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Saudi Arabia: Yes to cleaning up! | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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An insulting campaign was launched on twitter in response to my article “Saudi Arabia: Time to clean up the education system?” The most prominent participant in this campaign was the ever-critical Dr. Abdullah Algazami, who let fly with tweets showing that he had not read my article in the first place, or that he wanted to distort it. Because Algazami seems to have something of a cultural “aura”, I will now use him as an example for discussion.

Dr Algazami, a well-known Saudi intellectual, former university professor and author of a number of books, laid into my article on Saudi academics who defame and incite. He said that what I wrote was culturally immature, adding: “how could an individual carrying such a name, and heading a newspaper, call for my institution to be cleaned up?” He went on to say “If you want to clean up everything you don’t agree with, then you will be the only thing left on earth!” My question to Algazami is: Did you even read my article? I was not talking about political or ideological disagreements; rather I merely said that there is no place for defamation and inciting hatred in academia! Now I will simplify the whole story for Dr. Algazami, just as he simplified it to us on television that day!

So Doctor, imagine you decided to invite a group of academics to your house to discuss regional issues, Gaza and the Arab Spring for example, and you invite a group from a variety of trends, Islamists and liberals, those who are for the Arab Spring and those who are against it, Sunnis and Shiites and so on, in order to understand the bigger picture. Would you accept it if some of your guests responded to those who disagreed with them by insulting their honor, labeling them as Zionists, and threatening them with violence and death? Would you invite people like that into your house Doctor? If the answer is yes then this is another story, but I believe you are above that; I assume you would act like any normal person and not allow individuals like this into your home. So how can you allow them to teach in a respected university? What is worse than that is that in my article, whilst referring to a certain abusive academic in particular, I did not object at all to his political stances. Yet this same academic then tweeted that the Minister of Information should dismiss a certain Saudi editor-in-chief because he wrote an article disagreeing with his views about Gaza! So what is your position on that, Doctor?

I did not touch upon politics at all in the article in question; I spoke about ethics. Yet while we are on the subject, I will simplify the matter again for Dr. Algazami, who incidentally has long fluctuated in his stance towards the Arab Spring. So Doctor, who put a stop to the war in Gaza, ensuring that Hamas would guarantee Israel’s security? Not me, but rather President Mursi has taken the plaudits for that. When the Egyptian President issued his recent decrees to seize power, you tweeted: “Personally I expect President Mursi to go back on some of his decrees to break the tension”. So why not direct your anger towards this instead? Likewise [following the Gaza truce] the Israeli President and his Foreign Minister did not praise me, but rather President Mursi because he had ensured Israel’s security, so why not label him a Zionist instead?

Dr. Algazami, the crux of the story is that I said yes to ridding our universities of academics who incite hatred, and what is wrong with that? Is that not the basis of teaching around the world, or are you satisfied for our children to be taught by such fools? If you accept there are scholarly and professional ethics and codes of conduct, and you respect that, then you cannot accept this!