Part I: A Treatise on Trust State for a New Arab World: Overcoming Dichotomous Thought
Mohammed Hashas 15 July 2016

Aim and Scope

This treatise proposes Trust State (addawla al-i‘timāniyya) as a political model of governance for a new Arab world ruled by a pluralist “trust social contract” (a-tta‘āqud al-ijtimā‘i al-i‘timāni). Its originality is that it is a concept that belongs to the Arab domain (al-majāl attadāwuli al-‘arabi) and its plural tradition; it is a modern state, a constitutional democracy that guarantees the horizontal (material) and vertical (transcendental-spiritual) needs of its free and equal citizens. Trusteeship paradigm [1] is the modern worldview that founds it and characterizes its popular and majority culture (more on this below). “Trustee” is the ideal citizen of this State; in common parlance, s/she can be many things at the same time; s/she overcomes dichotomous thought. Trust State can be described as post-secular, post-modern, post-colonial, post-islamist, post-Western, i.e. “post-post X.” In succinct terms, Trust State is ontologically religion-friendly and epistemologically plural. The term “Trust State” in Arabic makes much more sense than its English rendering; but since this treatise is thinking through and for the Arab domain in particular, but not only, it is the Arab language and ear that is considered first; non-Arabs can find their own translation of the term-concept.

Trust State treatise sums up a work in progress as a way out of the political conceptualization of the predicament in the Arab world, but not only. It suggests transcending oppositional and dichotomous thought that Euro-modernity has put the rest of the world in, based on its own history and language, which are not and cannot be universal unless it converts to plurality that characterizes the world. This dichotomous thought has always been a reality in human history, but modernity has intensified this dichotomy in understanding the world to unprecedented levels, sometimes to abhorring and ridiculous levels. Religion in a Euro-modern context has been, and let us say is, often considered a sign of pre-modernity, irrationality, incivility, conservativism, and regress; the United States is a different and interesting modern case to look at; Japan, as a non-European culture or geography, is another example; the Indian and Latin American contexts are other examples. Euro-modernity appears to have ridiculed other traditions outside its understanding for good time, but the debates that it has been experiencing since post-World War II, due to migration flows, have obliged it to open up, gradually, to new narratives and traditions that do well in critiquing its limitations and at the same time in rejuvenating its thinking. Secularism, or laȉcité in its French version, or secularity and secularization as processes of gradual overcoming and-or taming religion in modern times, have been put in contradistinction with what is religious, especially if this “religious” is Islamic, not caring about what these concepts mean in civilizations and cultures that had a different history with religion, as is the case with the Arabs and Islam for example. Classical Orientalism, Colonialism, Hegemony and Islamophobia have done immense damage to Arab-European relations. They are symptoms of immense internal fear, postmodern identity crisis, and global economic corruption that affect the masses and raise their fears, fears that seek refuge in forgotten, or eclipsed, historical identities. When identities are discussed again, their counter-identities are either brought back to the collective imaginaire from history or are simply quickly reformulated to construct a new narrative. The scapegoated identity, or the Other, reacts, first and foremost through resistance narrative. At a certain stage, concepts become vital for a counter-but-constructive narrative to overcome this mutual suspicion and diabolization. This treatise tries to overcome this predicament by proposing a new concept that overcomes these Euro-modern binaries. (This in no way suggests that Euro-modernity is intrinsically dichotomous and conflicting; there are historical factors that shape any narrative, and being it the avant-guardist in the modern enterprise, it bears this responsibility and feature; history should not, and will not, stop at its model.)

