Ghassan Karam

Professor Economics

Logical internal consistency is a fundamental characteristic of a model that has withstood the rigours of investigation both empirical and otherwise. The advocates of an internally inconsistent model, especially one that suffers of an apparent logical fallacy are often chided for their position and for their inability to promote rational thinking. Such is the case when those that make a habit of disregarding say the rights of nature; make an issue of the failure of their neighbours to act in an environmentally friendly manner.  Of course the corporation that seeks governmental relief is not in a position to be taken seriously when it opposes the extension of such a program to cover its competitors.

The above fatal fallacy could easily be avoided through the incorporation of the ideas embodied in the principle of the Golden Rule. This simple but profound idea has been traced to practically all cultures all over the world, although one of its most popular and common manifestations are encompassed in the saying: Do unto others what you would like others to do unto you.  As it is obvious it would not be difficult to suggest that this ethics of reciprocity is the foundation upon which human rights and fair treatments are based.

What often goes unnoticed, in the Arab world, is that this simple but yet elegant idea about justice and equality has been traced as far as the middle kingdom of Egypt, 19th century BC, as well as the Code of Hammurabi not to mention the Torah and Confucius. Furthermore it is also important to note that The Parliament of World Religion during its centenary held in 1993 adopted the idea of reciprocity found in the Golden Rule as the common belief in all religions. This document of Global Ethics declared to the world:

We are interdependent….We take individual responsibility for all we do. All our decisions, actions, and failures to act have consequences. We must treat others as we wish others to treat us. We make a commitment to respect life and dignity, individuality and diversity, so that every person is treated humanely, without exception. We must have patience and acceptance…. We consider humankind a family…We commit ourselves to a culture of non-violence, respect, justice, and peace. We shall not oppress, injure, torture, or kill other human beings, forsaking violence as a means of settling differences.

We in the Arab world seem to have conveniently decided not to adopt and apply the above principle despite the admonition by the prophet Mohammad, PBUH, that such a principle of respect and reciprocity to others is essential as can be seen clearly in more than one Hadith:

“None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.”

An Nawawi

“No man is a true believer unless he desires for his brother that, what he desires for himself.”

Forty Hadith

“Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you”.

Muhammad, The Farewell Sermon on Mount Arafat in Mecca.

“Woe to those . . . who, when they have to receive by measure from men, exact full measure, but when they have to give by measure or weight to men, give less than due”

—Qur’an (Surah 83, “The Unjust,”

The principle of justice and reciprocity is as seminal to Islam as it is to other cultures and we choose to neglect it at our peril. This is not the place to describe in full details the practices in separate countries against non Moslems.But it should be clear that when we close our eyes on discriminatory practices by our neighbours and friends then that amounts to an acquiescence in these wrongful and hurtful practices.

The Arab world has paid dearly for the inequities that its non Moslem population is subjected to. Why is it not evident that the time of the dhimmis is gone  forever and that if we consider ourselves to be part of this global community then no one has the right to deny any other person the right to self expression and the freedom of thought and religious belief. Why can we not see that when we discriminate against others then we automatically give up our right to complain when others discriminate against our fellow co religionists? Saudi Arabia could not possibly object to a rule preventing school girls from wearing a Moslem headdress when a non Moslem is not allowed to practice her religion openly in the kingdom. Egypt was not in a position to complain against the Swiss rule that regulates the size and location of minarets when  even minor repairs to churches in Egypt require almost presidential approval. The Arab league could not join in the important dialogue about the advisability of building a Mosque close to ground zero in Manhattan when many Arab countries have strict prohibitions against the construction of Churches and other non Moslem houses of worship.

Yes this is a different world than it was 1500 years ago in many respects but the principles of justice and universal humanity and equality are still the same.  Many of the Arab governments that claim that they are only doing the work of Allah and that of his Prophet, PBUH, would do well to review  the treaty of Medina which L Ali Khan argues could serve as the basis of treating minorities justly and offering them equal rights under Islam. And most importantly we cannot disapprove of the acts of others when we sanction these same acts either in our countries or we are silent when these same human rights violations are committed by our neighbourly countries. There ought to be no prejudice or partiality in civil rights.