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Thursday, August 23, 2007

1960: Pakistan's leader criticizes the Muslim world

Here's a remarkable article from Time from November 21, 1960:
To non-Moslems, Arab leaders often seem more interested in bemoaning lost glories and nursing old grudges than in attacking the problems of the day. Last week Pakistan's Moslem President Mohammed Ayub Khan arrived in Cairo and throwing away a diplomatically phrased set speech, delivered the sharpest criticisms of Moslems by a Moslem heard in many a year.

Ayub spoke plainly on his view of the long-festering problem of refugees along the Israeli border, where more than a million Palestinians—those who fled or were ejected by Israel, and the children born to them since—still inhabit squalid detention camps in Jordan, Syria and the Gaza Strip. The Arabs have let the U.N. look after them, arguing that to provide the refugees with permanent homes and jobs would seem to be acquiescing in the existence of Israel. Ayub remarked pointedly that after partition, his own Pakistan made room for 9,000,000 Moslem refugees from India, and did it without asking or expecting outside help in shouldering the cost.

Moslems should ask themselves, said Ayub Khan, why "all over the world the Moslem communities are the most backward and most uneducated." He answered his own question: Because the Islamic culture let slip its "earlier dynamism," relapsed into "conformism, superficiality and superstition." Said Ayub Khan: "The kingdoms and crowns which the Moslems have lost in the course of history are far less important than the kingdom of the free and searching mind, which they have lost through intellectual stagnation."

Sharing the platform with him, Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser as usual blamed all the Moslem world's problems on "imperialists." Ayub disagreed. Parliamentary government failed in Egypt and Pakistan, he said bluntly, "through no fault of that system. I say, it was our fault. We were not yet ready."

The Muslim world is in no better shape today than it was 47 years ago, and Muslim leaders with Ayub Khan's perception remain diminishingly rare.