The aim behind this treatise is to overcome the trap of the Modern Nation State, its nature and its mis-used various names in an era of enormous divisions in the Arab region, which is being reshaped – on the part of hegemonic external modern powers and dictatorial internal ones. This overcoming process (marhalat attajāwuz) is necessary both to the Arabs and to Europe – Europe as a basic component of what is erroneously-fabricated block called the “West” – so that they both enter a new period of serious cooperation and dialogue on the economic, intellectual, and political levels; there is no way out but that constructive cooperation of win-win as equals, and that should start at the abstract and linguistic level by clarifying what means what. This overcoming most essential characteristic is the recognition of diversity and plurality as a way of life, cooperation for the benefit of both sides of the Mediterranean, and the establishment of a humanist and futuristic civilisation built on “the balance of interests” between the concerned societies. A common world between you and us, northerners and southerners of the Mediterranean is possible; let’s surrender to it. This would prevent excessive materialism and overconsumption from crushing the human soul, and would prevent humans from getting lost in the short life they live because of the excessive withdrawal from noble work on Earth, the natural field which gives a refined and deep meaning and goal to human life, human values, and existence. The overcoming we are speaking about starts as an idea, as a term and as a concept which critically analyses that which is current and thought about and opens up to future existential untried possibilities of existence. It starts as a critical movement for the sake of a better tomorrow for the Arabs and their friends, near and far. There is no space for arrogance in Trusteeship Paradigm that feeds this project. Altruism (al-ghayriyya), compassion (arrahma), recognition (attaāruf), and transformative dialogue (attahawur) for justice (aladl) and peace (assalām) are the guiding principles of international relations in this paradigm. Ethics (al-akhlāq) of good deeds nurtured through pluralist education (attalim al-mutaaddid) is the way towards achieving it. The Islamic ethical principle of good deeds requires good intentions, and good intentions require good deeds is fundamental in this paradigm. It is the shariatic ethic par excellence. This in no way makes Trust State a religious or theocratic state, because this shariatic ethic is plural, and accommodative of ultra-religious and atheistic morals as long as they serve public good and guarantee a dignified life for human beings equally, sisterly-fraternally.

Why Do We Need a New Concept? Three Preliminary Notes

We begin here with three points which frame what we are calling for. First, the Arab world needs concepts of overcoming (mafāhīm attajāwuz) because it has not produced a distinctive modern term in the field of intellectual-political sovereignty for the last two centuries-plus during which it has dealt with Euro-modernity. That is especially relevant since the currently divided Arab world needs concepts to reunite it with neutral and/or new terms related to its language, tradition and open to the experiences of the modern world. For that reason, we are proposing the term and concept of “Trust State” to deliver ourselves from the spiral of names which have become corrupted for various factors. An important number of individuals, intellectuals and political bodies inside and outside of the Arab world no longer feel secure with the existing nomenclature. Terms such as “siyyāssa shar‘iyya”, the “secular state”, “the liberal state”, the “religious state”, “Islamic state”, and the “civil state” appear unable to answer to the various intercultural identities of the Arab, be her/him intellectual or a laywoman. We need a term that enables the plural Arab citizen to have faith in the Arab citizen who is different from them by overcoming the trap of power monopolization and the absence of security. That term would constitute a new contractual “historical block” so as to give the “new Arab” a presence worthy of their serious belief in change as well as their attachment to their identity in this historical moment, instead of always borrowing terms or projecting them on history as if they were thorough, comprehensive, and ahistorical.

Second, the new concept belongs to “post-West” paradigm of thought. Euro-America, or the so-called West, and its concepts which have influenced the world, and the Arab world more specifically, is no longer the master of the world as it used to be perceived or as it used to perceive itself and still does. Its intellectual and political paradigm is no longer “the best” or “the right” in the world, because its limitations and backlashes are many, its complex precisely vis-à-vis the Arab-Islamic culture is profound; its internal crises are enough trouble for it to take care of; and its external hegemony and alliance with tyrants goes against its discourse of modernity. It has ceased to be a “unique idea” because all that it has shown outside of its geographic zone is hegemony and indifference towards the miserable conditions it has either caused or contributed to. This does not, however, mean that the “West” should be turned away; instead, cooperation with it is geographically and historically necessary and apparently inevitable; this can and should be done from “post-West” paradigm. European and Arab histories are intertwined and cannot – and should not – be totally separated; still, they should be severely and separately criticised, until the different Other is recognised as a partner, and not as one’s backyard or colony. The West is West and the East is East and they (shall) meet! They have met and they should meet once more, collaborate, and recognise each other till the labels disappear; they make no sense as separate entities; who is one-thing now? [2] Trust in the Other is the key, beyond populisms, provincialisms, salafisms, and what may be called a phenomenon of ignorology (attajāhuliyya), now so widespread in “modern-liberal societies”, let alone in non-liberal ones. Thought is indeed nurtured by hope; without minimal hope, no human being would write and contemplate to transcend their past; optimism is a moral duty [3]. The Arab-Islamic presence in Europe, which is forming a plural European Islam, has a role in establishing a phase of “overcoming” the dichotomous mindset that originates in religious Crusades, secular Crusades, religious supremacy, Orientalism, Occidentalism, populisms, salafisms, and institutional ignorology.

