Middle East is a term that has been used to refer to a region that covers South Western Asia although currently it includes some countries like Pakistan, North Africa and Caucasus (Brown, 2004. It is important to note that the term is also used to mean Near East and to exclude the region known as Far East. It is a major center for various affairs in the whole world contributing greatly to its popularity. For instance, it is the center for some of the major religions in the world like Islam, Judaism, Baha’i faith and Christianity. Farming is a major economic activity and although some parts are arid, there are some rivers that are used for irrigation and thus why agriculture is practiced even in such areas.
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In addition, some regions especially in the Gulf area are rich sources of crude oil and contribute greatly to the economy seeing that oil is an important source of energy in the whole world. There are many issues regarding Middle East but the most striking issue is the conflicts like Palestine Israeli conflict which has been in existence for a long time (Schulze, 2008). Having started quite powerfully, the region has ended up being behind in many issues while compared to other regions in the world. Therefore, in that case, the main question is what went wrong? With that background in mind, this essay critically analyses the problem of Middle East in reference to the major conflicts and other problems that characterizes its history.
The current status of most countries in the Middle East clearly illustrates that there is something wrong. To begin with, it is important to mention that most countries in Middle East were marked by Islamic civilization. Initially, the civilization was far much ahead compared to other human civilizations in the view of the fact that Islamic countries were very much developed in scientific and philosophical fields. However, currently, compared to other countries where Christianity is the main religion, countries in Middle East are marked by poverty and lack of development not to mention conflicts.
As the studies of Lewis (2003) indicate, it is unlikely to find successful people hailing from Middle East countries like Pakistan. To confirm the statement, Lewis explains that it is long since a scientist from such countries won a Nobel Prize or even a great singer hailed from the region (2010). Worse still, there is poverty in such countries while the largest quantity of crude oil is produced in the region. Without emphasizing further, it is true that something went amiss.
The only way to understand where the problem of Middle East lies is by studying the history of the major conflicts which have been in existence. The Palestine and Israeli conflict stands out among all the other conflicts mostly due to the fact that it has been inexistence for a long time. It is multifaceted as it is a result of many factors such as control of Jerusalem, border disputes, security, freedom of movement of Palestinians, water rights and settlement of Israel, to mention just a few. The problem worsened after the Oslo peace records collapsed in September 2002. There may have been many factors that may have led to the failure of Oslo, but most studies illustrate that culture played a great role in the same (Goldschmidt & Davidson, 2005).
Although there are other factors to play, religion is a major contributory factor to the Palestine Israeli conflict despite the fact that there are only three religions in the region which are inclusive of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Since Jerusalem city is significant to the three religions, conflict arises since both countries seek to retain Jerusalem for religious purposes. Palestine has been claiming all the parts of Jerusalem that were not initially part of Israel before 1967. United States proposed a plan which was aimed at resolving the Jerusalem conflict in the year 2000 and 2001. The plan had proposed that the Jewish parts of the city were to be retained by Israel while the Arab parts were to be retained by Palestine. Although both countries had accepted the proposal, the summit failed and the conflict was not resolved.
Although is difficult to understand the causes of conflicts in Middle East, a study of history indicates that Muslim faith may have had a great role to play in the same. This is due to the fact that political culture of any nation is highly influence by religion. For instance, there is a big difference between Christianity and Islam. While Christianity has been in a position to separate the church and the state, in Islamic countries, separation of church and state has not been achieved. In case there is such a separation, it is often opposed by religious leaders and other citizens.
As a result, it has been quite difficult for a secular society to develop in an Islamic country. The case of Saddam Hussein is a real example because he did not succeed in his devours since he was being opposed by the people. On the other hand, since Christianity was mostly the minor religion, it was always separate or in opposition to the political power. Consequently, the situation allowed development in political, scientific and cultural arena.
Some characteristics of Islam contribute greatly to the problems of Muslims. For instance, it is quite explicit that Muslims disregard other civilizations as well as other cultures. Although Islam adopted technological ideas from a country like China, they rarely adopted philosophical ideas from other groups like Greeks since they were polytheists.
Christianity was looked at with contempt and since Muslims considered their religion to be the perfect, they thought that there was nothing they could learn from Christians. In addition, citizens from the western hemisphere were always eager to travel to Muslim countries and learn from them. Contrastingly, Muslims never considered visiting other countries to be an important agenda. As a result, the rate of development in Islamic countries in Middle East was really slow and continues to be so.
Currently, there is little if any reasonable interaction between Middle East and the west. For example, scientists from Middle East rarely contribute in the International scientific journals. In addition, studies of Lewis ( 2003) illustrate that for a long time, there was no medical text which was translated to the Arabic language expect for the syphilis work in the sixteenth century. The case clearly illustrates the reason why Middle East developed slowly bearing in mind that the west was continuously learning from Middle East.
As highlighted in the introductory part, Middle East has been characterized by major conflicts. Therefore, it is important to study the history of the conflicts to be in a position to understand the root cause. Oil production by countries like United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia became the defining factor economically due to mass production of oil not to mention that some countries like Saudi Arabia became very important producers of oil in the whole world.
As a result, the region became the main cause of conflict between Soviet Union and the United States during the cold war. There may have been other causes of conflicts between the two superpowers but the fact that the region produced large quantities of oil contributed greatly to same since gaining control was accompanied by economic benefits. Therefore, since Middle East is vulnerable to foreigners, oil production becomes a causative factor to the conflicts in the region.
Several studies which have been conducted indicate that the culture of Middle East is the chief cause of most problems that are currently facing the region. On the same note, it is important to mention that most of the cultural aspects in Middle East are dictated by Islam religion. In that case, Middle East has been extremely rigid such that while the other cultures in the world are embracing change, it remains static.
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For instance, in most countries in Middle East, women are not actively involved in development activities, a situation attributed to the view of women in the Islam Faith. Some other issues linked with the political culture also emanate from the Islam faith. For instance, as highlighted earlier, the issue of Palestine Israeli conflict is related to the Islam faith. In addition, the terrorist attack in United States on September 11 was also linked to an Islamic terrorist group. Therefore, it is clear that the issue of Islamic faith has contributed greatly to the current situation in Middle East.
As studies of Lewis (2003) illustrate, it is difficult to explore the problem of Middle East. However, a study of various issues such as conflicts, poverty and slow development pace affirms that something must have gone wrong. This research has however tried to analyze the issue of culture, religion as well as failure to separate state and religion. In all the factors, the issue of Islam faith stands out since from earlier centuries, the faith has been playing a major role in the region. However, that does not negate the fact that there are other factors that have made Middle East to be isolated and to lag behind while compared to other countries in the world.
Brown, L. C. (2004). Diplomacy in the Middle East: the international relations of regional and outside powers. London: I.B.Tauris.
Goldschmidt, A. & Davidson, L. (2005). A concise history of the Middle East. Boulder: Westview Press.
Lewis, B. (2003). What went wrong?: the clash between Islam and modernity in the Middle East. New York: Perennial.
Schulze, K. E. (2008). The Arab-Israeli Conflict. London: Pearson Longman.