To be sure, the Arabs are a proud, skilled, and ferocious people who have demonstrated their capacity to throw off the yoke of enemy occupiers for generations. They will not tolerate being colonized or exploited, that is, unless it's by a fellow Arab, in which case they will suddenly put up with torture, murder, and oppression. One Israeli roadblock, put up in order to stop suicide bombers, and tens of thousands of Palestinians will be out in the streets throwing rocks. But if it's the House of Saud, Muammar Qadaffi, or Bashar al Assad who are beating Arab women and throwing political dissidents in front of a firing squad without trial, then heck, they're family, right?
It beggars belief just how hundreds of millions of Arabs and Muslims throughout the Middle East and North Africa allow themselves to be ruled by thugs and tyrants. How ironic that the Arabs, with a gallant history of over a thousand years of military conquest and empire-building, should allow themselves in modern times to be bullied by a small group of the most wretched human miscreants who rob them of their money and deprive them of their rights. In former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Muhammad's infamous speech to the Organization of the Islamic Conference two months ago, he mentioned five times how the Arabs were living in shame and humiliation due to their economic and military subjugation at the hands of the West. But he did not once mention how humiliating it is for any Arab man or women have to live in fear of prostitute-chasing fakers like the House of Saud or megalomaniacal despots like Hosni Mubarak.
If I were an Arab man living in Libya, afraid to ever utter a single word of criticism against a degenerate like Muammar Qaddafi, I would feel permanently emasculated. I would find it difficult to live with my shame. How can Libyan men accept being fired upon in soccer stands by Qaddafi's son, Al Saadi, just because they boo his poor play, as the New York Times recently reported? What would the prophet Muhammad, who was a legendary warrior, think today of his ideological disciples as they tolerate the worst human rights abuses hurled against them by their own leaders with barely a murmur of protest? Even Shirin Ebadi, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last week for her standing up to the terrorist regime in Iran, decided to use her Nobel speech not to criticize her tyrannical government, but to attack the United States!
As I relish the fact that I am fortunate enough to live within a democratic society, I can not cease to be perplexed by the question of how 20 million Iraqis allowed themselves to be ruled with the iron hand of a barbarous despot, with little effort to topple him.
The question of how the Arabs can tolerate such abuse is especially magnified in light of their having once been the most advanced people on earth. While the West was slogging its way through half a millennium of severe religious and intellectual repression, it was the Muslim world that shone brilliantly in advancing the world's knowledge. I am currently reading Richard Rubenstein's magnificent book, "Aristotle's Children," which chronicles the preservation of the ancient Greek thinkers by Islamic culture after they had been forgotten in the West. Al-Mamun, Caliph of the Abbasid dynasty, established state-funded places of study, focusing on translations of Greek and other works of antiquity, that predated the first European universities by more than 300 years. The Abbasid Muslim Empire had an agricultural revolution in the 8th century that produced technological innovations the likes of which wouldn't been seen in the west until at least 1180. In the area of medical advancement, the 10th century Al-Razi of Baghdad wrote numerous groundbreaking medical books that Western medicine could not match until the 18th century. The Muslim Sultan Akbar was known for laws guaranteeing religious toleration and protection of women and children.
But now, more than 200 years since the ideals of liberty and equality have become commonplace in the Christian countries of the West, millions of Arabs today yield to lives stained by deprivation and oppression. In modern times there has not been an Arabic Patrick Henry or Thomas Jefferson to fuel the fires of discontent against despotic Arab rule. Perhaps if King George had managed to convince the colonists that all their troubles could be blamed on the French, we would still be speaking the Queen's English.
But until the Arabs finally rise to the challenge of freeing themselves from tyranny and building their own democracies, then images like those we saw today of Saddam being arrested by American GI's may be the only immediate hope for the liberation of the Arab world.