Friday Forum: What Price the Arab Spring?

Friday, October 21st, 2011 from 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm

Andrew Lake has been a minister of churches in NSW and Tasmania. He has also lived and worked for 2 years in India, 8 years in Indonesia and most recently 2 years in Syria. Published works include books on history and Christian spirituality. He is currently doing research on Christianity in the Middle East.

The tumult of the Middle East – Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen and others – has been reported and broadcast widely.  We see it through Western eyes.

Andrew LakeThe Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was based on principles of human rights which evolved in Western Europe and have been passed on to Anglo countries like the USA and Australia over the last two hundred years.  In reaction to the horrors of the Second World War it was pushed through the United Nations in 1948.  Not all were happy – including the Soviet Union and Saudi Arabia. Subsequently separate gatherings of Muslim countries and East Asian countries have met and expressed reservations about it and proposed modifications.

The Arab regimes have been judged by the West and the Western Press on the basis of the UDHR. There are two weaknesses in this approach.

First, unlike Western civilisations like ours, other civilisations do not make the rights of the individual the bedrock of values and law. Chinese civilisations put harmony and prosperity first. Look at the way Singapore and China operate. Arab civilisations put family honour first. Look at the leniency with which perpetrators of honour killings of family members are treated right across the Arab world.

Second, there is a nauseating inconsistency in the way Western countries and the Western Press deal with human rights issues. For instance the Saudi Arabian regime, which has easily the worst human rights record in the Middle East in terms of treatment of women and religious minorities, has avoided condemnation and punitive measures by the Western countries. By contrast the Syrian government, which has an excellent track record in protecting religious minorities, such as Christians, and empowering women, is vilified because they do not tolerate dissent. Yet the religious minorities and many women’s groups know that if regimes like Assad’s Syria fall then they may be replaced by regimes which seek to implement aspects of Sharia law which will discriminate against them. The Iraq experience and recent developments in Egypt suggest these misgivings are perfectly understandable

The Friday Forum with Andrew Lake was held on October 21, 2011, from 1pm to 2pm at St. David’s Cathedral, Hobart

The full text of Andrew’s talk is now available: pdf

The audio of Andrew’s talk is now available: mp3

The audio of the Q&A following Andrew’s talk: Q&A