Why are Islamic countries behind in time?

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Why are Islamic countries behind in time?

Opinion By Dr. Cuneyt Ulsever


The chairman of Religious Affairs in Turkey -- definitely a devout Muslim himself -- made recently a very honest observation about Islamic countries. He simply said, "Islamic countries are backward compared to the Western world." He demanded that we should discuss the reasons behind this simple but true observation. The chairman, Mr. M. Nuri Yilmaz, is definitely right and we must hope that Islamic countries at last now start questioning why they are backward.

My answer to the explanation of the problematic is directly related to the "mode of thinking" dominant in these countries. The mode of thinking in general starts with the realization of man that there is a world -- an environment -- beyond him. The way one can realize his existence is through the realization that there are "objects" other than him. A person can only realize that he can feel pain after an outside object hits and hurts him. Therefore "thinking" starts with onthology, i.e. to realize that there are also other created things around us, -- me and the other things! In fact, religions are attempts to grasp the cosmos in her totality, explaining ones existence together with the existence of other things.

The need to explain the basic questions of existence, i.e. "who am I?", "What is my surrounding?", "where do I come from?", "where do I go?" can be answered in two ways according to the religions:

a) God gave us wisdom, we must find the answers ourselves.

b) God created everything and gave us answers in religious books. Let us just trust his answers, i.e. dogmas.

I must confess that outside of some Islamic philosophers who even discussed the existance of God in time, Muslims in general come from a tradition of "explaining by dogmas." This mode of thinking in the Islamic countries is dominantly based on "devout belief." The mode of thinking is not in general based on "reasoning."

The negative outcome of "reasoning by dogmas" is twofold:

i) You cannot command cosmos. Cosmos commands you. You cannot reap the outcomes of the scientific discoveries as you are not involved with scientific research.

ii) You cannot enjoy democracy where everybody has the right to make his own decision. There will always be "authorities" which will explain the dogmas to you. You have to trust but not question the authorities.

We must accept that most of the Islamic countries are under the guidance of "dogmas" and the "authorities" which have the monopoly of communicating the dogmas to the ignorant masses! We Turks are proud that we are different but we should not exaggerate the differences. As the only Islamic country in the world whose regime is republic and run by a seemingly democratic and secular system, thus opening doors for reasoning; we also have a long way to go before we reach the age of wisdom.

Thus, I hope that the tragedy of Sept, 11, at the beginning of the 21st century:

a) Teach the Western world that, in order to enjoy the benefits of globalization, they have to share resources more evenly with the rest of the world. They have to share more equally for their own sake,

b) But the Islamic world should also learn that even if the world is more equally shared, they have a big homework to do in order to deserve what they demand from the rest of the world.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), October 16, 2001

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