Watching the West

For centuries Muslims have been amazed of the West


Watching the West
by Ben Madadi

One of the very huge problems confronting progress in the Middle East is the problem of confusing administration with the purpose of life, society, or humanity. This is not necessarily a result of administrative Islam for more than a thousand years, but Islam has definitely had a significant impact too. We shall not forget that Islam was a positive administrative tool until recently, about some 300-500 years ago, when it started to show its inability to challenge the West!

Islamic administration, with its central and unifying elements, created empires that not only conquered land but also gave the world the most advanced scientific, architectural, and cultural movements of the time, by far exceeding whatever could at time emerge in the Christian world. These advancements partly forced the Christian world to ponder its situation, and somehow, for some reasons, the West, at some point, stood up, looked around, took off, roared, and never looked back! Muslims watched in amazement, and they are still watching, never really understanding what happened, and they still largely do not understand what happened.

More than three centuries passed by and Muslims are still watching the West with amazement. Conspiracy theories have appeared all over the place, they have re-appeared, re-appeared, re-formulated, re-shaped, re-thought, and are still in process, somehow trying to justify something, the shame, the amazement, the incompetence, and the impotence, and the belittling that is going on and on and on, never seeming to show any sign of ending.

The start of the Western modern progressive movement, what is known as the Renaissance, took place when the West was in its worst shape in more than a millennium, in terrible turmoil, with the Ottoman Turks threatening to delve much deeper into some of the most prised Christian territories. Here is what I find as a striking resemblance with where the Muslim world is standing today, compared to where the Christian world stood almost 5 centuries ago. Let's not exaggerate this, and let's not generalise! The comparison can be a limited one, more from a social point of view rather than any other. But the social side is what drives the rest, in a more global and long-term perspective. Today the Muslim world is indeed in a very bad shape, humiliated and poor, unable to do almost anything in the face of an extremely powerful Western civilisation.

While some of the most important topics of debate among the Iranian net addicts, and the blogsphere, seem to be about democracy (where it is not about treason and conspiracy) the real changes are taking place not among the Iranians, or in Iran, but in Turkey and in parts of the Arab world. Unfortunately, we as Iranians, did our bit a while ago, and Khomeini was just ready enough to decapitate whatever intelligentsia was truly, excitingly, capable of having any seriously positive effect on the Iranian community probably for more than a couple of generations. And Khomeini's acts are still shadowing the opportunities that the Iranian community can take.

Where is this glimmer of hope for the Islamic world, especially for the Middle East? Turkey is quite understandably a clear-cut country with boundaries and everything else that can be defined, but the more confusing, but also much more interesting, side of this Islamic Renaissance is not Turkey (with its steadily stabilising and strengthening democracy) but the Persian Gulf Arab states, the UAE, Qatar, and what is more recently emerging as the new Iraq. Oil-rich Arab states are finding the path to worldly affairs out of pure luck, just like England, and some other Western European countries, did with their opportunities in commerce, especially through their newly discovered maritime strengths.

While the rest of the Muslim world, like Lebanon, Palestine, Iran and Afghanistan, or Sudan have serious difficulties in everything that can define their economies, politics, or social affairs, whether among each other, or with the neighbours, enemies or friends, some Arab countries are moving very quickly toward a very different world, a distantly more civilised and modern one from all points of view, starting to believe in their strengths and also showing to other Muslims that they are not only lucky (because of oil), but also smart (in using their oil money for investments in infrastructure and education), without compromising anything that defines them, while staying Muslims. Such signs of economic and social hope are also arising from Egypt, Jordan and Morocco, and steadily finding foothold in other Islamic countries.

People don't seem to pay enough attention to these positive issues but soon we shall not be surprised to see more and more Arab nations joining the smart club, and actually succeeding in it. And the best hope remains Iraq (because of its vast oil reserves), not just to other Arab countries, but also for Iran and Iranians. Unfortunately Iran has some of the worse political and social conditions among Muslim countries, probably along Sudan, where confrontational attitudes, and the neglect of progressive policies are still the favourite of the ruling classes, especially with the oil that is proving to be a curse, when in the hands of ruthless individuals and cliques.


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David ET

I respectfully disagree

by David ET on

Dear Ben

I agree with some of the readers that there was (and is ) no such thing as Islamic civilization. Islamic rulers simply conquered many much more advanced civilizations of the time and naturally after being conquered such civilizations continued to present themselves within the limits that they now had under the central empire of the "Islamic" rulers. Islam came from Bedouin Arab Peninsula and in reality Islam was the beneficiary of the intellect of the nations that it conquered and not vice versa!!

