In order to properly modernize, you need a stable society, in order to have a stable society you need a civil society, in order to have a civil society you need a society void of Islam.
The Modernization of Middle East is a Sight to See
- In our neck of the woods, that is to say the Middle East, the machinery of state had modernized itself by enhancing its powers and developing new modes of control, manipulation and repression.
- The late Ayatollah Khomeini’s discourse owed more to Lenin and Stalin than to the great Muslim philosophers and theologians of ages. Iran became modernized when Khomeini organized the execution of at least 4,000 people in a weekend, something even the bloodthirsty Agha Muhammad Khan Qajar never imagined doing. Syria became modern when Hafez Al-Assad killed 20,000 people in Hama, something no Umayyad Caliph would imagine doing.
- All we have kept from our traditions is that of denying our own responsibility, blaming it all on others.
In every age intellectuals shape and cling to one concept as the organizing principle for an understanding of the present and speculation about the future. From the end of the 1940s, as the colonial era drew to a close, the fashionable concept was “modernization” and its variants such as “development” and “progress”
But what constituted modernization wasn’t quite clear. Nor after what model should nations aspire in their quest for progress and development.
In the 1970s, the Iranian capital Tehran was a favorite destination for intellectuals from all over the world who wished to test those ideas in a country which had the rare distinction of having never been either a colony or a colonizer, and yet, its leaders had adopted the gospel of modernization with some enthusiasm. For a journalist, the arrival of so many prominent intellectuals, among them people like Gunnar Myrdal, W.W. Rostow, G.K Galbraith, Raymond Aron, Henri Lefebvre, Carlo Schmidt, Talcot Parsons and David Apter, made Tehran the equivalent of a candy store for a child. I had the rare privilege of spending quality time with almost all the visitors both for formal interviews and informal conversations.
Their message was: Hurry up! Modernize!
The theme of modernization was taken up in a series of television debates in Tehran in which the best ways for the Middle East to “enter the modern world” were hotly discussed by intellectuals then fashionable in Iran.
What we didn’t know at the time was the extent to which our “oriental” societies had already become modern by adopting some of the most controversial aspects of the Western model.