Ibrahim Al-Buleihi, Former Saudi Shura Council Member, Defends Learning From The West

Ibrahim Al-Buleihi on Al-Aabiya TV on February 26, 2010:

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And here he argues that terrorism is the product of a flaw in Arab and Muslim culture:

This is the product of our culture.  They are the product of a culture that believes the other does not deserve to live, and is an absolute enemy with whom no understanding is possible.  There is a fundamental flaw in our culture that leads to this behavior.

This is a one-dimensional culture, a culture of tyranny—tyranny in culture, in politics, in society, in the family, and in everything.

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In a profile, Al-Buleihi describes himself as “a Muslim first, and a liberal second”, but this does not stop him from admiring the West:

He has long been concerned and troubled at the decline of the condition of the Arabs, a concern that has led him to go beyond what is allowed by the dominant culture in Saudi society.  About this he says, “… the situation in the Arab world is sad and shameful, so it is clearly necessary not only to be concerned but to be deeply anxious.  I learned early in my life that a dreadful flaw afflicts the lives of Arabs and Muslims, but at first I did not understand the reasons.  My deep anxiety impelled me to study our history and culture in depth in search of the source of the flaw, and also led me to devote attention to the triumphant Western civilization, beginning with Greek philosophical thought, continuing through the political, social, scientific, anthropological and other brilliant achievements of the West.  I became convinced that Western civilization is exceptional and pioneering, and is not an extension of the previous civilizations:  it is civilization par excellence.  The excellence of the West lies not in its accomplishments in the sciences, arts and technology, but rather, these accomplishments are the outgrowth of the West’s respect for the human being, the recognition of his individuality, the liberty it has granted him, and the establishment of government in the service of the people — the government belongs to the people, and they do not belong to it.  This is a qualitative change, unprecedented in human history, and the source of everything that the human being experiences of the amazing changes in all aspects of life.”

Al-Buleihi contends that individualism is the main foundation on which modern civilization is based.  In contrast, Arab culture promotes the ”dissolution” of the individual in the totality.  “Humans are originally individuals, but cultures (including Arab culture) have dissolved the individual in the tribe, sect or state, so that the individual was unable to know his own identity and recover it, except with the diffusion of philosophical ideas from Greece, where, in the fifth century BC, philosophy produced elevated human values for the first time in human history, and the human being became an individual of value for himself and the ultimate goal, and not merely a means for others.”

Regarding the current situation of Arabs and Muslims, Al-Buleihi says:  “I believe that the situation of the Arabs and Muslims is very bad.  The reason is the closed culture and its inability to absorb modern civilization, to be aware of its shortcomings, and to be aware of the merits of other cultures.”

To those who contend that his prescriptions are too harsh and would frustration to those receiving them he answers that his “… views are not frustrating … but the real frustration is that we praise ourselves while we are in an terrible situation, and the Arabs and Muslims have become a joke to the rest of the world.  That is, we are a joke, and no one is concerned with us.  But now we announce that we innovate in cutting off heads, in killing, in bombings — that is the extent to which we can innovate.  This is a major problem, I mean, that we are a burden not only to ourselves but to the whole world.  I believe that the whole world is regressing because of our actions.  For example, the countries of the West — democratic countries like America, Europe, Britain and others — have changed their laws in ways that restrict liberties.  Transportation has become slow because … people have to stand in long queues to fly on an airplane, due to searches, something that was previously unknown.  We have become a burden to ourselves, and to the world.”

Al-Buleihi holds that Arab societies will not advance unless Arabs engage in critical thought.  “History has proven in the past, and the experiences of people in the present show, that enlightened critical thought has a major role in progress and prosperity, and that without it, no society can progress or prosper.  To begin with, societies are hostage to ruling ideologies, roles and practices, and do not exit from this circular trap without critical thought.  They are only motivated to renewal by thinkers who have absorbed cultural components of their culture and the qualitative changes that have occurred in human civilization.  I have made use of the means at hand, mainly writing, lecturing, and taking part in television discussions when I have the opportunity.  We Arabs are still an oral culture.”

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.