On the International Day of Democracy, satellite television channels focused on the type of democracy imported, together with blood baths, disasters, wars and American invasions charged with hatred and oppression for Muslims. Democracy was talked about as an ideal, regardless of people`s living standards, the disasters befalling them and the gutters they are sent to under the pretext of raising the standard of political action to the level of “democracy.”
In Iraq, a fifth of the population has become illiterate after “democratic” invaders have killed 1 million people, including thousands of scientists and intellectuals. Mesopotamian memory is full of millions of tragic stories about widows, orphans, poverty, killing and violence brought about by the Americans. No one in the Western media writes about the life of these people or tries to assess the actual destruction of the quality of life of these people. The same applies to Afghanistan and Pakistan which have been torn by violence and war and the daily killing by American drones. American talk about “democracy” is completely isolated from providing water, electricity, schools, work, security and dignity. So, what is this democracy? And, what are its objectives if it does not aim at improving people`s lives?
No one tried to link this International Day of Democracy to what has happened in Turkey, where an Islamic democracy is growing, based on an unprecedented popular mandate. The Constitution has been amended in accordance with the results of a referendum based on national needs not the narrow private interests as the custom is in Western democracies.
The media coverage of the September 11, 2001, attacks. The International Day of Democracy and the referendum in Turkey was intent on spreading hatred against Islam. Manifestations of Islamophobia in Western democracies persisted by putting pictures which offend Muslims on magazine covers, burning holy books – Hitler style, spreading fanatic concepts against Islam and linking Islam to increasing violence in the world, while ignoring all forms of violence, oppression, killing and wars which Muslims are subjected to at the hands of non-Muslims.
What happened in Turkey was an expression of the essence of Islamic democracy based on the power of ideas and logic, not on coup d`etats encouraged by the West in Turkey and other nations in South America, Asia and the Mideast.
The problem today is that our language, values and ideas have become a tool used by the other to speak for us and about the crimes it is committing against us in our countries, while we sit and watch our own news from the other`s perspective and its coverage of our suffering through its racist lens.
The danger here is for us to continue in this negative posture until we diminish and disappear altogether and leave behind the story written about us by the colonizer. Our stories will disappear under the flow of artistic, linguistic and political material produced by organizations fuming with hatred against Muslims and promoted as “democratic” aiming at liberating people from backwardness and tyranny.
A number of countries, particularly in Asia, have realized the danger of what is going on.
So, Asia has become a pioneer of scientific and technological advances; its share of published articles increased from 13 percent in 1980 to over 30 percent in 2009 according to Thomson Reuters indicators. Turkey is rising, as did Malaysia and Iran in terms of scientific research and university education which are the foundations of every industrial, agricultural or even political achievement.
What is worrying about this are the conditions in the Arab world whose status has reflected on all scientific and research indicators, even on reading and publishing indicators to an unacceptable level. The Arabic language has seen a frightening retreat under the aegis of Arab ministries of education as a result of the concept promoted by our enemies that their language is the language of science and knowledge, and that the language of the Koran cannot assimilate modern sciences. I know of no other nation whose children are taught in private schools and universities in a language not their own. Here, the problem starts when we become non-active recipients of knowledge and scientific production. It follows that we become non-active on the political, cultural and human arenas. Some of us even become parrots repeating Western phrases of hatred against Arabs.
Recent studies have shown that the mother tongue shapes people`s attitudes because it determines people`s intellectual habits and directs their experience and their positions in life. That is why we see most countries today insist on using their mother language, except Arab countries, where the Arabic language is suffering unprecedented official neglect. Most private schools and universities now use English or French; and those who want to study Arabic find it difficult to find an Arab university that teaches different sciences in Arabic.
I am trying to connect the complete political absence of Arab nations on the international scene – except when they are called upon by necessities of US public relations – with the deliberate neglect of language, heritage and culture. If people are not the product of their language, culture and different components of their civilization, what are they? If democracy does not aim at improving people`s living standards, making them happy and improving the different aspects of their lives, what else should it be?
The more serious problem is that we, Arabs, have become recipients of Western systems when it comes to our causes and interests. When an Arab or Muslim country provides an illuminating experience to the world, it is usually talked about aside from its Muslim identity, and without any link between it and the civilization of Islam or the region.
Malaysia has provided a good model for democracy as a Muslim country. So did Turkey. But this does not have any impact on Western media which insist on promoting Islamophobia and its disgraceful manifestations, like burning holy books, offending Muslim sanctities and targeting them with violence, terrorism and oppression in the West and elsewhere. Rising oppression of Muslims in Western countries and depriving them of freedoms, coupled with the tragedies caused by the “democratic” Western invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan and what is happening today in Pakistan, represents only one aspect of the modern history of Western democracy that is characterized by its thirst for the blood of Muslims.
Bouthaina Shaaban is Political and Media Adviser at the Syrian Presidency, and former Expatriates Minister. She is also a writer and professor at Damascus University since 1985