On another note, I also think that the presumption that Khomeini was all responsible is too simplistic. He did not become a beneficiary of the revolution in a vacuum. Khomeini was the product of the majority SHIA masses (98%) financed by the Shia financial elite of Bazaar and justified by their educated children confused with flawed philosophies of those such Ali Shariati's.

It was a national experience and error!  Think of how German population believed in Hitler's Nazi philosophy for a while and how dearly they paid for it but the final result was a smarter nation who knows better today....

As horrible as the Shia-Iranian "Islamic Republic" experience has been but in the historical perspective, which that our generation may not be a full beneficiary of, the new and next generations are and will be much wiser than the ones the preceded them (us) in the path they will take.

The imported technology of the "Persian Gulf" Emirates or imported governments such as Iraq and Afghanistan are not substitutes for true historical understanding of democracy through trial and errors.

I wrote to a friend in an email earlier this week and I repeat it here too:

"Democracy is a seed that needs water, sun, good weather, time and constant care and it is only then that we can enjoy its flowers and fruits. It is only then that we can lay under its shade and enjoy its beauty for years to come. Democracy can not be imported, planted nor forced...”

Keep up the good work..



by Kurdish Warrior (not verified) on

interesting article..

Ben Madadi


by Ben Madadi on

I don't see it as fruitful to blame Islam for Iran's ills. It is much more reasonable and correct to blame the Iranian regime!



by Zion on

Dear Ben,
I know we see this somewhat differently. I have respect for differences of opinion of this sort. That is why it is good to have debates. :-)
My point is the Europeans did not adopt any Islamic worldview to change. What they got were translations of old texts and new commentaries written on them. The reason they even started to look for them and absorb them is what had already started the engine. It was a slow reemergence of free inquiry. The defeats of the Crusade had more to do with it than any Islamic influence.

I don`t know why you exclude Turkey. Turkey is the nearest any muslim land has come to freedom and progress. Deep and constant progress with secularism and the atmosphere of freethought that allows gradual growth. I see nothing of the sort in Persian Gulf Arab states.

Fred, you point is well taken. Persian Gulf as you said has always been the official name in both Israel and the US, unlike the islamic brothers of the IRI. One more reason why the current situation is so unnatural, and thus dangerous. It shows how deranged the entire outlook of the regime in Iran is. What other crazy stances will it take if given the power?


The "golden age" of Islam is

by asdf (not verified) on

The "golden age" of Islam is a pure myth. Much like the US, many brilliant people even the Jews (Moses Maimonides (one the greates philospher of all times) in those days had to write in Arabic because the muslims had amassed the capital through their jihadists expansions--colonizing other wealthy nations-- to fund these scientistific and literary ventures. That's why everyone wants to come to US from all over the world because the US has the capital/resources/money to fund scientific projects and research whereas other nations don't.

When you're a superpower economically, everyone wants to flock to your shores. Islam was an economic superpower/colonizer back then because of its aggressive conquests of land and wealth of other nations (including brain powers of other nationalities) and ethnic groups.


Ben, Quran is THE souce for Islam.

by Face Facts (not verified) on

Can you tell us where you find civilized elements and characteristics in this "book" (Quran) that gives you the audacity to shove “Islamic Civilization” B.S. to us?

Hasn't Iran after 30 years of HD reality show been any help to this "Islamic Civilzation" issue?

Islam not just failed civilizations; it also brought total destruction to civilizations. You better know that conquered nations being genuinely cultured carried their civilized enlightenments under barbaric subjugation of Islamists. Again, see Iranian people, male and female, imagination under savage IRI.

Your conclusion is flawed because of major flaw in your main argument.

Contrary to your last nice article, this is one of the worse and non-sense article you ever wrote.

Ben Madadi

Re (about Islamic scietnists, philosophers etc)

by Ben Madadi on

We can interpret that people like Ibn Sina, Raazi, Kharazmi, Khayyam, Faraabi, Saadi, Hafez, Ferdousi, Zahrawi, Ibn Battuta, Tabari and others who have been Islamic philosophers, scientists etc did not appear because of Islam! But the fact is that the Islamic world did advance, while the Christian world did decline. If one studies history with more objectivity they will notice that Islam had lots of positive consequences too, but I doubt this is the best place to write about this, and I am not exactly the expert to talk about this. Let's not forget that Islam was the product of its time, 1400 years ago.


