HRS International

What we can learn from Saudis

A leading Saudi speaks some home truths about the West and the Arab world. The West’s cultural elite would do well to listen up.

By Bruce Bawer, HRS

He says that Arabs are infected by a herd mentality and thus “incapable of independent thinking, and of benefitting from the culture of others.” They might follow the example of Japan and learn from the “rich experience” of the West, which has so much to teach about “the value, liberties, and dignity of human beings, as well as…the development of science, of technology, and of life”; but instead they’ve persisted in being a “burden” on the rest of humanity, mulishly insisting that they have nothing to learn from others when in fact they “have nothing to offer others.”

Who’s talking here? Geert Wilders? Or maybe that German guy – Thilo Sarrazin – who published that explosive book about Islam last year? Nope. The speaker is Ibrahim al-Buleihi, who is, of all things, a former member of the Saudi national legislature, the Shura Council.

As far as I can recall, I’d never heard of this remarkable man until a few days ago, when I followed a Facebook link to a February 2010 interview that somebody posted on You Tube. I was so awed to hear a Saudi Arabian leader say such things that I looked the guy up on Wikipedia. That entry led me to other You Tube videos, including a 2006 interview in which he pointed out that terrorists should not be considered “deviant” but, rather, as “the product of our [Arabic] culture,” which he called “a culture of tyranny.” In another interview, from 2005, Buleihi observed that “Arabs and Muslims….have become innovative in the field of beheading, in the field of killing and in the field of bombing. These are the fields we are most innovative in.” Asked about “the moral collapse of the West,” he replied: “What moral collapse?” The West’s “moral values,” he said, “are lofty. Their humanism is strong. It is most wonderful.”

Buleihi elaborated on these thoughts in a 2009 print interview:

If it were not for the accomplishments of the West, our lives would have been barren….

There is no one reason, there are a thousand reasons, which all induce me to admire the West and emphasize its absolute excellence in all matters of life. Western civilization is the only civilization that liberated man from his illusions and shackles; it recognized his individuality and provided him with capabilities and opportunities to cultivate himself and realize his aspirations. [Western civilization] humanized political authority and established mechanisms to guarantee relative equality and relative justice and to prevent injustice and to alleviate aggression. This does not mean that this is a flawless civilization; indeed, it is full of deficiencies. Yet it is the greatest which man has achieved throughout history. [Before the advent of Western civilization,] humanity was in the shackles of tyranny, impotence, poverty, injustice, disease, and wretchedness.

It’s nothing short of stunning, of course, to read such comments by a contemporary Saudi leader. But it shouldn’t be. Buleihi isn’t doing anything more here than speaking the truth. It’s a truth, to be sure, that runs counter to the propaganda Arabs have been fed all their lives, and that – for reasons Buleihi himself adduces – is tough for many Arabs to swallow. But, as he knows, it’s also a truth that Arabs need to accept and address if they’re to stand any hope of dragging the Arab world into the twenty-first century.

It’s heartening to know that such a man exists in Saudi Arabia. What isn’t heartening is that you can’t easily imagine an Arab Muslim in a position of authority anywhere in the Western world saying such things. Instead, what we’ve got in the West are U.S.-based grievance-mongers and jihad-whitewashers like Ibrahim Hooper of CAIR and Ingrid Mattson of the Islamic Society of North America, who glorify Arab and Muslim culture while charging the West with Islamophobia. We’ve got the unbearable slickness of Tariq Ramadan, that dissembling, double-talking Trojan horse for the Muslim Brotherhood. And here in Europe we’ve got a profusion of unsavory imams and Islamic pressure groups, all of which look for guidance to the European Fatwa and Research Council, headed by jihad apologist and sharia-booster Yusuf al-Qaradawi – whose view of the moral stature of the West is 180 degrees removed from Buleihi’s.

But that’s not the worst of it. What’s truly tragic isn’t that few if any prominent Arab Muslims in the West would agree with Buleihi – it’s that most non-Muslim movers and shakers in the West wouldn’t agree with him, either. Some, quite simply, hate the West. They’ve read their Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky and have learned to view the West – America especially – as the fount of all modern evil. Others, while perhaps not despising their own culture, are devout multiculturalists for whom the idea of exalting one civilization over any other is a heresy. And some, even if they are rather happy to be living in the Western world, consider themselves far too sophisticated to ever express their pleasure in language as unguarded as Buleihi’s.

Indeed, in today’s U.S., the closest you’re likely to come to rhetoric like Buleihi’s is in red-state election-campaign oratory; in most parts of Western Europe, meanwhile, you’d have to search long and hard to find such rhetoric anywhere.

At root, indeed, the reason why Europe is in such trouble these days – and, increasingly, this applies to America, too – is that the folks roaming its corridors of power aren’t famous for their sincere, deeply held belief in the worthiness of the West and its institutions but for their principled determination not to see Western civilization as better in any way than any other. It’s because they lack Buleihi’s appreciation for their own culture’s values that they’re so incapable of defending it from the day-to-day “soft” jihad perpetrated by partisans of his culture. Perhaps, come to think of it, the solution to the West’s crisis is to ship the entire Western cultural elite and political class to Saudi Arabia for a couple of years. Maybe that’s the only thing that would teach them to appreciate what they’ve got as much as Buleihi does – and to take seriously their obligation to protect it from a threat with which Buleihi is all too familiar.