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Meet witnesses vibrant discussion on reform

Meet witnesses vibrant discussion on reform
Web posted at: 4/15/2006 3:22:13
Source ::: The Peninsula

Doha: Existing Arab regimes are not sincere about bringing in democracy in their countries since they are not permitting political parties to be set up.

The option to have a secular polity should also be considered by Arab societies, but no Arab intellectual has so far raised the issue of separating the state from religion.

People continue to be oppressed across the Arab world as tyrannical regimes remain in the saddle.

Unless the situation improves drastically and people are given the right to political and self-expression, it would be hard to combat extremism.

Arab intellectuals are getting increasingly isolated from social mainstream since they are siding with the powers that be.

The US wants to hit at the root-cause of terrorism, but is simultaneously backing tyrannical regimes in the Arab world.

On this issue, the US administration is being opposed by its own people.

There are chances of Islamists coming to power in many Arab countries if free and fair elections are held.

These were some of the major views put forward by prominent speakers and participants at the concluding session of the 6th Doha Forum on Democracy Development and Free Trade here on Thursday.

The session discussed 'Reform in the Arab World' and speakers included Dr Mohamed Al Rumaihi from Kuwait, Saad Eddien Ibrahim, from Ibn Khaldoun Centre, Egypt; Dr Baqer Al Najjar, from the University of Bahrain; Dr Glen Rangwala, from Cambridge University; Dr Ibtisam Al Ketbi, from University of Al Ain; and George Salem, chairman of Arab American Institute, USA.

"Let democracy come to the Arab world through whatever means and in whatever form," said Ibrahim.

It does not matter if democracy is brought by the US war planes, British military tanks, Indian elephants, camels from the Arab world or donkeys from Egypt, he said. "What we urgently need is democracy."

There are no indications that existing leaders in the Arab world are serious about introducing real reforms," said Dr Ibtisam Al Ketbi.

The rulers are controlling political movements and those leading the movements face threats of punishment, she said.

She said that diktat from Washington will not change the political and social scenario in the Arab world overnight.

The US interest in seeing democracy in the region is short term.

Education reform in the Arab world is a pre-condition to bringing in social and political change. The focus on education in the Arab world is on memorising and not on critical thinking, said George Salem.

Qatar has taken a lead in this regard by establishing campuses of various US universities, he said.

There is a need to have independent judiciary, he said adding that the War on Iraq will be a key issue in the US presidential poll in 2008.

Arab countries are the only region in the world which lacks democracy, said a member of the audience during the question and answer session.

Another questioner said that there was the need to separate the state from religion (church) but lamented that so far no intellectual in the Arab world had raised this issue.

Dr Hasan Al Ansari, Director of Gulf Studies Centre, one of the main organisers of the forum along with Qatar's Foreign Ministry, was the moderator.

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