I agree with Souri in that it is good to see you back......

by Nadias on

 It has been way too long since you have written. Good article


solh va doosti/paz a vosotros/paix et amitié





Litmus test

by Fred on

Geographically speaking, the “Gulf states” repeatedly mentioned in the comment section here and elsewhere is not an internationally recognized location.  It is as if one says United in place of United States, leaving the question open if it is meant United States, United Kingdom, United Arab Emerets or, …If by “Gulf states” the littoral mostly historically speaking recently formed sheikdoms are in mind, the correct term is Persian Gulf states. The name Persian Gulf is as old as written history. In the Middle East where anything has something to do with everything this name change game was instigated by Egypt’s Nasser and has been picked up by anti-Iranian forces in the region. All those Iranians who don’t miss a beat to condemn Israel need to reflect on this fact that even as it has been threatened with annihilation by the Islamist republic for the past three decades she has never ever sided with the enemies of Iranians something that cannot be said for Islamist republic’s paid for ally Syria or their Islamist brethrens elsewhere. Only this week during the nonaligned conference in Tehran the Arab attendees repeatedly referred to the Persian Gulf as the “Arabian Gulf” or “The Gulf” and had the audacity to demand the “return of the occupied Arabian islands in the Arabian Gulf” without the Islamist republic doing a diddly in response

Ben Madadi

Re: Souri

by Ben Madadi on

I see Turkey's social progress because of its positive political over the past 8-9 decades, but the Gulf states have seen their progress mostly due to the oil revenue of the past 2-3 decades. I think the Gulf states as much more interesting as they show that Islamic countries that are small and insecure can propser in today's harsh world if managed well. Gulf states have almost no sophisticated political systems, but they are extraordinary models of economic success, which often count more than political success, which is mostly the case in Turkey.

Well, Turkey is more ethnically diverse than the UAE, but it is much less diverse than Iran, Afghanistan and Sudan indeed. So, this may have indeed been a handy situation for Turkey's political progress, as its population have been more united under the Turk-nation model.

Ben Madadi


by Ben Madadi on

Dear Zion,

Thank you for your comment! I think I did explain quite a bit of what I thought in the article. I see things a bit different.



by Sarzamine man (not verified) on

Thanks for the article, even though I see from your article some good intension but I have to agree with Zion on this, it is very important for us to stop Maghlate kardan and instead talk of truth, fortunately Islam is the only religion that has a very clear history and everything that have been done are clearly described by historian, Islam has nothing to do with science, Islam world has not produced even one single philosopher from the start up to now, please name one philosopher from Islam world for the past 900 years ?? we have to be very clear when talking about these kind of subjects, remember it was for all these Maghlate that Iranians still name their kids Ali, Hossein, Changiz and etc even thought all they have done for us were stealing and killing our hamvatan. I do not really pay any attention to other muslim countries but as for Iran I know that our friends from Madineh have brought nothing, I mean completely nothing other than Bardegy keshidane Iranian and stealing the money of those Iranian people, lets not forget Ghadeseyeh war bozorgtarin lakeye nange tarikhe mast az nazare bande.

Ba sepas

Farhad Kashani

Zion, like you and I, Ben is

by Farhad Kashani on

Zion, like you and I, Ben is on the people's side. Good work though.

Farhad Kashani

Mr. Madaddi, so nice to hear

by Farhad Kashani on

Mr. Madaddi, so nice to hear from you again, Great article. Keep up the good work.



by Zion on

I have a few problems with the assumptions of this article.
Ben you write
`Islamic administration...also gave the world the most advanced scientific, architectural, and cultural movements of the time... These advancements partly forced the Christian world to ponder its situation, and somehow, for some reasons, the West, at some point, stood up, looked around, took off, roared, and never looked back! Muslims watched in amazement`

That little question you insert makes a whole lot of difference. Some how for some reason!
It is much more plausible and consistent with the facts to assume that the Islamic administration had almost nothing to do with any philosophical and technical advantage the Middle East had over Europe at that time, but that this was the last remnants and the final breath of a more civilized past that was afterwards completely shut down under Islamic system. It is also not correct to talk about scientific achievements at that point since Science was developed much later in Europe. The Islamic world also shows very little innovation and ingenuity. There were very rare achievements if any. The role was rather that of preserving the older mostly Hellenic knowledge and discoveries and guarding them from being forgotten than any considerable or mentionable achievement.

Europe soared only because it was able to shook off the burden of religious dogma and retain the tradition of free inquiry. Something that is impossible under Islamic mind set and approach. Hence the huge difference.

Gulf arab states have been smart in spending their oil money, but that is all they have been able to do. I see no infrastructure for education and original achievements in any of them. It looks more like expensive houses built on oily sand by others, much too fast and much too sallow to last, than anything even remotely resembling renaissance.


Dear Ben

by Souri on

Good article.

Can you please give more explanation and example about Turkey's progressive politics and also cultural achievement ?

I see this country a lot different from other Muslim countries you mentioned above. Their system is completely different because of the diversity of the ethnical population.

I just want some example to understand better, I have less information about that.


ebi amirhosseini

Dear Ben

by ebi amirhosseini on

Thanks,enjoyed reading it,especially the last paragraph.