Third, the “new Arab” here means the Arab whose political mind would gradually mature and extract itself from hostile oppositional dichotomies such as the “religious”, the “secular”, the “sectarian,” the “ethnic”, the “linguistic”, etc., because the new Arab paradigm that it can build can only thrive if the opposing identities that have been starkly constructed since the encounter with the notion of the modern nation state are overcome: regressive religiosity, radical secularism, tyrant liberalism, and centrist ethnicity and lingualism. All the masks of different discourses have fallen and no single political and ideological current or thought can now lead society alone to the shore safely. A democratic “historical block” which defends its local, regional and territorial specificity, within clear geographical boundaries, is necessary. Arab nationhood that Trust State defends here is not ethnic, racial or linguistic, but rather geo-political. A modern but importantly pluralist Arab political thought is mandatory; it actually exists but simply has not reached the masses yet, nor has it been received by the political corrupt elite and its foreign feeders. The problem in the Arab world is substantially political. The State we are calling for stretches its citizens’ horizons of thought, making it possible that the Arab trusts the Kurd, the Amazigh trusts the Arab, the believer trusts the non-believer and the agnostic, the majorities trust the minorities, the latter in turn trust their intra-minorities, and vice versa. The new Arab does not speak about “absolute Truth”, or the “only right way”, but only on pathways of Truth. Their mind rather opens up to all possible truths, because peace, social justice, liberty, equality, solidarity and dignity are the bases of a new “trust social contract” (atta‘āqud al-ijtimā‘i al-i’timani), and every ethnicity, every religion and every philosophy in the Arab domain has the right to participate in that contract and to defend it, from its own perspective; this is not new in the history of the Arabs. The objective is too big to be protected by one group, one understanding of religion or one race or ethnicity in the era of globalisation, which weakens minorities or divides weak majorities. The Arab has the right to practice their religion or not to do so, and the right to argue for “Trust State” from any religious, philosophical, moral or scientific viewpoint they want, provided they submit to the general framework of the new Trust State and its highest interests. Each current has specific ethics that are encompassed within the socially recognized political ethics of the majority. Thus, no single current can speak alone in the name of religion, as if they were the protectors of God-Allah and of the national identity, nor does the non-religious stand against religion as if they were the sole protectors of humanistic rationality, without whom humans and humanity would allegedly be uncivilized. Corrupt interpretation of scientific humanism has done more damage in the 20th century than all religious conflicts together have committed in human history. The new Arab protects the “new trust social contract” and strengthens it no matter the extent of internal dissent. This was and still is already lived in most parts of the Arab world, but not yet with the meaning hoped for here, institutionally within a constitutional democracy, since every current and every faction is suspicious towards the other and does not entrust them with their lives and with their national identity. When the Arab mind accepts the diversity of opinions in the public sphere and daily life, we would then have penetrated the trust matrix aspired for – a consolidated Democratic Trust State. Only then the non-Arab Other/Friend/Neighbour would respect the new Arab, as the latter’s thought is larger, deeper and more understanding of politics, political and cultural multiplicity. In this sense, the Arab Spring is not dead; the Arab who suffered and is still suffering from the devastation of the Arab world is the one who would now operate further revisions in thought that would first open for them that which was previously closed in their minds. Despite the backlash or seeming failure, the Arab Spring thinks, as we have suggested in a previous opinion article, [4] because its ambitions are legitimate even if the right environment that would embrace them is still absent for various internal and external factors. Trust State accommodates Arab Spring aspirations, and raises them further to higher-ideal levels.

In PART II, we outline fifteen arguments in support of this call for a new reform and form of the State in the Arab political domain.