"By not allowing peaceful revolution, you are paving the way to violent revolution. We need to understand this in the Arab world".
Former IAEA Director and former Egyptian Vice-President Mohamed ElBaradei talked about the problems facing Arab societies, such as the high rate of illiteracy, saying that “education is a fundamental component of knowledge, in order to create a society that relies on knowledge, not witchcraft.” ElBaradei, who received the Nobel Peace Prize with the IAEA in 2005, said that the animosity between Islamic and secular people in Muslim societies was an “exact replica” of the Protestant-Catholic wars in 17th-century Europe. “For 300 years, they killed one another, and after killing 50, 60, 70 million people, they realized that killing one another was not the solution,” he said. ElBaradei was speaking on Al-Araby TV in an interview that aired on February 4.
Mohamed ElBaradei: "We are a people that subsists on fear, not on dreams. We began the revolution with a dream, but today, we are a people that lives on fear – fear of terrorism, fear of not making a living, fear of a shortage in medicine... We live in fear. We fear one another as well. We are in a situation in which we all must take pause, and examine the state we are in. We are not where we want to be. We have failed to achieve the goals of the revolution.
"From the day I returned to Egypt I have been saying that freedom is linked to livelihood. As long as I am not a free man, I cannot create, innovate, be productive, or understand what is going on around me, and I cannot move forward.
"According to a 2002 UN report on human development in the Arab world, we have three problems. They pertain to all the Arab countries, including Egypt, to varying degrees. They are: (the lack) of freedom, of knowledge, and of equality, and especially empowerment of women. We still suffer from these three problems. Without freedom, there is no knowledge, without knowledge, there is no freedom, and without freedom or knowledge, there is no equality. We need to confront our problems with courage, and realize that there are no winners or losers here. It's not a zero-sum game. Either we all win, or we all lose.
"By not allowing peaceful revolution, you are paving the way to violent revolution. We need to understand this in the Arab world. Not just understand...We are seeing this happen in half the Arab world. This is a message to all the rulers in the Arab world. Peaceful revolution takes place when there is no reform. And if you don't allow peaceful revolution, it will be followed by violent revolution. Take a look at all the Arab countries. That's the message.
"I was telling you about the three problems facing the Arab world, including Egypt. The first problem is (lack of) knowledge. As far as I know, 25-30% (of our population) are still illiterate. This is not an issue that is related to income. Let me draw your attention to this. I've been to Cuba, and there, they have 99.7% literacy."
Host: "Those are the results in an Arab referendum...."
Mohamed ElBaradei: "Exactly. 99%. But it's a survey about literacy. Cuba's capabilities were much more meager than ours. Ten years ago, I visited an elementary school in Cuba. Every child sat in front of a computer. People lived on a dollar or two a day, but they understood the meaning of education."
Host: "So what you are saying is that the key is education?"
Mohamed ElBaradei: "Education is a fundamental component of knowledge, in order to create a society that relies on knowledge, not witchcraft. There is a difference between a society based on knowledge, and a society based on metaphysics and witchcraft. Without education and knowledge, we cannot take a single step forward, and this holds true for the Arab world.
"There is not a single Arab university on the list of the world's 100 or 200 (leading) universities. There is one Saudi university... There is not a single Arab research center that studies the problems and challenges we face. Not one!
"Look at how we speak today, in the Arab world in particular: Those guys are Islamic, those are secular, those are liberals... Nobody really understands what those terms mean. What does it mean to be Islamic? Today, Turkey is an Islamic country. Its people are Muslims, but it has a secular constitution, which has nothing to do with religion. Then you have Saudi Arabia, which says: The Quran is the constitution. They don't have a written constitution. You have Iran, where they have the Rule of the Jurisprudent. In Indonesia, they have a completely different regime. Throughout 14 centuries, we have never rationally defined or properly understood the relation between religion and state, religion and moral values, or its relationship with public affairs and personal matters. People consider themselves Islamic or secular and want to kill one another. That's the easy solution, even before we understand what we want. Unfortunately, the result is an exact replica of what happened in Europe in the 17th century. The 30 Years' War was a religions war waged between Catholics and Protestants. Thirty years... That war ended, and it was followed by the Napoleonic wars, and then World War I and World War II... For 300 years, they killed one another, and after killing 50, 60, 70 million people, they realized that killing one another was not the solution.
"In the period known as the Golden Age of Islam, from the 8th until around the 13th century, Islam and science went hand in hand. They complemented one another.
"In the Golden Age of Islam, science was a central component of civilization.
"Given the state of Islam today, anybody called Muhammad, wherever he lives, is immediately identified as a Muslim who preaches violence. This is the bitter reality in which we live. All we do is say: No, that's not true! Islam is a religion of compassion. Fine, but what are we doing to show the world that it is a religion of compassion? What are we doing to show the difference between us and the extremists?"
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