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the Message Continues 7/36

Newsletter for July  2004 






Call to take old Muslim leader as an example

courtesy: Abu Dhabi |A Staff Reporter | 01-09-2002

The United Nations has advised the Arab countries to take an old Muslim leader as an example in encouraging knowledge and establishing a regime based on justice and democracy.

The UNDP published excerpts in English of remarks made by Imam Ali bin Abi Taleb, a cousin of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), nearly 1,000 years ago about knowledge, justice and right rule of people.

The UNDP referred to the regime as governance, an English equivalent of 'Al Hokm', and said most regional countries are still far behind other nations in democracy, wide political representation, women's participation, development and knowledge.

In its 2002 Arab Human Development Report, distributed around the world, the UNDP listed six main points in the comments of Imam Ali bin Abi Taleb about ideal governance.

They include consultation between the ruler and the ruled, speaking out against corruption and other wrong doings, ensuring justice to all, and achieving domestic development.

It quoted the Imam as saying: "He who has appointed himself an Imam (ruler) of the people must begin by teaching himself before teaching others.

"His teaching of others must be first by setting an example rather than with his words, for he who begins by teaching and educating himself is more worthy of respect than he who teaches and educates others."

On development he tells rulers: "Your concern with developing the land should be greater than your concern for collecting taxes, for the latter can only be obtained by developing; whereas he who seeks revenue without development destroys the country and the people.

"Seek the company of the learned and the wise in search of solving the problems of your country and the righteousness of your people. No good can come in keeping silent as to government or in speaking out of ignorance."

On justice and virtue, the Imam says: "The righteous are men of virtue, whose logic is straightforward, whose dress is unostentatious, whose path is modest, whose actions are many and who are undeterred by difficulties.

"Choose the best among your people to administer justice among them. Choose someone who does not easily give up, who is unruffled by enmities, someone who will not persist in wrong doings, who will not hesitate to pursue right once he knows it, someone whose heart knows no greed, who will not be satisfied with a minimum of explanation without seeking the maximum of understanding, who will be the most steadfast when doubt is cast, who will be the least impatient in correcting the opponent, the most patient in pursuing the truth, the most stern in meting out judgment, someone who is unaffected by flattery and not
swayed by temptation and these are but few."

The report, distributed by the UNDP office in Abu Dhabi, said Arab countries have generally made progress in their political and social reforms but they still lag behind other states.

It said women in the Arab region are less represented in political bodies, elections are flawed, poverty and illiteracy are prevalent, and democracy is not fully enforced.

It acknowledged reforms have gained momentum during 1990s in most Arab nations covering the permission of wider participation, more frequent elections, the ratification of several human rights conventions, more freedom of the press and associations.

But it added: "On closer observation, the picture is more complex. The process remains heavily regulated and partial. It has not been opened to all citizens.

"Persisting inequities in the region, reflecting poverty, illiteracy, the urban/rural divide and gender inequality, continue to exclude many from public discourse. As a result, the process of political liberalization has bypassed too many people."

It said real political participation in the Arab world is less 'advanced' than in other developing regions, adding that in such areas as Latin America, East and Southeast Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa, freedom of association is less restricted, governments change through ballot box and people's groups have been
encouraged to express themselves.

"Meanwhile, mass mobilization-type regimes still exist in a number of Arab countries, freedom of association is restricted in other cases, levels of political participation are uneven, and the transfer of power through the ballot box is not a common phenomenon.

"Practical constrains of these kinds have had adverse effects on people's perceptions and actions, reflected in low turnout rates during national and local elections and in aversion to participating in the activities of political parties."

The report urged the Arab governments to learn from Imam Ali bin Abi Taleb in advocating knowledge and fighting ignorance as the main reason for most problems.

It quotes him again: "No vessel is limitless except for the vessel of knowledge, which forever expands. If God has to humiliate a human being, he will deny him knowledge. No wealth equals to the mind, and no poverty equals to ignorance. No wealth can profit you more than the mind.

"Knowledge is superior to wealth. It guards you whereas you guard wealth.
Wealth decreases with expenditure whereas knowledge multiplies with dissemination."





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