Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Saudi Arabia: Time to clean up the education system? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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There is a Saudi academic who specializes in defamation, labelling others as traitors and promoting extremist and hateful discourse. The story here is not about his character, as this has no value, but rather of the grater phenomenon that this figure represents. This is something that has existed for over a decade without being confronted, namely the phenomenon of the “abusive” academic, and how those of this ilk are permitted to teach at Saudi universities!

The academic in question is Dr. Ahmed Bin Rashed Bin Saeed who specializes in defaming Saudi media outlets and figures, without taking into account any moral or academic considerations. It is unfortunate that he is a media specialist, and sadly there is a long queue of people like him who have found fame in this manner of conduct, whilst this also demonstrates negligence on the part of the education system. The problematical issue in Saudi Arabia is that some people wrongly believe that it is better to avoid such figures and “not pay attention to them”. However this is incorrect, for this is a negative phenomenon, as is negligence, and it is the nature of diseases to spread. Therefore we must take a firm stance; our education system is not equivalent to “café” talk or “Twitter”, it is too sublime to be a home for slanderers or inciters who adopt the discourse of hatred. As renowned poet Ahmed Shawqi wrote: If guidance and counsel are based on whim and arrogance, then call that misguidance.”

The difference here is not over minor issues; rather it is over issues of existence, security and fighting corruption. It is incomprehensible that a reputable Saudi university should have such an academic on its teaching staff! The story here does not require committees or investigations because everything that has been written, and is being written, by this man is available on the internet! Indeed, what is strange is that the majority of this man’s articles have been deleted from his university webpage! This means that there are those who are aware of what is going on, but unable to do anything, and this is a catastrophe! We say this is a catastrophe because Saudi Arabia is working seriously to revise its academic syllabuses to exclude all extremist ideologies and views, whilst it has also opened the way for Saudi students to travel abroad on scholarships. This is part of a larger quest to create an attentive generation that can be useful to the future of the country, namely a generation that learns for knowledge’s sake, rather than to destroy, incite hatred or label others as traitors. So, after all this how can such academics be allowed to continue teaching at Saudi universities?

The aim here is not to incite others; rather I am highlighting the necessity of cleaning up our universities and schools from such examples, and it is shameful that academic standards have deteriorated to this point. In this regard, we are not talking about someone who is promoting confused ideas in private, or a zealot who is dedicated to attacking others on Twitter or elsewhere. Nor are we discussing a mere difference of opinion! Indeed, there are colleagues at this very newspaper who entertain different opinions than myself regarding the Arab Spring and the rise of the Islamist movements; nevertheless, we hold them in high esteem and respect. Rather, what we are facing is somebody who slanders and insults others, labelling them as traitors, then goes out to lecture our university students. So is there any greater educational failure than this? Another thing that merits contemplation regarding this particular phenomenon is those who adopt this academic’s thinking and conduct by retweeting his comments, for example, as well as re-posting his articles on websites that were once the greatest promoters of Al Qaeda. This is out of a misplaced desire to “champion” such figures, and includes Saudi academics, lawyers, and former judges. In fact, I came to know one such figure, his persistent demands for reform of the judiciary and the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice [CPVPV] served as a major headache for everybody. It eventually emerged that this figure was nothing more than a duplicitous Muslim Brotherhood promoter, just like many of the other deceivers!

To conclude, everyone has their own opinions and views, but teaching at our universities must be protected from defamers and inciters, as well as those who promote the discourse of hatred, otherwise this will serve as a fundamental defect in the educational system. Universities must be a place for those who pursue science and knowledge, as well as those who preserve scientific morality.