الإسلام والغرب: نحو عالم أفضل

1

Conferences

Islam and the West… For a better world

1

Conferences

Islam and the West For a better world

Edited by Khalid Hajji

Contributors Abdelhamid Youyou

Abbas Aroua

Abdellah Ennafissi

Abuyaarab Almarzuqi

Andreas Abu Bakr Rieger

Basheer M. Nafi

Bruno Guiderdoni

Burhan Ghalioun

Claudio Mario Betti

Fabio Rugge

Gil Anidjar

Gunter Mulack Louis J. Cantori

Hassan Makki

Kenneth White

Mounir Shafik

Murad Hofmann





   

 



  

   



    

       



   

                    



    !   "   #    ! 



  

  $     %   &  



   

    !   "    ' 



   

     



  

 !   (     )   



     

 !       "  $                        !    

*  & # +        



 "

,    -



  



Introduction (in Arabic)

7

Strategy for a Fair dialogue (in Arabic)

19

Abuyaarab Almarzuqi

Globalization in Practice (in Arabic)

33

Mounir Shafik

Clash of Civilizations: Conflictology Perspective (in Arabic) Abbas Aroua Ethics of Coexistence: Towards a New pact (in Arabic)

43

51

Burhan Ghalioun

Islam and Muslims in the West (in Arabic)

61

Hassan Makki

Is it Enough to Secure the Interests of the West in our Region? (in Arabic) Abdellah Ennafissi Civilizational or Political: The Reality of the Present Tension between the Muslim World and the West (in Arabic) Basheer M. Nafi Islam and the West: Epistemological Obstacles (in Arabic) Abdelhamid Youyou

65

77

87

I NTRODUCTION I SLAM AND THE W EST : FOR A B ETTER W ORLD Khalid Hajji Aljazeera Centre for Studies More than twenty researchers were convened to participate in the first forum organized by Aljazeera Centre for Studies under the title: Islam and the West: for a Better World . As the title makes clear, the objective of the forum is two-fold. On the one hand, there is an urgent need to understand the true nature of the relations that bind Islam to the West. It is of fundamental importance that such enlightened researchers address this issue and come up with a clear diagnosis of the state of coexistence between these two entities. On the other hand, despite existing aspects of conflict and disharmony, the forum focuses on the existence of promising prospects of a better future. The underlying assumption is that the two entities – Islam and the West – are not doomed by necessity to conflict and clash. The organizers wished to contribute to the opening of a new field of perception in order to rethink the premises upon which theories of "clash of civilizations" are predicated. Undoubtedly, the opposition of Islam as a world religion to the West as a monolithic civilization is at least curious, if not incongruous. Whereas the former is an entity defined by faith, the latter is an entity defined in spatial terms. This opposition finds more than one justification in our contemporary political scene. The West strikes us as a force capable of technological forays, driven by the impulse to conquer the globe. Islam, contrariwise, appears to be a religion of an unfailing spiritual force capable of fostering resistance against the West. One of the implicit assumptions that underlie this divide is that the West epitomizes—to use an often quoted formula—"readiness to kill," whereas Islam stands for "readiness to die."

-7-

Islam and the West… for a better world @

However simplistic this formula might seem, it does exercise a certain kind of fascination. Lacking an adequate conceptual framework to cope with the chaotic flow of bad news after the horrific events of September 11th, 2001, more and more people seem inclined to such simplistic reductions. Indeed, nothing seems easier for the masses than a hasty pigeonholing of Islam and the West to answer the question of "what went wrong?" The thesis of two fundamentally different blocks of civilization condemned to perpetual conflict and war of attrition has a strong appeal to those seeking for an answer to the traditional question: Why do others hate us? If the organizers of the forum chose to speak about Islam and the West, it is not in the spirit of antagonizing further the relation between them, but in line with a deeply rooted conviction of Aljazeera Centre for Studies that what Islam and the West have in common is more than what divides them. The Holy Koran, the basic scripture of Islam, says: God's aim is unambiguous in creating human beings: they were created in male and female, and in different tribes and nations so that they may know each other. In Arabic, the verb "to know" shares the same etymological root as the verb "to recognize," which implies that knowing the "other" has as a prerequisite "recognizing" him and acknowledging his right to life. This applies also to Western languages. In French the link is obvious between "connaître" and "reconnaître;" or in German between "kennen" and "anerkennen." Indeed, nothing is more unreasonable than a wholesale condemnation of Western civilization as a demonic monolithic block. For, despite its evident aspects of political and economic hegemony, Western civilization remains a space of diversity. Throughout Western history, men O mankind! Lo! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. Lo! the noblest of you, in the sight of Allah, is the best in conduct. Lo! Allah is Knower, Aware. (Al-Hujurat)

