'Dictatorships didn't create political Islam, Saudi Arabia did:' George Corm

Mohammed Saad , Friday 12 Feb 2016

Lebanese thinker George Corm, who spoke at Cairo International Book Fair, criticised the attribution of a religious tint to Arabic thought

Lebanese thinker George Corm accused Saudi Arabia of creating political Islam saying that such views, even in their most prominent forms, represented in the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, didn't grow under dictatorial rule.
Corm argued that such views were created in Egypt's most liberal era of the 1920's, the same time that Saudi Arabia was being established and began to promote the Wahabi version of Islam.
Speaking to his audience at Cairo International Book Fair on Sunday, Corm tried to dissect the idea of an "Arab Mind," and the religious character attributed to it by many Arab thinkers such as the late renowned Moroccan thinker, Mohammed Abed El-Gabry.
Corm criticised the idea of an "Arab Mind" that can be spoken of as a formed thing -- that can have ideas extracted from it -- whether it is religious or secular. 
"These ideas work with the presumption that there is a solid static form of Arab thought, and that the Arabs of today are same as the Arabs of pre-Islam, as if the Islamic culture is and was closed in on itself. But history tells us that this is false," Corm argued.
Corm also criticised Samuel Huntington's theory of Clash of Civilisations, describing it as a silly idea that Arab thinkers "fell to as prey."
"These ideas of an 'Arab Mind' are a result of Huntington's theory, which is a silly idea that contradicts every historical fact I know... Mohamed Abed El-Gabry and Anwar Abdel-Malek fell for the theory that gave a pseudo legitimacy to the American adventures in the Middle East," he argued.
Corm, who was born and raised in Cairo until the age of 17, argued in his speech at the fair that Arab culture can't be defined as a religious culture in particular, as it was always open to other cultures and civilizations, especially with coming of Islam. Though he also contended that the merge between culture and Islam damages both at the same time.
"Our culture has been known for its great poetry from Imru' al-Qais until Adonis. The poem's subjects were always mundane -- it was about women, love and music -- but after Islam, our culture became a worldwide civilisation, where science and philosophy blossomed.
"The problem now is that Europe used its heritage and legacy to build its civilization and enlightenment and we didn't, we took the opposite road of progress," Corm said.
"The Islamic and Arab culture has been reduced into a few names of extreme thinkers, like Sayyied Qutb, Ibn Taymiyyah and Abul A'la Maududi, while the leaders of the religious reform movement have been forgotten like there is a gap in our memory," Corm said.
He also added that the Arab cultural cold war has caused a lot of damage as a result of the spread of the Wahabist version of Islam that has been promoted by Saudi Arabia.
A crucial religious reform is a necessity according to the author of "Fragmentation of the Middle East: The Last Thirty Years," who told his audience that freedom starts with the ability to deal with the holy texts, as this is the grand freedom that paves the way to every other freedom.
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