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Arab Schizophrenia By: MEMRI
Memri.org | Thursday, June 22, 2006


In an article titled "Arab Society and Schizophrenia," Iraqi reformist Dr. Abd Al-Khaleq Hussein, who writes on several reformist websites, argues that Arab society suffers from "social schizophrenia," - the symptoms of which are similar to those of individuals suffering from actual schizophrenia. He further argues that the Arab governments must immediately launch social and political reforms which will gradually lead to democracy in the Arab world. If significant reforms are not carried out, he says, disasters will continue to strike the Arab world, and democracy will ultimately be imposed upon it through violent upheavals, as occurred in Iraq. In the article, he also called upon the Arabs to accept the help offered to them by the West - and especially by the U. S. - with the aim of facilitating positive change that will permit them to integrate into the international community.

The following are excerpts from the article: [1]

"This Split Personality Disorder Characterizes Not Only Specific Sectors of Arab Society, But [Also] the Governments, the Institutions of Civil Society, and the [Political] Parties"

"'Schizophrenia' is a word in ancient Greek that means 'split personality'... but it is also used in the social sciences to describe societies afflicted by severe duality in their behavior and their [moral] standards. In fact, if we carefully compare the medical and social forms of this disorder, we will find that the symptoms are very similar...

"Iraqi social scientist Ali Al-Wardi was the first to characterize the Iraqi people as suffering from this severe social illness, which he labeled 'split personality.' According to his theory, Iraqis suffer... from a conflict between the Bedouin values that have been passed down through the generations and the cultural values that the Iraqi society has acquired...

"As an illustration, he presents the example of a young Iraqi who wishes to choose his own wife, just like an enlightened Western man, and to exchange love letters with her,... but when he hears that some other man has similar relations with his sister or cousin, he immediately turns into a 'Bedouin' and murders his beloved sister and her lover...

"This split personality disorder characterizes not only specific sectors of Arab society, but [also] the governments, the institutions of civil society, and the [political] parties, especially the Islamic ones...

"The social and medical forms of this disorder have similar symptoms. The most important of these is delusions from which the patient suffers... For example:"

"Delusions of Grandeur"

"A [schizophrenia] patient believes that he is exceptional and that others should treat him as though he is an important person. The Arabs also believe that they are more important than others in every respect. They [believe that they] are the best among nations..., and regard other nations with contempt. They acknowledge no religion [but their own] and are unwilling to coexist peacefully with other religions. [They believe] that their faith is the only faith that mankind should embrace, and that whoever fails to embrace it is an infidel.

"In other words, all other religions are heathen, heretical and fabricated, and their followers should abandon them and embrace the Arabs' religion - Islam. If they fail to embrace Islam, the Muslims are entitled to wage war upon them, to kill their men or convert them by force, to take their women hostage, to sell their children in the slave market and to plunder their property...

"This disparaging view applies not only to non-Muslims, but also to other schools of thought within Islam. Each Islamic school of thought is full of contempt and hostility towards the others. The Salafis and Wahhabis, for example, are convinced that the Shiites must be killed, and that whoever kills them will be rewarded in the world to come..."

"Paranoia"

"A schizophrenia patient believes that others are plotting against him with the aim of harming and killing him, even though he hasn't a shred of evidence to prove this. This is exactly what happens with the Arabs, who are addicted to conspiracy theories. Whenever a disaster befalls them, they claim that it was brought about by a 'hostile Western Crusader-Zionist' conspiracy. They [say this] without bothering to think rationally and determine the true causes for their defeat...

"A schizophrenic imagines that people have nothing better to do than to talk about him, gossip about him, and plot against him. Consequently, he lives in a constant state of intense doubt and suspicion towards others, including the people closest to him, such as his wife, whom he suspects of cheating on him... The patient believes that even broadcasts on TV or on the other media are directed personally at him.

