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Saturday, December 20, 2008

IAEA chief El Baradei talks about the Arab world

I cannot find this interview of Egyptian-born International Atomic Energy Agency director Mohammed El Baradei in English anywhere. El Baradei plans on leaving his position next year, so he feels much freer to speak openly. Too bad the Arab interviewer didn't go into any questions on Iran and Syria's nuclear programs.
Q: Are you afraid for the future of the Arab and Islamic world?

A: Yes, I am very afraid for the future of the Arab world, as well as the future Muslim world. Indeed, the problems are known. The solutions are known as well: Science. Freedom. Equality. Social solidarity.

Q: Meaning education?

A: Exactly. We can not compete with underdeveloped education curriculum available to us in the Arab world. We in the Arab world do not learn. We do not learn. We have no education and we do not have scientific research.

Q: Do I understand that there is no future for the Arabs if this continues?

A: They have no future at all, if it continues. I say this after forty years of service within the Arab world and beyond. When comparing the Arab world today in other parts of the world say we have no future unless we had frank with ourselves first and we recognized that we have reached the bottom in all areas and must begin again. And focus first and foremost the rights and needs of education, freedom and hope. Give him these things and we will start as any other human being.

Q: Do I understand you consider that the Arab capitals were at their best fifty years ago, for example?

A: Speaking about Lebanon that I know of, Beirut and Mount Lebanon. And Cairo. The situation was much better, we lived as part of the world. There were Greek and Italian communities and people from all communities. Our strength lies in the plurality. Now we are trying to be a single pattern, which means a return to backwardness. The world today is a source of strength in multi-civilizations and cultures and languages. We stoop to the most serious rejection of the other. Others refuse to reject the same in the end. We must be part of the human family.

Q: Are these the worst times for Arabs?

A: I've never seen in my life, at least, the Arab world in a worse position than we are today. It is the worst, at least in the past fifty years, both in our internal or external relations. At home we suffer a lot of problems, and Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz opened the Arab summit in Riyadh saying that the fundamental problem in the lack of credibility of the system of government.

There is a crisis of credibility to regimes in the Arab world. Half of the Arab world is illiterate, more than in the sub-Saharan Africa. How I will be able to compete and be my role in human civilization if half of the Arab world does not read or write? We are issuing to the world, including oil, 4 percent of world trade, with imports 3 percent.

When we talk about education, we believe that the number of books translated into Spanish in one year is equivalent to the number translated to Arabic in a thousand years. Translations into Arabic is one third those translated into Greek. Greek is spoken by more than 15 million people. We are 300 million Arabs. We have no education or a system of good governance, the rights of the Arabs today feel that subjugated by the government, and he is being treated unfairly by the outside world.If we look at these indicators together, I believe that you have a ticking bomb. What I see every day is the continuation of the process of radicalization of the Arab and Islamic worlds, as we see in the London Underground and in Mumbai.