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Arab enlightenment battles

February 20, 2014 - 4:47:49 am
Most battles of enlightenment were waged against extremism, radicalism, isolation and in defence of rationalism and basic human rights. The major battle was waged against the desire of some people to denigrate others, expel or marginalise them. 

Recognising others was not part of the human rights culture in predominantly Catholic or Protestant countries. Nevertheless, so much blood was shed on the way of getting rid of this heavy cultural heritage. A large number of innocent people were killed in all sides and everybody was part of the bitter struggle at varying degrees. 

After hundreds of years of experiencing rationalism and modernism in Europe and the bitterness being a thing of past, our Arab and Muslim countries are still experiencing the same scenario. 

It is heading full sail into closed ideologies, severe extremism and open wars where political, religious, ethnic, regional and international considerations are interwoven and mixed. 

The difference, however, is that in the Western hemisphere there were great thinkers and philosophers who waged fierce battles to introduce rationalism and made it possible for enlightenment to win by the end of the day. 

Prussian philosopher Immanuel Kant once said: “Have the courage to use your own reason – that is the motto of enlightenment”. 

Other philosophers underlined the importance of thinking and using one’s intuition. It is worth mentioning what Voltaire has said: “Those who make you believe in what contradicts rationalism, they are also capable of committing atrocities.”

The Arab scene, on the other hand, is still very empty, even after a series of revolutions that swept the region. There is on this scene only a group of intellectuals who serve rulers and keep lauding them. There are also those banging the drums of power, thugs, mercenaries and millions of spectators from the Gulf to the ocean. 

Basic human rights and moral values are being manipulated, and no one values dignity, social justice, constitutions, religious tolerance, civil society and minority rights. All the battles that fought in the past for these things were meaningless and seem to have gone in vain. 

When Kant died, the following phrase was inscribed on his gravestone: “Two things fill my mind with ever-increasing wonder and awe, the more often and steadily we reflect upon them: The starry heavens above me and the moral law within me”.

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