"This is exactly what happens in the Arab society with respect to foreign ideas and books. No society places books and ideas under siege the way Arab society does. Arab airports and sea ports are known for seizing books from the passengers. The Arabs are famous for translating the fewest books and for showing the greatest hostility towards the foreign sciences, to which they refer contemptuously... as 'imported ideas.' In addition, no people burn books and persecute intellectuals with more gusto than the Arabs."

"Somatic Delusions"

"The patient imagines strange and illogical things, for instance that foreign bodies are moving inside him, even though there is no evidence to suggest this. Similarly, Arab societies and governments suffer from the illness of [constantly suspecting] espionage by foreign agents. This is why the Arab jails are full of political prisoners and oppositionists accused of spying for other [countries]. In the eyes of the Arab governments and societies, the political opposition and the liberal intellectuals are traitors and agents of foreign intelligence [apparatuses]..."

"Disorganized Speech"

"A [schizophrenic] patient's speech makes no sense. There is no connection between the sentences, and the hearer or reader cannot understand what [the patient] means to say. The Arab societies display the same symptom - [it is] even [displayed by] people who present themselves as intellectuals and writers. We read them with the hope of understanding what they mean to say, but to no avail... And when you dispute [their claims], they say that the problem lies not with the writer but with the reader, since he is shallow and insufficiently educated, and that is why he fails to understand the ideas of the important writers and intellectuals..."

"Loss of Human Feeling"

"This is another phenomenon spreading through the Arab societies. Unrestrained terrorism and cold-blooded butchering of innocent people in front of the TV cameras provide [further] indisputable proof that Arab society is afflicted with this dangerous disease. It should be noted that the famous religious scholar Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradhawi advised to refrain from showing the killings on TV. This means that he supports these acts, but advises not showing them in this manner, since they give Islam and the Muslims a bad reputation. In the eyes of some, this makes Al-Qaradhawi a moderate cleric."

"The Patient Loses the Ability to Enjoy Activities He Enjoyed in the Past"

"This is also true of the Arab society today. During the course of their history, the Arabs used their powers of reasoning and exercised independent judgment in religious ruling [ijtihad]... in order to find rational solutions for existing problems. But a few hundred years ago... the gates of ijtihad were shut, the mind was shut down, and [clerics] began to rely exclusively on what was said by the founding fathers [of Islam] over 1,400 years ago, even if their solutions were inapplicable to contemporary problems..."

"Inactivity and Lethargy"

"Schizophrenia patients spend most of their time in idleness or slumber. Laziness,... sleepiness, fatalism and lack of productivity are also widespread in the Arab countries. A study published a number of years ago found that a Western worker is five times more productive than an Arab worker..."

"Loss of Zest for Life"

"This is a well-known tendency in Arab society. As bin Laden said in his address to the West, 'you love life, while we thirst for death.' This is an integral part of Arab heritage... This is why preachers in the mosques glorify death [in their sermons] to young people, [teach] them to hate life, and encourage them to carry out jihad terrorist operations..."

"Isolation From the World"

"Schizophrenia patients prefer to live in isolation from the rest of the world, and spend most of their time alone, detached from other people. They are uninterested in the company of friends and relatives, are unable to form friendships with other people or to maintain previous friendships, and do not care that they have no friends.

"All these symptoms are also prevalent in the Arab society, and are due to faulty education from an early age. Most textbooks for children and youth teach hatred towards others, and [encourage the reader] to avoid the company of non-Muslims. More than that, [they instruct the reader] to avoid greeting a non-Muslim, and, if greeted by a non-Muslim, to reply in an aloof and contemptuous manner. [They also teach that] if you shake hands with a non-Muslim, you must afterwards wash your hands. Directives of this sort are published by all religious schools - even by moderate clerics, and certainly by extremist ones.

"Arab culture also encourages isolation from the world. The world is divided into two camps: 'believers' and 'infidels'... Sheikh Al-Islam ibn Taymiyya encouraged [the Muslims] to hate the unbelievers, saying: 'When you spend time in the camp of the unbelievers - for purposes of medical [treatment], study or trade - harbor hostility towards them in your heart.'..."

