Dr.Nasr Abu-Zeid: Rationalism and Liberalism
Dr.Nasr Abu-Zeid: Rationalism and Liberalism
Sunday, July 8,2007 11:40
By Saaed Abaddy

I was glad to read the article of Muhammad Abdul- Ati-the liberal human rights researcher- titled, "liberalism and dependency are not two faces for one coin" issued at Al-Misri Al-youm on Tuesday 12th September last year.

I thank him for applauding my writings, and I would like to thank him for giving me the room to clarify what we can call as "ambiguity" in my article titled, "One-eyed rationality and lame liberalism".

 The title leaves no room to consider it as ambiguous and that I am against liberalism and rationality; which are necessary modern values for our societies. It appears that relatively the high-pitched in my article against rationalism targets a specific kind of rationalism that"s why I called it "one-eyed" as well as when I called a certain kind of liberalism as lame. The result was confusion in understanding my words.

It is the right of every one to express his/her own values in various methods. The exchange of opinions in an ambience of freedom is the only guarantee for concluding some how kind of consistency but not consensus in such a national case.

However, this medium of freedom that allows the exchange of opinions and guarantees the harmony between them does not exist.

It"s worthy to point about the polemics ongoing about the constitutional amendments, where there are two warring parts; the regime and its ruling party from one part and the opposing intellectuals-regardless of their ideologies on the other part.

However, there can not be mere inconsistency between the "regime and its party" and the "opposition", because there are opposing voices that support the stance of the regime in some suggested developments and views.

There are some representatives in regime that are in accordance with the suggestions of opposition. In other words, the difference between opposition and the regimes is not like the difference between black and white.

The question is: was the polemics and disputes about the "war of destruction" sparked off by Israel against Lebanon –supported completely under no conditions by the American power and supported with silence from the part of all Arab regimes- an intellectual polemics that  seek crystallizing the liberal rational stance or was it just screams for being for or against?? Were the screams for Hezbollah or against it?

 It is irrational to find someone screaming for supporting Israel because all of us are against Israel… the villain the coward enemy…etc. Those who were screaming against Hezbollah were ascribing themselves with "rationality" while those who scream supporting Hezbollah were ascribing themselves by "nationalism". The inevitable result was that the rationales described in a medium of strain the opposite part as "irrationals" while the nationals described rationales as villains and betrayers.


Regardless of who were these rationales and regardless of their philosophical or political ideologies, their stance was in great accordance with that of  Arab political regimes- who declared from beginning that they are renouncing Hezbollah"s decision, attributing to it all the properties of irrationalism and anarchy at the same time they showed dead silence against Israel"s decision which was entirely irrational and illogic because it sparked off a full-fledged war in order to release two captives although the solution would have been solved through negotiations like before.

Just to clear points, I declare as I declared since the beginning- and I am a rational liberal since my childhood-that Hezbollah –whom I greatly differ with its religious ideology- has taken his right in "resistance" in order to release captives at Israeli camps. his is the rationality of resistance regardless of the standards of loss and gain. Because if the criterion was loss and gain, then all revolutionist thinkers and politicians and even prophets were anarchists and irrationals, nationalists and not liberals.


Every Lebanese has the right to criticize the resolution of Hezbollah, they already did and they still, and it is the right of every rationalist to criticize Hezbollah.

However, what contradicts rationalism and nationalism and patriotism is that censures against Hezbollah would be and introductory to discharge  Israel. This is what I called "one-eyed" rationalism that sees half of reality, and express their own ideologies.


The one0eyed rationalism was the exact stance of all Arab regimes that wanted Israel to pound resistance and to rescue the regimes from this headache in the time of globalization that regimes are panting for. Because the stance of Arab regimes was not surprising yet, there for the repercussions were not in need for conclusion.

 I can see that it is my role to expose the one-eyed of some rationalists. And I use the word "some" because not all who criticized Hezbollah remained silent against the Israeli atrocities like the regimes.

I would like to point to Lebanese intellectuals who survived the adversary of war, criticized Hezbollah on bases of political thought at the same time they did not undermine their intellectual political and philosophical support for the patriotic national resistance led by Hezbollah.

However there are some Arab rationalists who exaggerated in criticizing Hezbollah to the extent they denounced the entire modern history; the history of nationalist anarchist revolutions as they say.


As I criticized the one-eyed rationalism it is necessary to criticize the lame liberalism of some others as well. Again, I think all people knows my stances in "criticizing the religious discourse", but I differentiate between the "the intellectual critic" and the right of all people to have political freedom.

When the military regime in Algeria cancelled elections in 1990, I was from the minority of Arab liberals to criticize the overthrow of democracy in order to deprive Islamists from ruling under the pretext that they would alter situations and extirpate democracy.

I said at that time that any political power assumes regime through democracy will endeavor to eliminate democracy because the phobia of democracy is not related to Islamists alone in our political culture.

The bitter experience for Algeria because they cancelled elections was known to every body. I was following the Egyptian Satellite Channel daily during the presidential elections-after amending article 76 from constitution- and parliamentary elections as well.


I was awe-stricken from the phobia of some political leaders in most of Egyptian parties-not only the national party- against Muslim Brotherhood which is described in their lexicon as the illegitimate group.

 I kept laughing at those who say that brethrens are making use of religion to rule, and that brethrens have a political agenda, as if political parties do not have to strain for rule and that they need not have a political agenda as well.

 The target for these statements to refuse attributing the term political party on Muslim Brotherhood, because the talker did not recognize the paradox where he is asserting the term that he believes he is rejecting.


Panicked people from brethrens believe that the danger from rule of brethrens that they will try to Islamize every thing in society, like forcing women to keep home, close theatres and cinemas, impose censorship on artists and art, seizing thought, in brief they will establish an Egypt that is a typical pattern of Taliban. However, panic from this will make the Muslim Brotherhood the only real political intellectual players on the Egyptian arena and all possibilities for opposition will be aborted.

Panicked people believe that the rule of Brethren –if they were able to rule through democracy- will be a atypical pattern of the current regime.

 I believe that this assumption is a phobia from Islam that resulted from the dormant phobia in them from the war against terrorism. I heard one of my liberal friends saying, "The boots of soldiers are better than the paradise of Islamists".

The question is: are we prepared for the dangers of democracy or do we accept the current situation? In fact, European people sacrificed a lot for democracy, but we are not ready to pay casualties for freedom, are we really liberals? Are we really rationalists?

At the end, I tell you my dear colleague Muhammad Abdul-Ati that Liberalism and dependency are not two faces for one coin, but you mean the "originated liberalism in culture" not the traditional liberalism. In this case, I agree with you, especially if you are linking between the individual democracies that are far from our reach now, due to the absence of the values of freedom and the individualism.

Our democracy will remain a procedural one just found in ballots and counting votes, but what votes?? They are the only votes that can be bought by money.

The individual can not feel the value of voting because his individualism is absent. I hope my friend that you understand that I am not against rationalism or liberalism yet I try to originate these principles in our culture, which is why we are in need for critic to crystallize situation.

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