Thursday, 31 March 2011

The Muslim Footballers Complex

History dictates that Arabs are the fathers – or co-fathers, just in case any Greeks are reading this – of modern day science, mathematics, philosophy and astronomy. This was the case mainly during the Islamic era that engulfed the Arab world from 600 AD onwards.

Great scholars like Ibn Sina and Ibn Khaldun were pioneers in their respective fields, and sometimes in other people’s fields too. Yes, apparently they were that good. Universities and schools were an imperative in every city throughout the Islamic empire; more so than water. Education was the one basic foundation that everyone agreed upon.

However impressive these antiquities are, Muslims and Arabs refer to them for the wrong reasons. Mainly to restore some lost pride that’s currently as rare in the Arab world as a middle class.

Arabs lack afflatus; mainly because they’ve succumbed to having ancillary roles even in their own affairs. Advancements in science and technology are always under the auspice of such and such – usually a developed country. World recognized accolades rarely find recipients in the Middle East. Basically, their spotlight moments are limited to conflict and oil prices.

This is worrisome, for anyone. The effects of such underachievement are detrimental, primarily to the psyche. There are numerous effects, many, plentiful, copious, too many to name.

I, personally, have a bone to pick with one effect, just one. I’ve labeled it the “Muslim Footballers Complex”, due to my first acknowledgment of the issue.

A couple of years ago, in the midst of an enthralling football discussion, a friend of mine interrupted the ordeal to point out that Thierry Henry – French international footballer, and ex-captain of Arsenal Football Club – was Muslim. He then went on to mention other members of the France national team and other well known prolific football stars. All of whom he claims were Muslim.

My reaction was “Good on them”. The general reaction however was tending towards total incredulity and content. The fact that many renowned football players were Muslim was a cause for celebration, it seemed.

The discussion swiftly shifted from football to famous Muslims of recent times. Honorable mentions were made; primarily Malcolm X, Ahmed Zewail, and someone surreptitiously made reference to George Galloway, which he got away with.

It is hard to identify the rationale behind this obsession with famous – or to be fair, people with influence – Muslims. Optimistically you’d put your money on the global advancement of Islam. However, I – being hardly ever optimistic – am not going to equivocate or beat around the bush, I presume it’s mainly due to Arabs’ under achievements.

It’s an insecurity no doubt, but insecurities don’t arise ex nihilo.

Contribution to capacity building from the Arab world since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire has been very limited. As a matter of fact, the decline in the Arabs’ productivity was well before that; mainly during the birth of industrialization in the United Kingdom. This was a pivotal point; when development disentangled itself from conquering adeptness and cultural depth, and intermingled with technology.

Technology became the core contributor to development. One can argue that academia plays its part, but academia and technology are synonymous. The Arabs failed to keep up with the ceaseless technological advances of the west. The once bumptious Arabs were lagging technologically and mentally.

Now, it seems, they have conceded their auxiliary global role. Even then, auxiliary only due to the copious amounts of oil that just happened to be there. The mere thought of an oil-less Middle East fashions ominous scenarios.

This, however, doesn’t explain my infamous (not really) “Muslim Footballers Complex”. There seems to be no apposite answer, because Islam has nothing to do with this. Islam is in no way or form an Arab trait. The explanation, it seems, is much simpler.

Modern Arabs have limited desires – mainly due to servitude suffered under repressive regimes – which yield limited outcomes. Their claim to fame is their history, or current Muslim related achievements. It seems Islam is, after all, their only way out of impotence.

Arabs have done very little since Al-Kindi first made his notable mark on philosophical history and Ibn Rushd’s emphatic contribution to Islamic jurisprudence. Arabs are constant victims of western ordinances; and represent repression, corruption and lack of ambition. They’ve been labeled global pariahs

Then, Mohammed Bouazizi said NO!

I do pray and hope that what has been happening in the Arab world eradicates all stereotypes and extricates the oppressed. Otherwise, Mubarak might as well be re-elected in September.

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