He might rue the day he longed for such a renaissance. But Ambassador LeBaron has no doubt imbibed many prevailing historical myths — tolerant Muslim Spain; tolerant Ottoman Empire; 1001 Muslim inventions; the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs is over land, and has nothing to do with Islam’s antisemitism and jihad doctrine; jihad is an interior spiritual struggle, and more — that have led him to this view. No one has told him, and he has never read, about the jihad imperative to wage war against and subjugate unbelievers, or about the fact that non-Muslims have never enjoyed and can never enjoy equality of rights with Muslims in an Islamic state. So absent all that, what’s not to like about an Islamic renaissance?
“U.S. Ambassador Joseph LeBaron: ‘The Arab Spring is the Start of a Long, Uncertain Path to Structural Change in the Middle East,'” from Arabic Knowledge@Wharton, June 28:
[…] Arabic Knowledge@Wharton: What myths about the Middle East has the Arab Spring dispelled?
LeBaron: I think that the biggest myth is the centrality of the Palestinian-Israeli issue to the region. What we saw, first in Tunisia and then elsewhere, was extraordinarily revealing: Arabs focused on Arab issues in Arab states without reference to the United States, or Israel, or foreign policy. The focus was not outward but inward, on governance, the relationship between government and its citizens, on domestic reform associated with government, social justice, human rights, and the freedom of expression. That was extraordinary.
For decades, the assumption both inside and outside the region has been that the key to peace and stability in the region was a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli issue. But what 2011 has showed us is there are other issues of structural importance to peace and security in the Middle East.
Of course, there’s great interest in the Palestinian-Israeli issue throughout the region. But the region moves in response to things far beyond this single issue that so convulses the Levant. If you look at the region, from Morocco to the Gulf, you’ll see that other important forces are at play. We cannot ignore those. […]
Arabic Knowledge@Wharton: Most of the oil-rich Gulf nations are trying to reduce their economic dependence on natural resources. What’s your sense of that transition and where you do see it going?
LeBaron: Let me give you a 30-year perspective. Since I first came to the Gulf in 1980, I have seen the Gulf states pursue a pattern of growth that is leading, whether consciously or unconsciously, towards a highly ambitious goal: a renaissance of Arab and Islamic thought in science and technology. It’s extraordinary, actually. The amazing thing is that both the resources and, increasingly, the vision are there to accomplish this renaissance….