I finished medical school last June. Since July, approximately for four months now, I have been studying the German language. Because of looking for language exchange partners, I had the chance to interact with many westerners. Through this great experience, I am not only improving my German or English, but also, getting to discover new ideas and ways of thinking. I will write here about one idea that I got to know.
In one occasion, the topic of the differences between Arab and western societies arose. After few sentences, a westerner told me, almost angrily (I am paraphrasing):
“I just do not understand why [Arabs] always compare themselves with us [Westerners]? Who is better and who is worst? How are they better and how are we worst? In my opinion, if you are not violent with me, then I do not care about what you do”.
After hearing the above, I remained silent for a few seconds. It really shocked me! It did not occur to me in the past. Why did not I notice it? Yes, there is always a comparison going on with the west. I do not know of a way to objectively assess this. But I and you, if you are an Arab or have lived in the Arab world, can really have an idea how many times we hear or read sentences that begin with:
“…نحن أفضل من الغرب”
“We are better than the west…”
Frankly, I think that the above sentence is mostly said by Arab Muslims. I am saying this because I remembered what I usually hear from Arab Christians. Do Arab Christians make comparisons with the west? Yes, after 25 years of living in a Christian community, and watching and reading Arab Christian media, I can confidently say that most Arabs Christians do comparisons with the west. However, in a way 180 degrees from their fellow Muslims:
“…الغرب أفضل منا لأن”
“The west is better than us because…”
Arab Christians make the comparison in a more positive way concentrating mostly on the positives of the west. I am not making generalizations for generalizations are always dangerous. But the majority of the followers of each religion would probably fall in the respective category I described. Are you an Arab or have you lived in the Arab world? Did not you notice the same pattern? If you are an Arab Muslim, do you notice the sexual immorality of the western societies? If you are an Arab Christian, do not you feel proud how advanced is the Christian west?
So, the majority of Arab Muslims and Christians compare “Arabs” with the “west”. However, they differ if they see mostly the positives or the negatives of the west. What is the reason behind this difference? I believe that it is because both groups have a similar reason behind their different points of view: Both view the west as being “Christian”.
Arab Christians think: “The west is developed because it is mostly Christian”.
Arab Muslims think: “The widespread immorality in the west is because they are not Muslims”.
So, Arab Muslims and Christians are fond of comparing themselves with the west. In the past, I despised the above comparisons simply because I know that the west, since a long time ago, separated the religion from Politics. If the west is “advanced” or “immoral” (according to Arab standards), then this is the result of secularism. But how many Arabs are convinced that the west is really secular? How many Arab Christians believe that the scientific advancement of the west has nothing to do with them being, or as statistics show, that they were mostly in the past, Christians?
On the other hand, how many Muslims do not view all actions of the west, especially on the political level, as all stemming from rooted hatred to Arabs for being Muslims?
The topic is really complicated. But it can be really solved by Arabs stopping to always make comparisons. Why do not you start working on developing your societies? Why not solve the many problems that you have? The poverty, ignorance, and backwardness of Arabs in this part of history certainly affect almost entirely Arabs, both Christians and Muslims, and not the west!
The above might be very important to some. But this is not the big problem. The big problem is that in my society, the comparisons do not stop at the above large level. When I made a look at my life, then I discovered that there are a lot of comparisons going on in front of me other than the above. Let me start from family level:
1) Siblings between each other.
2) Siblings and their cousins.
3) Cousins and their relatives from the sub-tribe
4) Subtribes of the same tribe: In Smakieh, for example, Khorsan and Sla’een!
5) Tribes with each other: In Smakieh, again, Hijazeen and Akasheh. Hijazeen with other Christian tribes, Christian tribes and Muslims tribes, Muslim tribes and Muslim tribes…
6) Dwellers of neighboring governorates: For example, Karakis and Tafaileh.
7) Dwellers of geographical regions of Jordan: Ahl Al-Shamal and Ahl Al-Janoob (north and south).
8) Jordanians and other Arabs: The most common being Jordanians and Palestinians.
9) Arab Muslims and Arab Christians
10) Sunnis and Shiaas, Orthodox and Catholics, Orthodox and Catholics against Protestants…
I am really sick of that! The above incident really opened my mind to how unhealthy the situation is.
Well, some might argue, in order to improve, you need to compare yourself with others. Yes, this would be constructive. But only if this was done objectively; not for the same of proving how we are better than them (Muslims, Christians, Palestinians, Karakis, Hijazeen, etc). Most importantly, less frequently for God’s sake!
I hope that my fellow Arabs will stop, or at least bring to a minimal, all of these comparisons. At the end, in my opinion, a person, or a group of them whether in a family, subtribe, tribe, governorate, country, etc, should want to improve not in order to become better than X. I should try to improve for the SAKE OF IMRPOVEMENT. In a fashion similar to the following: