I wrote once, in an Op-Ed published by the Israeli Ynet, that while having dinner with an ex-prime minister of a western country, he asked me a question: “What differentiates you from other Arab leaders”. It was a relatively easy question and the answer was even easier “Because I never killed anyone, robbed from anyone, or stifled the liberty of anyone”.
According to my friend, there lays the problem. “Most western countries want to see corrupt Arab and Muslim leaders occupy positions of power.” Why? “Because it is easier to control them (and seek the concessions we want from them)”. He did not say the latter part but the implication was obvious.
As many read about the cash payments made to Karzai personally by the Iranian regime, it seems that the corruption of any Muslim leader could go against one’s interests as well. I wonder if this “inconnu” was part of the equation of those who support corrupt Muslim thugs. Corruption is a two-way street and once unleashed, it becomes uncontrollable.
Beyond Karzai, and if one observes the inner mechanics of any government led by Muslim leaders in any Arab country, it won’t be long before it becomes obvious that corruption of these leaders is part and parcel of their existence.
Take for example the sovereign fund of the country of Qatar. In 2009 and according to Transparency International, the fund scored 2 over 100 when it comes to transparency and two big ZEROS when it comes to behavior or governance. In other words, the sovereign fund is the Emir’s personal bank account.Â When was the last time we read about this fact in the Washington Post, Le Monde, or Der Spiegel? We will never read about this because higher powers want the Emir to be corrupt in order to control him. This “Virtual Colonialism” is costing the west and the region far more than the benefits we all derive from its application or administration. .
In the Arab world, the Muslim leader, Emir, Sheik, King, or President is the richest man in the country he rules (First quoted by Prof. Fouad Ajami). Every single one of them rules for one purpose only: To get rich and powerful. Service to the nation? Oh ya. that too, if they have time between trips to the bank.
That does not mean the same may not happen in western countries. In fact, no matter how stringent the transparency rules are, someone will always find a way to abuse his/her powers. The big difference is that in western countries, there is a high chance of getting caught but in the Muslim world, there is very little chance, if any, because corruption starts at the top in an authoritarian system. Karzai was caught because more than likely a whistle blower talked to the NYTimes.
Arab and Muslim backwardness is partially caused by the lack of transparency and accountability in our corner of the world. And as long as we have corrupt rulers like Karzai or al-Thani of Qatar or al-Saud of Saudi Arabia, we shall remain hibernated in a dark cave. Only democracy, freedom, and human rights will redeem our nations and salvage Islam from its abysmal and catastrophic gravitational pull assisted by the corrupt practices of Muslim rulers.