do business and interact with one another, who conducted the scientific research that has saved lives and treated cancer, renal failure, AIDS, malaria, poliomyelitis, and who discovered genetic engineering. When man walked on the Moon, it was an American. Who did Japan turn to for help after the devastating earthquake and tsunami? America that led and organized the international relief effort of the Red Cross. Who do people turn to for support when their leaders seek to brutalize them? Who organized NATO air cover and saved the Libyan city of Benghazi from certain destruction by Qaddafiâ€™s brutal armed forces?
Anyone who is a student of history knows that America is simply doing what all other civilizations before it have done for thousands of years, which is to protect and further its own self-interest. The Greek civilization could not have lasted had it not served its own interests, and the same applies to the Persian, Roman, and Chinese civilizations. All of these civilizations put their own welfare before all others, and by doing so, they strived to achieve great things. The truth is that no nation can ever become great without understanding this reality. Indeed, the Islamic civilization has been through horrible and cruel phases. Hideous events that send goose bumps up oneâ€™s spine can be extracted from Islamic history, such as that of As-Saffah (The Shedder of Blood), founder of the Abbasid Caliphate, who took out the remains of the caliphs of Bani Umayyah, one after the other, but found nothing but the tip of a nose from the remains of Hisham Bin Abdul Malak. He took him out and whipped him. He then crucified and burned him and sprinkled his ashes in the wind, without mercy, oblivious to any religious or moral restraints.
There are many other similar examples. But does this mean that Islam is unholy? Of course not. Does this imply that Islamic civilization only had Saffahs? Absolutely not. Islamic civilization has given the world brilliant examples in the areas of art and education and promoted a culture of forgiveness, peace and love. However, today, we as people, not Islam, are in desperate need of an intellectual earthquake, a cultural tsunami to get us back on track, to revive Islamâ€™s cultural intellect and combat our undeniable inferiority complex.
The Holy Qurâ€™an states Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves. He has the power to change them, but He prefers that they change with their own will power which He respects.
What we are seeing now in the Arab streets is a new hope and a step forward to change what is in ourselves. I remain very optimistic because we have now begun to realize that simply blaming the United States for our problems will not help us progress toward great personal freedoms. Our enemy is not America but an inferiority complex from which I am sure the Arab world with its rich culture and history will eventually recover.
â€” Dr. Khalid Alnowaiser is a columnist and a Saudi attorney with offices in Riyadh and Jeddah. He can be reached at: Khalid@lfkan.com and/or Twitter (kalnowaiser).