This post asks why the Arab world is so backwards, not Arabs. So for those looking for a racist post attacking Arabs, go somewhere else.
While Arabs are, of course, innately no different than other people, their region has fallen behind the rest of the world and is incredibly backwards. Arabs has prospered outside of the region, Arab-Americans and Arab-Brazilians, for instance, are incredibly successfully. But why can’t Arabs duplicate this success in the Arab world? Why is Arab achievement – as often the case – only possible in the Americas and the West?
A recent UN development report on the region makes for sobering and very depressing reading:
– If one takes out the export of oil, over 20 Arab countries with over 360 million people between then export less products to the world than tiny Belgium with only 10 million people.
– Spain’s GDP is larger than the entire Arab world combined.
– 360 million Arabs have a smaller manufactoring capacity than 5-million-people Finland.
– Greece with just 11 million people translates more books than the entire Arab world. The Arabs have fallen behind in the attainment of knowlegde. More books are translated into Spanish in one year than have been translated into Arabic over the past few centuries.
– No a single Arab nation is a established democracy.
– Arabs have the highest rate of government revenue as percentage of GDP and highest rates of youth unemployment.
– Not a single Arab university ranks in the top 500 compared to several in tiny Israel.
These are incredibly dismal statistics. The sad fate of the Arabs will only get worse in years to come if radical reform is not enacted. By 2020, the region needs to create 51 million jobs just to offer its youth opportunity for a better future. How the Arabs will create so many jobs in a decade given the current state of their economies is beyond any responsible estimation.
The region is backwards and horribly so? But why? A fashionable theory is that Islam – after ushering in the golden age of scientific and litrary achievements – then stifled innovation and critical thinking. But this is false since Turkey is 99% Muslim and under a midly Islamist government while its economy is booming.
The Arab world has fallen behind due to two key factors: tyranny and oil.
1) Tyranny: Arab dictatorship has rendered critical thinking a thing of the past. Arab education is little more than memory thinking. Schools rarely encourage thoughtful debates or innovation as dictatorships care more about keeping their population dumb and timid than about fostering an creative society. The tyranny in the Arab world also often ensures that the best minds feel to a free place and the Arab world offers no such free place.
2) Oil: A mixed blessing. It has lead to renter-economies whereby the regimes paying their citizens money, and then the citizen stays quite and, furthermore, often does not pursue a productive life. Why should he went the welfare cheques are so big? 70% of Saudi students graduate with degrees in Islamic theology. The region that not need that many Islamic jurists. It needs scientists, engineers, and so on. But the former degree is easy to get and the welfare cheques provided by oil-rich Gulf countries have made their people lazy and poorly skilled that they have to import labor from relatively skilled nations like Tunisia and Lebanon.
There are many other factors, but I believe these two are the biggest causes for the backwardness of the region. The Arab world needs to wake up and accept responsibility for its plight. Stop blaming the West and stop blaming Israel, and look and think about the world they want their children to inherit.
The condition right now is just sad. But it is not too late for an Arab renaissance.