"Denial of the Disease"

"Schizophrenia patients deny that they are ill, and believe that they are completely well. They are hostile towards anyone who tries to treat them or wishes to help them. Similarly, the Arabs are unaware of the duality in their behavior and standards, and do not realize that they are backward and require immediate treatment in order to overcome their backwardness and [to avoid] the disasters that befall them. Anyone who tries to draw their attention to their own backwardness... is accused of treason and of being a foreign agent, usually [an agent of] the 'imperialists,' 'Crusaders.' or 'Zionists.' Consequently, intellectuals have been persecuted in Arab countries throughout the ages..."

"Mental Paralysis"

"A [schizophrenia] patient is utterly convinced that his notions are correct, to the point of [mental] paralysis... The same [phenomenon] is also widespread in the Arab society, which believes that only its own culture and notions - which have been handed down from generation to generation - are valid, and tries to eliminate those who think differently... [Schizophrenia] patients are unable to understand abstract ideas according to their context, and take everything literally....

"A similar situation exists in Arab society, which cannot differentiate among various situations. Occupation of one country by another is a vile thing, but there are exceptional cases in which the occupation is necessary since it is for the good of the occupied country. This is true for Iraq, and for Europe during the Second World War. But Arab society regards the liberation of Iraq from an extremely vile, fascistic regime as an [act of] colonialism aimed at plundering [Iraq's] treasures and killing its people…"

Al-Zarqawi, bin Laden, and Al-Zawahiri Could Not Have Perpetrated Their Atrocities Without Extensive Popular Support

"Some may object [to my arguments], asking why I take the behavior of a single individual, a handful of people, or a group, [and present it] as the behavior of entire nations. Why do I ascribe the behavior of Al-Zarqawi, bin Laden or Al-Zawahiri to all Arabs? Why do I present the sin of one cleric as the sin of all clerics?

"[But] the truth is that what happened in Algeria and what is currently happening in Iraq and in other parts of the Arab world does not result from the deviant behavior of individuals, but from general behavior that is inevitably caused by [our] culture.

"Barbaric acts of mass murder were rampant in Algeria, with the number of victims reaching a quarter of a million. School girls were murdered for not wearing the veil. The murders carried out by 'jihad fighters' in Iraq have come to symbolize [the general situation there], which is condoned by Arab societies.

"Needless to say, Al-Zarqawi, bin Laden and Al-Zawahiri could not have perpetrated all these atrocities without extensive popular support, without constant recruitment [of new jihad fighters], and without the cultural and ideological support that is [ingrained] in the [Arab] heritage and education. Surveys conducted in a number of Arab countries showed that the majority supports the Al-Qaeda terrorist organization, and that bin Laden himself enjoys great popularity, especially in the Gulf countries…"

If Arab Governments Do Not Begin to Lead Their Peoples Towards Democracy, History Will Force It on Them

"Based on the above, I believe that Arab societies… suffer from duality in their standards, their views, and their behavior, and require immediate treatment if they want to heal, to overcome their backwardness, and to live in peace with the international community…

"Obviously, it is difficult to change the people's entire outlook overnight, especially when the governments constitute an obstacle to reform. The process is difficult and will take a long time, but there is nothing to prevent it from starting today… The ball is in the court of the Arab governments, who must understand the reasons for their backwardness and the backwardness of their people.

"The problem with these governments is that they have always objected, and still object, to gradual and peaceful development… [which occurs naturally] in the course of history. Democracy is the order of the day, and if the Arab governments do not begin to gradually lead their peoples towards democracy, history will force it on them through violent [upheavals], as occurred in Iraq...

"It should be noted that over 200 years ago, the Western peoples went through what the Arab peoples are experiencing now. They managed to resolve their problems, to build an advanced civilization, and to make economic, social, scientific and technological progress - but [this happened] only after reason was liberated from [the shackles of] fairytales and lies, [and after they] separated religion and state, established regimes that were secular, liberal and democratic, and gave freedom of speech and thought to [their] intellectuals."





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