Another Year of Apprehensions, Hopes
A new year has dawned on us. Going by what we all went through last year, this year too is filled with apprehension. The year 1995 was a disaster although peace - a fragile one - was ushered in many parts of the world. Yet it was marred by bloodshed and extreme violence.
Forget natural disasters. Man-made ones were more deadlier and more vicious. What does this new year of 1996 hold in store for the Arab world? I am not a pessimist but I believe that the hard realities of the situation - if not taken into account, and very seriously - will be a cause for concern.
The Arab world hurtled toward peace. The topic of peace with Israel was the subject of daily discussion. We all want peace.
However, it should be peace with honor. Israel has withdrawn symbolically from small Arab towns and villages. Yet the burning issue of Jerusalem remains unsolved.
Israeli leaders arrogantly refer to it as the "eternal capital of Israel". No Arab has an answer for that. Will it be a torturous road of dialogue or will more blood be spilt?
Leaving aside Arab-Israeli affairs and taking a close look at inter-Arab relations does not offer much comfort.
In the Maghreb, the Saharan issue has not been resolved. Algeria is racked with violence and our hope for 1996 is for an Algerian, peaceful and content.
Extremism has also reared its ugly head in Egypt. This important Arab country which has sacrificed so much for Arab causes needs respite. All Arabs wish it economic progress and growth.
In Iraq, the people are suffering. Iraqi women and children are in a pathetic condition for no fault of theirs. We earnestly hope that, in this year, their agony and hardship will be alleviated.
In the Gulf, it is hoped that, all differences, however small, be their border disputes or disagreements over other issues, will be solved in a spirit of brotherhood. The Gulf countries are stable and secure. Blessed by God-given natural resources, they should be able to face this year and coming years with confidence. However, we in the Gulf should not be complacent. We have to evaluate our present position and analyze it to come up with answers or solutions.
In the Gulf, there is a growing young population who is waiting to enter the job market. They need to be trained for this. It is, therefore, of prime importance that our educational system be reshaped and tailored to meet the needs of a fast-changing, technologically advanced society.
"There are obviously two types of education," said historian James Truslow Adams, "one should teach us how to make a living and the other how to live."
We need both the types. Our young men and women must be equipped to earn a living. And while doing that, they should also be able to "live", in the real sense of the world.
They should be able to live with their heads up, with dignity, as men and women who have earned, with their own accomplishments, the right to claim seats in the councils of achievers and contributors, not of nay-sayers or imitators.
And when we have such men and women, then will be the time our nations and societies will start moving on. That is how other societies moved. There is no other easy way.
There will be problems. The story of human progress is the story of man's ability to overcome problems. We have many, some common to the whole world, others peculiar to our region, our country or even our city. To cite one example that is engaging the attention of our leaders in the region, there is the problem presented by lack of natural water resources. It is putting a strain on our development efforts. Indigenous methods should be looked into. Conservation programs should put every Gulf citizen on alert. We have to face this fact.
Environmental issues should be addressed seriously. Industrialization brings with it pollution. We should not allow our lands and waterways to be permanently damaged by abuse, be it by ourselves or foreigners.
We, in the Arab world, should be brave enough to face facts. The fast-changing world has brought in communication and ideas which filter right to our bedrooms.
How are we going to face this? Are we going to stick our heads in the sand? Or are we going to use this technology as a medium for spreading our own values and ideals to a spiritually starving world?
Our children have been neglected. They need role models in our society. Do we want numbers? Or is it quality that should be paramount in our thoughts? We need to instill in our youth love of work. All talk of Gulfization will come to naught if there is no dynamic change in our attitude.
Let us hope that this year will see the Arab world march along others to realize our cherished dreams - one of which is to be at par with the developed and self sustaining nations of the world. Let us all work hard to achieve this goal.