Saturday, December 26, 2009

Bahraini Liberal Author Dhiyaa Al-Musawi: We Hang Our Thinkers on the Gallows of Ideology


Bahraini Liberal Author Dhiyaa Al-Musawi: We Hang Our Thinkers on the Gallows of Ideology. I Listen to Music and Placed Pictures of Jesus and Martin Luther King in My Home.

Following are excerpts from an interview with Bahraini intellectual Dhiyaa Al-Musawi, which aired on Abu Dhabi TV on December 29, 2006.

Dhiyaa Al-Musawi: I do not believe in gallows of ideology. Our problem in the Arab world is that we have many gallows of ideology and of accusations of social betrayal, on which we try to hang an intellectual, a thinker, or a poet every day, just like in the case of Naguib Mahfouz and others. We, I'm sad to say, are against creativity and civilization, and against any language that seeks common ground in society.


We must have the courage to get rid of the "backward" cholesterol of ideology, accumulating in the arteries of Arab awareness and the Arab mind. We suffer from backwardness. This is not masochism - the kind psychologists talk about - acts of self-flagellation. This is the truth. We have not developed even to the point of admitting defeat. We [have to] admit our cultural defeat. In the past, we had a civilization in Andalusia and in many other places, but today we are regressing – we export violence, we terrorize whole countries, we threaten national security, and many other things.


We need to reform and to reshape religious thinking, because, in all honesty, the pulpits of our mosques have begun to "booby trap" the people.

Interviewer: In what way?

Dhiyaa Al-Musawi: They booby trap them by generating hatred towards "the other." We have claimed a monopoly over Paradise, and each of us has recorded it in the land registry in his name.

Interviewer: But the pulpits are under government supervision.

Some of them are under government supervision, but in some Arab countries, although they are under government supervision, the government itself encourages the booby trapping. This problem has political reasons, but who pays the price? The country, society, civil society, and the young man, who is being told that the black-eyed virgins await him at the gates of Paradise, and that all he has to do is kill himself, to slaughter himself. He might blow up his family and children to get the virgins of Paradise. This is the language and culture of death. We were not born into this world in order to die this way. The beauty of Man lies in his living for the sake of his homeland, not in dying while booby trapping others.


In the Arab world, we have religious clerics who are beacons [of knowledge], but I think the problem is that we are constantly intimidating the public. We talk only about Hell, and not about Paradise at all. The Koran is balanced. It talks about the fire of Hell and the fruits of Paradise, but we constantly preach about the horrors of Judgment Day, saying that a bald Satan, or a bald serpent, would visit them in the grave. It is constant terror. It is always a dark picture. Why? That is the problem. Unfortunately, some young men – out of a wrong interpretation of religion... The moment he becomes religious, he ceases to smile and to greet others. He accuses some people of heresy and others of sin. He begins all that discourse. He hates music, and refuses to dress neatly. His mind is abducted into the dungeons of ideology, I'm sad to say.

Interviewer: Let me ask you a question. If a Shiite, or even a Sunni, becomes a religious cleric, yet he listens to music, can the Arab public possibly accept him?

Dhiyaa Al-Musawi: In my view, the Arab disposition suffers from many problems. We have destroyed many things, including the beauty of the general disposition. Music is a beautiful thing...

Interviewer: Do you listen to music?

Dhiyaa Al-Musawi: Yes, I listen to music. I listen to classical music, and I think Beethoven's symphonies are very beautiful. They are among the masterpieces of human art. I believe that music develops the spirit of Man and humbles him. What is wrong with that?


As for the policy of non-violence, I'd like to give you the example of Gandhi, whom I consider a hero. If only we could obtain some of Gandhi's genes, and plant them in the brains of our youth in the Arab world...

Interviewer: In your home, you have pictures of Martin Luther King and Jesus on the wall.

Dhiyaa Al-Musawi: In my home, I put up a picture of Jesus, because whenever I look at his picture, worlds of peace and love open up before me. It was Jesus who said: "Love thy enemies, bless them who curse thee." We need this beautiful language in our society. I also have a picture of Gandhi, whom I consider to be a very fine person, and whose [image] we should plant in the minds of our youth.


Some of us say: "May Allah curse the Jews and the Christians, the offspring of apes and pigs." Is this the language of progress? Is this the language of enlightenment and tolerance? If you had been born in Rome, you would have been Christian, if you had been born in Tehran, you would have been Shiite, and if you had been born in Saudi Arabia, you would have been Sunni, and so on. How wonderful it would be if all these people could gather in love around the table of humanity.


Nations that read more are the nations that are most respected, like the Western nations, where people read... When you travel to Switzerland, everywhere you go - on the bus or wherever - you see people reading books. Do you see such sights in the Arab world?


The problem of the Arab youth is that they do not read. As Gustave le Bon wrote in The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind, the Arab youth sometimes smile while they are taken to the slaughterhouse. Why? Because they lack awareness. We suffer from illiteracy. Today, the Arab world has, according to a U.N. report, close to 70 million illiterate adults – in other words, 70 million people whom you can booby trap, against their country and society, because they do not read.

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