A group of academics who participated in a discussion session entitled The West and Us: Arab Centralism and Globalization, The West Complex between Fact and Fiction concluded that Arabs’ loss of their confidence in their own political, intellectual, and economic abilities has increased their dependence on the West, resulting in Western hegemony in Arab political and economic life.
The discussion session was held yesterday at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies as part of a series of lectures, seminars, and discussion sessions organized by the Ministry of Culture in collaboration with Qatar University and the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies. The discussion panel included Dr. Abdul Wahab Al-Afandi, President of the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, Dr. Jassim Al-Jazzae, and Dr. Rashid Boutayyib, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies. The discussion session was attended by His Excellency Sheikh Abdul Rahman bin Hamad Al Thani, Minister of Culture, and several academics, intellectuals, media representatives, and guests.
Dr. Abdul Wahab Al-Afandi: The Arabs have not taken advantage of oil resources to achieve Centralism
Dr. Abdul Wahab Al-Afandi, President of the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, explained that the Arabs aligned with the United States in the past during the Soviet Union era. Now, they are aligned with Israel. These alliances are not new, as the same type of alliances were formed during the Crusades when some Muslim states aligned with the Crusaders against other Muslim states, as in the case of the Tawaif kings in Andalusia.
He added that, “Arab centralism came about as a result of various factors, such as the European Industrial Revolution, the discovery of the Cape of Good Hope pathway, and the building of the Suez Canal. At that time, “Arab centralism was commercial in nature and quite impactful. Arabs were later marginalized as a result of discovering alternative trade routes. As the West lost its monopoly on oil, Arabs had a chance to reassert their centralism. However, this resource has not been fully utilized yet.”
He elaborated that Western centralism can be easily seen in the political, economic, and military spheres, hence Western hegemony across the world. This hegemony includes cultural dominance, which Arabs sometimes import themselves. He argues that Arabs have to find ways to create their own cultural products and establish strong inter-Arab alliances. He added, “Weakness in the Arab region, for the most part, is not the result of conflicts with the West. This weakness is mostly the result of conflicts between regimes and the people.” He gave the examples of some Arab leaders who establish ties with Israel to gain support for their regimes against their own people. These leaders, according to Dr. Al-Afandi, cannot communicate with their people; therefore, they have to collaborate with Israel to legitimize their rule.
Dr. Al-Afandi concluded his remarks by calling for breaking away from Western hegemony. For him, this objective can be achieved only if Arabs use their cultural, intellectual, and industrial resources to build confidence and unity.
Dr. Jassim Al-Jazzae: Four stages leading to Western hegemony in the Arab World
Dr. Jassim Al-Jazzae based his argument on the premise that states, like individuals, resist the dominance of foreign powers. In political terms, states resist foreign powers controlling domestic educational, economic, and political decisions. He added that sovereign states by definition, can maintain and protect their complete political, cultural, and economic independence, which is almost unfeasible in modern times.
Dr. Al-Jazzae summarized the historical development of Western hegemony in the Arab World. The first stage took the form of military confrontations between the Byzantine Empire and the Arabian Peninsula, followed by Byzantine-Arab and European-Arab conflicts that continued until the French campaigns. As the West realized that military confrontation cannot establish hegemony in the Arab World, a new approach was adopted. This new approach, which ushered in the second stage, involved breaking up the Arab World into smaller states based on ethnic and nationalist lines. The third stage focused on occidentalizing ideologies by ensuring that Western agents were included in decision making circles in Arab states. The fourth stage aimed to establish economic hegemony through the presence of Western organizations and corporations that inhibit economic production in Arab countries. The objective has been to transform the Arab World into a consumers’ market.
Dr. Al-Jazzae concluded that many Arab regimes are not interested in Arab unity because it might negatively impact their own interests. Arab unity, in his view, requires a multi-national development plan that brings together peoples and regimes alike. The crucial point is that unity does not require eliminating sovereignty.
Dr. Rashid Boutayyib: The Arabs’ problem is imitating the West
Dr. Rashid Boutayyib, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies offered the view that the most insightful answer to the question of Western hegemony in the Arab World was answered by Allal Al-Fasi. In his book, Self-criticism, particularly in Chapter 14 entitled Thoughts between Modernity and Modernization, Al-Fasi gives the same answer offered by Abdulla Al-Urawi and Mohammed Abed Al-Jabiri. Dr. Boutayyib elaborated that Al-Fasi, who was a Salafist jurist, saw that the problem is imitating the West. In other words, Arabs have to take modernity from the West in order to address the issues of their time.
The lecture and discussion session series includes eight events that continue until March 31. The next session, entitled Poetry and Songs: Differences and Deteriorating Standards, will be held next Monday. The events aim to enrich dialogue on current cultural and artistic issues, to promote a culture of diversity, and to give intellectuals, academics, and graduates the opportunity to contribute to supporting the intellectual environment. The Ministry of Culture is supporting the event series with the objective of fostering an environment of cultural debate in the service of the community.