Article in brief: The author talks about the importance of setting up a common societal goal as means to progress by studying historic and recent examples of tolerance or division in societies.
In my previous article I talked about working social structures and the things that contribute to a productive society. However, for social structures to form there has to be a common goal or purpose amongst the people living in the society. The goal can be anything from economic prosperity to nationalism. After the recent Shiite mosque bombing in Kuwait there was an advertisement about a son asking his father whether he’s Sunni or Shiite. The father advised his son that whoever asks you that question you look into their eyes and say you’re Kuwaiti. This inspirational advertisement is an example of setting a common nationalistic goal in society. For when there is no common goal racism, discrimination, extremism, and civil conflict is sure to escalade.
When there is an agreement on a certain goal in society, a territory is then formed for the society to progress and achieve that goal. Take the UAE for example – when entering UAE territories one comes across a diverse, bilingual, tolerant, oil-rich, developed, and predominantly Muslim society. However, this is only true because most people within the territorial boundaries of what is called the UAE have accepted to work together towards a common purpose or goal. When societies break apart and refuse to agree upon a common interest, territories start to collapse and conflict starts to overcome the population.
In 1970, the late Sheikh Zayed Al Nahyan established the territories of the United Arab Emirates by uniting seven societies to a common goal. Sheikh Zayed saw these seven Trucial States as an opportunity to establish a single society and territory. Forty-five years later, the UAE society is still working together in hopes of a better present and future. The rulers of the UAE have done a great job in constantly changing, adapting, and setting new goals for society to progress towards. Such initiatives promote constant peace, tolerance, and progress in society.
Take Iraq and Syria as an example, where society there is no longer a single goal for society to progress towards. Religious sects, political parties, extremist and modernist are all fighting each other for different purposes and goals. There is no common purpose or goal in that society anymore, and because of that lives, homes, and lands are being torn apart. There are signs of such societal division and this can be observed in various countries around the world. In 1975, Lebanon pummeled into civil war for fifteen years leading to almost 120,000 fatalities (United Nations General Assembly , 2006). This civil war was mostly due to the division of the Muslim Sunna, Muslim Shia, Christian, and Druze in Lebanon. Each party had its own goal and objective to achieve which further increased the division amongst society. Having a united society keeps the territories strong and progressive.
However, when a common goal isn’t agreed upon and society starts to divide itself based on ethnicity, skin color, religious sect, or social class, demise is soon to follow. Take the Roman Empire as an example: after the death of Theodosius I in 395 AD, the Roman Empire was no longer united. There was no longer a force that pushed the vast and diverse Roman society under a single common goal. Soon after, conflict engulfed Rome, Germanic tribes invaded Rome, and Rome split apart into different Roman tribes in the west and the Byzantine Empire in the East.
Al Andalus is another example of societal breakdown and division leading to its territorial demise. Once united under the Umayyad Caliphate, Al Andalus then became an independent state in 750 AD after the fall of the Umayyad Caliphate and the rise of the Abbasid. For more than three hundred years, Al Andalus was a global hub to economic, religious, scientific, political, and social prosperity and tolerance. However, societies once again divided themselves based on aspects as race, skin, and ethnicity. Between the years 1000 and 1492, the once prosperous and advanced society of Al Andalus split into 32 different Taifa’s with sovereign territories and societies (Alkhateeb, 2014). This division paved the way for Queen Isabella I and Ferdinand II to seize Al Andalus in 1492.
It is very interesting to observe that the concept of societal unity and the need for a common goal is not just linked to humans alone. In 1947, there was a four-year civil conflict that took place in Gombe, Tanzania between two communities of chimpanzees. This conflict, known as the Gombe Chimpanzee War, was between the northern and southern Gombe chimpanzee societies. However, a territorial dispute between the once united societies broke out leading to the torture, rape, kidnapping, and eventually the death of 11 chimpanzees within four years.
What makes up a society isn’t the concept of common blood, race, religion, but rather a common goal. So people should stop looking at diversity as a disease, and instead, take pride in a diverse society that is united!
In the UAE alone we have all kinds of groups that are further interlinked within each other. We have Arabs, Ajam, westerns and south Asians. We have Muslims, Christians, and Hindus. We have Shia Muslims and Sunna Muslims. All of those groups must learn to work together for a common objective. Amongst all these diverse groups in society a common objective and goal must be constantly pursued. Every one of us, including myself, must learn to accept that a society is diverse and that everyone has different views and beliefs within it. If we fail to accept such vital ideals we end up discriminating amongst ourselves.
I am not saying that you should follow someone else’s religious beliefs or views, rather to accept their right, as members in society, to follow their own beliefs and views. Who are we to dictate amongst others what is right or wrong? Those who seek a prosperous and united society must look beyond the irrelevant differences within society and embrace the diversity and the progression towards a common goal.
- Alkhateeb, F. (2014). Disunity in al-Andalus: The Taifa Period. Retrieved 2015, from http://lostislamichistory.com/disunity-in-al-andalus-the-taifa-period/
- Connolly, W. (1996). Tocqueville, Territory and Violence in Shapiro M and Alker H eds. Challenging Boundries: Global Flows, Territorial Identities. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
- Dictionary.com. (2015). Territory Origin. Retrieved April 19, 2015, from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/territory
- United Nations General Assembly . (2006, April 3). IMPLEMENTATION OF GENERAL ASSEMBLY RESOLUTION 60/251 OF 15. Retrieved from OHCHR: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/A.RES.60.251_En.pdf
Nasser AlFalasi was born the year the cold war ended. For those who don’t know the year the cold war ended, Nasser’s columns in SAIL is exactly for that reason. Nasser’s undergrad was in Financial Services at the Higher Colleges of Technology. He then pursued his graduate studies at NYU, NYC concentrating in global affairs with a specialization in international relations and transnational security. His major interests include history and global affairs. Most of his columns will be in regards to those topics. By the way, if you haven’t already found out the year Nasser was born, its 1991.
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