Globalization and Arab Nations

In the two years since the Sept. 11 attacks, globalization and its effects on Islamic countries have been addressed by scholars everywhere.
Mark Levine, an assistant professor in UCI’s history department and an avid speaker on globalization and its effect on Muslim countries, spoke on these issues Oct. 22 at the University Club.
Levine began by briefly outlining the history of Muslim countries by explaining that there was no part of the Muslim nations that has not been controlled by others.
Today, as countries like Iraq are under the occupation of Western powers, Levine posed a harsh fact about Muslims in the postmodern world.
‘[Ask yourself] what it feels like to be part of a culture that has been on the losing end for the last 500 years of history, especially in light of events that happened in the last two years,’ Levine said.
After the fall of many Arab nations, Levine said most people, including Muslims, were under the assumption that internal factors were responsible for the demolition of a society, causing the Muslim world to ‘fall behind’ the West.
According to Levine, however, the idea of an internal mechanism that caused the Muslim world to fall to European powers is entirely untrue.
‘There was nothing wrong with the Muslim world and nothing wrong with the Western world,’ Levine said. ‘However, using these assumptions, it becomes easy to justify wars and policies shaped by the U.S. government.’
Levine, a critic of the Arab Human Development Report, mentioned the absence of colonialism as a reason for the fall of many Muslim countries.
Written ‘by Arabs for Arabs,’ this United Nations-sponsored document focused on internal weaknesses of Arab countries without putting the blame on anyone else.
According to Levine, although it is important for countries to take responsibility for their own actions, the idea of separating one country from another is a major problem.
In his book ‘Why They Don’t Hate Us,’ Levine tries to break down the idea that the Muslim world is separate and can only interact as an entity separate from the West.
‘The constant synchronism and constant coming together back and forth between cultures makes these kinds of declarations troubling and almost impossible to sustain,’ Levine said.
Levine made an analogy between a matrix and significant political processes modernity, nationalism, capitalism and colonialism. Levine theorized that these four processes act as coefficients to a matrix.
‘Although they didn’t happen at the same time, one cannot happen without the other,’ Levine said. ‘All the good things of modernity were a result of colonialism and capitalism can be seen to have been expanded by colonialism.’
According to Levine, Europeans justified colonialism as a means of bringing undeveloped countries closer to modernity. The idea of differentiating people based on technological, political and social advancements was crucial for colonialism.
According to Levine, the goal of every country after gaining its independence is to eventually modernize. His thesis states that colonialism and modernity must always coexist.
‘You cannot be modern without also being … colonial,’ Levine said.
Most countries that became independent still had ties to colonialism, which led many people in those countries to revolt. These countries were therefore repeating what had occurred during the colonial period.
Using Iraq as an example, Levine said what he believes many people fail to realize is that what was done by Saddam Hussein to his own people was done first by the British when they conquered the country in response to an Iraqi revolt in 1920.
According to Levine, this example of a country in its quest for modernity says that, ‘as long as you try to be modern, you will always be repeating the same process.’
Levine connected these concepts to the history of Arabs and Muslims.
‘You will see that they knew this since the moment Napoleon conquered Egypt in 1789,’ Levine said.
Levine also stressed the need for Muslim scholars to work with westerners and build resistance on both sides.
‘A change in their structure means a change in ours,’ Levine said. ‘Things are going to get worse before they get better.’