Marcus Cicero famously said: “To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child.” Upon contemplation of this quote, one really does realize the importance of history, for our present and our future. Today, in most of the Arab World it would seem history has been manipulated by a certain group to enforce its ideology on the masses, and in a way that is dangerous, toxic, and most importantly, deadly. This manipulation of historical facts, reminds me of how the downfall of Andalusia, whether from teachers, or people outside schools. The reality is similar to what we witness today.
Growing up, and I am sure many would remember, as Arabs we were told that Andalusia crumbled because Andalusians “forgot Islam”, and that “the heretics destroyed it, because Andalusia was Muslim.” No one ever mentioned the Al Moravid Dynasty (al-Murabitun ), which held similar (if not identical) views to what we call today as extremist Muslims. The Moravids loathed the more advanced and sophisticated city-states of Andalusia, such as Cordoba, Granada, and other cities, as they saw them opulent, and un-Islamic. As any extremist group we have today, the Moravids ceased the opportunity to wreck havoc in many parts of Andalusia, such as burning libraries, destroying magnificent monuments, in an attempt to erase whatever they could from the more cultured Andalusian heritage. The irony, as always the case with such groups, is once the Moravids took control of some parts of Andalusia they lived in opulence, without the advancements in of Andalusia. The monuments we see today in Spain, is thanks to the “non believers” Isabella and Ferdinand, which saw those monuments as part of their new kingdom’s heritage. It is important to note, nearly 900 years later, the mentality of the Moravids still exists, and sadly, being nurtured.
The Mohads Dynasty (Al Mowahideen), unlike the Moravids, took great interest in science, humanities, culture and arts. This interest and investment in those fields, gave us the likes of Ibn Rushd, Maslama, Abulcasis among others, who contributed to many scientific advancements we have today. While the Mohads focused on development of the human, and as Ibn Khaldoun said, “once humans satisfy their animalistic needs, food, drink … he is urged to satisfy his mental needs through knowledge…” The Moravids were busy using propaganda against them, using religion as a motive to bring about their destruction. This conflict of ideologies was not restricted to Andalusia, but also within famous scholars outside Andalusia. While Ibn Rushd stressed the importance of science and philosophy, Al Ghazali, who lived in Persia at the time, considered math and science as the total opposite of religion, and the language of the devil. In all this, we can draw comparisons to our present time.
Today, and because of such historic manipulation, many resort to pseudo scholars such as Yousif Al Qaradawi that have influence on many, especially the youth, promising eternal paradise when following him. Qaradawi is the same person that gave the religious credence for suicide bombing. He is, more importantly, the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, and many others who are practicing Muslims even if they do not adhere to the philosophical doctrine of the Muslim Brotherhood. To those people, his word is indisputable, only coming short to calling him god, and it is for this reason anyone that criticize Qardawi can be considered by his followers as sacrilegious, and this accusation to his followers, gives the justification to kill. It had happened to me many times on social media. While he is only one example of many of his likes that spew hateful, toxic, and inciting violence, he is by far the most prominent. In the past, such people had mosques and books to spread their vile ideology, however, today there are two far more powerful and far more reach to spread the ideology: visual media and social media.
Qaradawi, and many of his likes, have a powerful platform to ensure their ideas reach the masses, wrapped with his religious seal, according to their terms. Al Jazeera Arabic, funded and own by the government of Qatar, has allowed some of the most despicable rhetoric to be aired by such groups since its inception nearly 20 years ago. They have systematically, and purposefully, instilled extremist and sectarian ideologies into the minds of Al Jazeera viewers, with the promise of everlasting paradise, with more often than not, justifying martyrdom and suicide for that end. Effectively, they waged a war on rational thought, science, education, and any means that would give humans the tools to build a better future. It is only permitted, to pursue such disciples under their religious permission. Such examples, and there many more enough to write an encyclopedia, suffice for all of us to take action.
It is no coincidence that the single most ambitious project in the Arab World today, probably since the building of the Pyramids, is called “The Hope Mission to Mars”. Hope, because the leadership in the UAE sees this program as bringing a brighter, better, hopeful future to the entire region. A future that will reject and stand up against such hateful and sectarian ideologies allowed and encouraged on Al Jazeera, and similar mediums. While Al Ghazali would probably side with Al Qaradawi, the UAE Space Program would have been a project supported by Ibn Khaldoun, who was an advocate of rational thinking. “A human could have wheat, but would been milling, and milling would need tools that need manufacturing, and manufacturing would need cooperation.” Reaching Mars is the easy part, as others have done, however, to fully benefit from the spill over effect of a space program, we will need education (specifically STEM education), and that will need minds not consumed by violence and hate, and this brings us to current events.
Recently, when the quartet of Arab countries decided to boycott Qatar, it was out the necessity to stop allowing such speech to be freely aired, which in turn, has, and will continue, to harm us all. The frustration of those countries with Al Jazeera goes a long way back, and many objections have been brought to the attention of the government of Qatar, to no avail. With such hatred allowed to reach millions of viewers, but more dangerously, giving many of them religious clout to commit horrendous atrocities, on Muslims and others, hope will become a distant dream. To keep hope alive, with all the benefits all humans can capitalize on, groups such as Muslim Brotherhood, and their platforms, must be rejected and ultimately eliminated. While we do live in the 21st century, nevertheless, history has always, and will remain, to repeat its self. Let us not forget what the Moravids did to the treasures of knowledge accumulated over 8 centuries in Andalusia, as the Moravid ruler, Tashfin ibn Ali who ordered the burning of such knowledge wherever found. To defeat such ideologies we must cut off avenues to communicate freely, as a first step.