Over the last seven years the Arab Human Development Reportshave explored most of the problems that hold back Arab societies and, on the whole, they have not minced their words. But there is one issue they have consistently shied away from discussing – the role of religion.
This is not very surprising, considering that religion is such a sensitive issue. But when religious attitudes and practices have such a huge effect on the daily lives of people in the region it’s also a major omission, and one that unbalances the totality of the AHDR’s research.
Wrtiting in today’s Daily Star, Ghassan Rubeiz takes up this point:
Among the many causes freezing social and political reform in the Arab world is the dominance of religious authorities … The UNDP reports should tackle the religious factor with more courage. Reducing the hold of organised religion on politics and social change – and I do not mean inhibiting faith or spirituality – will have a multiplier effect on reform.
Arab societies that give strong leadership roles to religious authorities face more difficulties in state-building than those societies that limit clerical power to spiritual matters … Might the next annual report focus on ways to effectively approach regime-change and liberation of political systems from religious authority?