Thoughts of a Syrian Reformer
MEMRI has some excerpts of recent writings by liberal Syrian author Nidhal Na'isa. The following passage in particular explains how an environment of censorship and conformity fosters the growth of Islamist extremism:
When asked about the phenomenon of increasing religiosity in Syria, Na'isa said that it was part of "the spread of the culture of the herd and 'group' thinking, which means the negation of the individual and the individual's importance in creation, development, and originality."
He continued: "Western civilization was founded on unleashing individual initiative and glorification of individual reason - and not collective reason, which is generally emotive and not of sound judgment.
"In our totalitarian societies, the collective 'I' prevails over the individual 'I,' and all become equals under the podiums of the [Islamic] jurisprudents. Leaving [the fold of] collective thought is considered error, heresy, and atheism…"
Na'isa's praise for the West does not, however, extend to current U.S. policy in the region, which he feels has been counterproductive and has fed extremism: "Much of the religiosity in our societies is based on the principle 'not out of love for 'Ali, but in order to spite Mu'awiya,' [i.e.] in order to spite the current regimes, and in order to goad George Bush and the U.S., which acts in a reckless, thoughtless, and foolish manner, and, through its policies, increases the strength of this [fundamentalist] current…
"So long as the [Syrian] nationalist opposition forces remain repressed and banned, and religious activity is the sole [kind of activity] permitted and tolerated, many will see in it a shelter for the expression of… their identities as [people who] reject the Arab constellation of despotism…"