WASHINGTON, September 4, 2014 — A number of Middle Eastern presidents, kings and despots have had a western education. What has that education done for them?
Education and experience are two sides of one coin: It takes both to succeed in life.
Education is the foundation of understanding, acceptance and respect of one for another without any condition. The right education grants the knowledge to not only provide an income, but also to shape our lives and our interactions with others. Education shapes minds; a good education makes us better human beings, people who can work in civilized societies and help those around them.
While a good education can shape good human beings, a bad or dishonest education can make us worse. What kind of education have national leaders received in the west?
The King of Bahrain studied at America’s Command and General Staff College and at The Leys School in Cambridge, England. He experienced the freedoms protected in the United Kingdom and the United States. He lived in an open society with free speech and a free press. Yet he fails to trust his own people with the freedoms he experienced here.
Given the opportunity for a liberating western education, King Hamad did not internalize the importance of freedom and human rights to take back to his country. Bahrainis are under brutal attack by their government. Many cases of killing, torture and rape have been recorded in Bahrain by human rights organizations such as Human rights watch, Amnesty International and Shia rights watch.
King Hamad seems to be consciously inflicting torture on the east. He refuses to endorse the basic rights he experienced in the west to his own people. He ignores the principles of leadership taught in the West which call for him to respect his people and allow them a say in their government. Instead he imposes the forms of oppression common in the region’s history.
Syrian president Bashar al-Assad also studied abroad. He did postgraduate study at the Western Eye Hospital in London. He has a better understanding of Western culture and freedom through his half-British wife. Although the opposition movement in Syria was hijacked by terrorist groups such as the al-Nusra Front and Islamic state of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS), in its early stages he could have resolved many issues before they exploded into civil war.
The kings of Qatar and United Arab Emirates, two countries with a history of funding terrorist groups, graduated from the British Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst. Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, Former Emir of Qatar and Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyana both received a Western education and experienced many rights before they become leaders at home and suppressed their people.
While many countries fail to educate their people, other nations replace education with fabricated teachings of Islam. Many Islamic schools teach close-mindedness to their students, brainwashing them into extremism. The Al-Azhar University in Cairo was founded in 970 or 972 to teach the Qur’an and Islamic law. Al-Azhar intended to be the center of a growing community of scholars who would promote the message of Peace in the world.
Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way. Graduates from that university end up with radical and extremist ideologies; they promote human rights abuse and targeted killings. Yusuf al-Qaradawi, 87, is an example of an Al-Azhar graduate. The U.K. and U.S. have banned him from visiting because of his promotion of violence against innocent people. Al-Qaradawi was a principal shareholder and a Sharia advisor of Bank al-Taqwa, a bank that the U.S and the UN associate with financing al-Qaeda.
There are other “scholars” like al-Qaradawi who have have the blood of innocent people, such as Shia Muslims, on their hands. In recent months, Al-Azhar has banned its students from connections or associations with Shia Muslims, further showing its sectarian face. Shafi Alajmi, a Kuwaiti scholar, is another extremist who has a record of hate speeches against Shia Muslims. In a June, 2013 speech in front of the embassy of Lebanon, he admitted ordering the slaughter of Sayed Mousawi, a Shia Muslim scholar, and his wife and two daughters in the town of Hatla, Syria.
Despite his admission of responsibility, the government of Kuwait has failed to hold Alajmi accountable for the murder. In a television interview, Alajmi said that he is collecting and sending money to Syrian extremists to buy weapons for foreign fighters. Despite his open support of terrorists, there has yet to be any foreign or domestic intervention.
The misinterpretation of islamic law has fueled the growing hatred and abuse of Shia Muslims in the Middle East. Leaders fail to react to the growing sectarianism endorsed by the western schools they attended. Not only do they fail to guide their people, but they also neglect to uphold punishment to those advocating extremism. Their governments deny their citizens basic freedoms, despite their life and educational experience in the west.
So far Western and Islamic educational institutions have failed to create true leaders who care for and protect those they lead. Most of our leaders lack the needed leadership skills to end inhumane treatment of their people. In fact many of them are the ones fueling terror and discrimination.
Maybe now is a perfect time for all educational centers and schools to evaluate their work. If the people they’ve educated are human rights violators, have these schools done what they intended to do?