Friday, 10, June, 2005 (03, Jumada al-Ula, 1426)

                        Analyzing the Arab Mindset
                        Abdullah Bajubeer 
                        The popular reaction to the newspaper report about an 
Iraqi farmer shooting down an Apache helicopter some time ago prompted me to 
look more carefully into the Arab way of thinking, particularly the influence 
of superstition on the Arab mindset. I was shocked to find that instead of 
finding logical solutions to the challenges posed by sophisticated 
technological advancement in many areas, the Arab mind seeks refuge in 
solutions based on legends and superstitions. A resistance to the pressures of 
the modern world controlled by reason and logic still lurks in our deepest 
recesses; it prefers to wallow in intellectual lethargy and self-indulgence, 
being content with imported technology without the least effort to develop the 
technology as non-Arab countries are doing and have done.

                        I wonder how a mindset weighed down by legends and 
superstitions can be impressed by contemporary world development based on 
science and technology. Will the rapid and radical changes happening in the 
world help the Arab mind to make a qualitative shift in its thinking style and 
open its doors to a rational and scientific approach? The Arab mind should 
learn how great achievements have been made with the help of science and 
technology so that society found a way to escape the curse of backwardness. An 
intelligent and logical approach to realities will enable us Arabs to throw 
away the superstitious way of thinking which has obstructed our progress over 
centuries. The new approach would also gear us to counter the challenges of the 
changed world more effectively.

                        Dr. Ibrahim Badran and Dr. Salwa Al-Khamash have 
written an excellent book on the Arab mindset. The book gives considerable 
insight into our way of thinking and our actions. The authors define 
superstition as ideas, customs and practices without a rational explanation; 
they have no basis in scientific fact. A superstitious mindset is a mentality 
that attempts to achieve an individual's or group's goals by activities that 
are not based on science or logic. Sometimes information based on logic is not 
enough to free people from the grip of superstitions. Another requirement is a 
social environment free from accumulated and inherited ideas steeped in 

                        A superstitious society will not doubt its power to 
defeat enemies armed with modern weaponry. The freak event of the Iraqi farmer 
armed with a primitive gun felling an Apache helicopter is an instance of how 
reason can be obfuscated by unreason. This single event might have boosted a 
popular belief in superstition, notwithstanding a thousand other instances of 
modern war machines reducing Iraq's defense to rubble. The Arab mind is ready 
to accept anything opposed to science and reason. It is kind of realization of 
a dream or fantasy lying deep somewhere in the dark corner of the subconscious.

                        It is nonsense to believe that a small militant outfit 
with hardly any weapons to match the enemy will succeed in the battle for 
Baghdad only because they are the descendants of Arabs who established mighty 
Islamic empires in the past. They do not acknowledge that present-day realities 
are vastly different from those in their ancestors' times. Superstitions cannot 
defeat science nor can wishful statements in newspapers defuse the fury of 
Patriot missiles or bombs.

                        Dr. Badran and Dr. Al-Khamash also pointed out that a 
society under the influence of superstition will achieve little progress. They 
also said that poor people were more vulnerable to superstitions. I do not 
agree with this view. I believe that the menace is widespread among all classes.

                        Some Arab commanders reportedly consulted a sorcerer in 
order to find out the outcome of the 1967 war with Israel. The uneducated 
charlatan made the graduates of military academies and universities believe 
that they could win the war while the enemy would be routed in the first 
encounter. It might have been under the influence of this prediction that a 
section of the Arab media reported the next day that Israel's 175 fighter 
planes had been shot down in midair in the early hours of the first day of the 
war and the victorious Arab forces were approaching Tel Aviv. The facts, 
however, were rather different: All the military airfields and planes of the 
Arab country were bombed and destroyed by Israel in a matter of six hours after 
the beginning of the war.

                        The Arab media is not altogether free from a similar 
menace. I can produce many instances to prove the hold of superstition on 
journalists and writers. Several of them organize special functions to invoke 
the powers of saints, visit tombs or resort to sorcery. The extent of the 
influence of sorcery on society is evident from the increasing number of 
reports of swindlers who persuade people, particularly the wealthy, to part 
with large sums of money and then they - the swindlers - disappear.

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