'There is no doubt that mathematics and astronomy owe a great debt to the Arabs," wrote Harvard's George Sarton in his history of science. It all started more than 1,000 years ago, while the West was living the Dark Ages.
An Arab genius named Musa al-Khawazmi went to India to study its science, and there took a hard look at the Indian sifr (zero), which had been used mainly as an empty ring for calculation convenience.
Al-Khawazmi then came back home and introduced what is now known in the West as Arab numerals, including the concept of zero, which led to a scientific revolution upon which algebra and computer science have been built until today.
Without the Arab zero, there wouldn't be digital technology and social networks. There wouldn't be Facebook, and there wouldn't be an Arab revolution.
Arab dictators would be doing what they have been doing for years, squandering Arab wealth and brutalizing their people.
The Arab youth revolution has been the most transforming uprising in history, in which millions of young men and women have put their lives on the line and have taken to the streets to ask for freedom and dignity.
American youths, who used the social network to elect the first black U.S. president, have been missing. They are on the social network mainly to be entertained and to pursue happiness as an empty zero.
It has all come full circle.
Just as Arabs introduced the concept of zero to the West a millennium ago, they are now giving the West a new meaning for the social network -- a force that can topple dictators and transform societies.
The revolutionaries in Tunisia and Egypt rid themselves of longtime dictators, and now the revolt is spreading in Libya, where a lunatic dictator is cornered in his green-zone capital city.
In Jordan, Algeria, Yemen, Bahrain, Sudan, Syria, Iraq and even Iran, the people are storming the gates of corruption and dictatorship.
The Arab revolution is connecting and inspiring people all over the world. North Koreans and Vietnamese are studying the Egyptian revolution for their own fight for change.
America's youths, however, are nowhere to be found, except spending ever-more billions of minutes on Facebook. American women spend more hours watching cooking on TV than actually cooking, liberating themselves from the kitchen to the couch.
The Arab revolution is taking the West by surprise, and the West can't have it both ways. You can't support dictators and democracy at the same time.
You can't talk about peace and wage wars. You can't support the Arab people's revolution and the entrenched Arab military at the same time.
You can't protect homeland security while sowing insecurity around the world. You can't support Israeli occupation of Arab lands and the peace process.
You can't send a public message to the Muslim world while sending drones to assassinate Muslims in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
America can't fight Muslim fundamentalism abroad and spread Christian fundamentalism at home, can't fight religious jihadists and nourish financial jihadists.
We can't talk about liberating Muslim women and ignore the subjugation of women at home, with almost 600 rapes a day and 5 millions assaults on women committed each year in America.
I understand that the Arab revolution is not over, and the challenges of the postrevolution period are mounting. But there is no going back.
It has been a bad couple of months already for Arab dictators, and it is going to be a bad year, not just for the Arab dictators, but for dictators all over the world -- government dictators and corporate dictators as well.
Because the Arab revolution is a people's revolution, and people all over the world can win.
Ahmed Tharwat is a public speaker and hosts the Arab-American show "Belahdan" at 10:30 p.m. Saturdays on Twin Cities Public Television. He blogs at www.ahmediatv.com.