Visions, Visions, From 622 A.D. To 2035
Sometime in 1976 or 77, Professor John Hunwick and myself were invited to the United Arab Emirates to advise the country on the topic of Afro-Arab Relations. Although Prof. Hunwick got me to do Arabic Studies, he had left Ibadan by the time I finished and I refused to stay on in the department for postgraduate studies. He did follow me until I finished my doctoral dissertation in September 1972 at the University of Edinburgh. I went back to Ibadan but I didn’t last there before I moved to what is now Obafemi Awolowo University. It was kind of him to remember me for such an assignment since I had abandoned Arabic Studies to concentrate on Theatre and Performance Studies. Arriving in Dubai then and now is arriving in two different parts of the world.
The world seemed set up for what it would look like in the next one hundred years. What could one look to in the field of Arabic and Islamic Studies?
It was onward forward for everybody but back to the past for the Arab world. Saudi Arabia was leading the backward march. Yet, 50 years after, the Arab world has launched a satellite to explore Mars, Saudi Golf is a world beater and Dubai is an Internet city. Not only that. Saudi Arabia allows women to drive, women to attend sports events in stadiums and the country puts up wrestling shows that women are allowed to watch. In fact, Saudi Vision 2030 is something to behold. The new motto of Saudi Arabia is: “Saudi Arabia the heart of the Arab and Islamic worlds, the investment powerhouse, and the hub connecting three continents.”
The Saudi Vision 2030 was announced in April, 2016. This “is a strategic framework to reduce Saudi Arabia’s dependence on oil, diversify its economy, and develop public service sectors such as health, education, infrastructure, recreation, and tourism.”
Egypt Vision 2030 was launched in February 2016. “The Sustainable Development Strategy: Egypt Vision 2030 represents a foothold on the way towards inclusive development. Thus cultivating a prosperity path through economic and social justice, and reviving the role of Egypt in regional leadership. SDS represents a roadmap for maximizing competitive advantage to achieve the dreams and aspirations of Egyptians in a dignified and decent life.”
Kuwait Vision 2035 aims at a New Kuwait. “Motto: Protecting the environment and being committed to health and safety. Leveraging innovation and adopting the highest standards to achieve operational excellence. Being a committed and reliable partner in our communities and markets. Empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and quality.” “Officially, New Kuwait is an ongoing national development program that aims to transform Kuwait into a regional and international financial and trade Centre, and to attract more investments.” It is to be noted that the articles from where these quotes are taken have been deleted as far as the Kuwait Vision 2035 are concerned.
The reason or reasons for deleting these articles are not provided. In the particular case of Saudi Arabia, the western personality leading these projects, Sir Richard Branson, has withdrawn from all of them. He is quoted as saying: that he had high hopes for the current government in the Kingdom and its leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman … the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, if proved true, would clearly change the ability of any of us in the West to do business with the Saudi Government.”
Perhaps, it was too good to be true. The following issues were quite prominent enough to put a stop to anything going against the conservatism of the Muslim world. The first issue has to do with woman. In the 20 years that the Taliban were kept out of Afghanistan, women went to school, graduated and began to work in the public service of Afghanistan. Some two hundred were judges and magistrates who passed judgments on men!!! With the recent return of the Taliban to power in Afghanistan, the women have had to flee the country.
There is the issue of the Shia Muslims and the open discrimination against them. There is the issue of tribalism, which is deeply ingrained in Afghanistan where the acceptance of common Afghani citizenship is completely superficial. Perhaps most intractable of these issues is that of the relationship between politics and economics.
It is becoming scary what Democracies are becoming, never mind Dictatorships. A time there was when a politician loses an election, he or she would stand up, commend her opponent and wait for the next elections like the old song of Ogunde:
The vote, it is with the vote, our vote that we shall drive them into the jungle. For ever.”
But they would not go. They held on to power. Putin of Russia has been there for 22 years. Paul Biya, president of Cameroon became president when Emmanuel Macron, president of France, was five years old.
And now the Taliban, who have been out of power for 20 years, have brought a new dimension to being in power: to talk the talk in order to be allowed to walk the walk! They are back in power and claim to be Taliban 2.0. Women can go to school, says their acting head of state. But the foot soldiers are lashing women off the streets for protesting on the streets of Kabul.
Yet, the government of the Taliban has no money. Or all the money they have is with those whose recognition they seek. Like they want to be admitted into the United Nations meeting ongoing in New York.
The Western countries that made education especially of women and the girl child as well as Human Rights attractive especially to women are standing apart, raising no hand to ensure that the Taliban will do what they say. Everyone stands around wondering if any of the western powers would dare to recognize the government of the Taliban without ensuring the situation of women in Afghanistan remain what they have known in the last two decades. When Islam came into the world, it was as if it came to liberate women and the girl child. Once more, Taliban, have the courage of the Saudis. Liberate the girl child and the woman she would grow up to be.