-8-

Introduction @

and women of genius have always yearned to cross identity borders. A large unexplored Western body of thought, with illuminating ideas about the "self" and the "other", waits to be revisited. That said, the theories of "clash of civilization" stand on rickety conceptual frameworks. However foreign and distant it might seem, Islam remains one fundamental constituent of Western history, civilization and culture. It is not far from the truth to say that it is the third heritage of Western civilization, not least because it ignited, as it continues to ignite, Western debates about a number of basic issues. Without Islam, the Western mind would never have rethought its faith, reexamined the tenets of Catholicism, nor would there have been a reforming movement like Protestantism and the like. Islamic philosophy and science have pervaded the Renaissance with a distinctive hue. Denying the influence of Islamic heritage on the course of Western intellectual and scientific traditions is only comparable to denying Western civilization's influence on Islamic culture. In the early stages of Islamic history, the translation of Greek texts enhanced further the spirit of reflection among Muslims. Today, Western ideas and ideals represent the main instigating force for thought in Islamic countries. The dilemma of "Westernization" or "Modernization" continues to wreak havoc in contemporary Arab thought. Whether we like it or not, the West is "there," a living entity that must be dealt with. The annihilation of the "other" is simply impossible. This is the reason why it is of a paramount importance for all of us -West and East, Muslims and others- to engage in a new process of thinking. The forum was indeed an occasion for the participants to articulate a strong belief in a common future beyond the artificial mental divides that condemn Westerners and Muslims to perpetual antagonism. Whatever the subject of the contribution, the participants in the forum proceeded first to identify the barriers that

-9-

Islam and the West… for a better world @

impede communication between the two worlds; then to hint at ways of breaking down these barriers. For Gil Anidjar, Jews and Arabs are condemned to everlasting conflict as long as the logic of Western hegemony goes un-deconstructed. To Kenneth White, a symbiosis between Islam and the West is not impossible, provided we succeed in drawing a new mindscape, in mapping a new mental cartography – which requires crossing cultural boundaries and intellectual nomadism. Andreas Rieger invites Westerners in general, and Europeans in particular, to consider viable methods to profit from the rich Islamic tradition and Islamic way of life, instead of blindly rallying against the so- called Islamic terrorism. Abbas Aroua advocates dialogue as a prerequisite to reconciliation and healing of inflicted wounds of the past. Louis Cantori, while warning against abstract democracies that are meant to boost American hegemony, propounds his theory of "Islamic Republicanism." Murad Wilfred Hofmann focuses on the diversity of Islamic civilization and its huge enlightenment potentials. Fabio Rugge considers that the Arab world, like the rest of the non-Western nations, suffers from the curse of political models imported from the West. Nothing basic will change, according to this scholar, unless people are given enough freedom to invent their own models. For Claudio Mario Betti, if there is a clash, then it is simplistic to reduce it to a clash between Islam and the West. The solution to a majority of our problems today dwells in cultural relativism and in getting rid of the idea that one single force can enlighten the whole world. Basheer Nafia assigns the existing malaise in the relation between Islam and the West to concrete political conditions and contending interests that oppose the forces of hegemony to the rest of the world. Unless Western powers rid themselves of their paternalistic attitude towards the rest of the world, the discontent and feelings of resentment will grow in intensity. For Gunter Mulack, education is the key to the development of the most

-10-

Introduction @

important segments of the Arab population, namely youth and women. Only with a considerable mass of educated people can the West achieve peace with Islam. Bruno Guiderdoni hints at the limits of modern science and thus invites the mind to humbly contemplate, meditate and envisage other ways of reaching equilibrium in our cosmos. Abu Yaarab El-Marzouqi points at the obstacles that hamper Muslims in their dialogue among themselves and with others. For lack of a clear representation of what is the true nature of the conflict that opposes them to the West, Muslims will fail in their dialog. Mounir Shafik debunks the contradictions of globalization and concludes that the space it opens is not appropriate for a genuine dialogue between the peoples of the world. For Burhan Ghalioun, it is necessary to outgrow the limits of religious visions of the world to break free from the shackles of local identities, and consequently build up for a "world ethics". Hassan Mekki ascribes the causes of the discontent in the relation between the West and the world of Islam to Western hegemony and the West's unconditional support for Israel. Abdullah Annafissi believes that Western aggression does not only target the Muslims lands, but also their religion and value system. To fend off this aggression, Muslims must take more daring initiatives in the new global context. Abdelhamid Youyou advocates the idea that Westerners and Muslims do mutually ignore one another. He expounds the epistemological obstacles that prevent them from achieving lucidity when it comes to the image of the "other." The participants' ideas and propositions were thoroughly discussed, questioned, corroborated or rebutted. Whatever their difference in opinion, or of perspective, the participants in the forum expressed a common firm belief in the importance and value of their gathering. By this token, they unanimously reiterated the urgency of a follow-up forum.

-11-

Islam and the West… for a better world @

One of the merits of the forum was that it generated an atmosphere of trust and created conditions for a fruitful exchange of ideas. As shown by the proceedings, the ideas expressed contribute immensely to bridge the gap between the "self" and the "other," to open a new mental space, and, last but not least, to shed some light on the multifaceted reality of the relation between Islam and the West.

-12-

J EWS AND A RABS

Gil Anidjar

Civilization and Its Discontents According to legal scholar Karl-Heinz Ziegler, Abu Hanifa was the first jurist “who first forbade the killing of women, children, the elderly, the sick, monks, and other noncombatants. He also condemned rape and the killing of captives.” Commenting on the effects of his recommendations on the history of law, and more importantly, on the history of war, Sven Lindqvist points out that his attempt “to make war more humane by setting forth rules that were not accepted in Europe until several centuries later” (Lindqvist, History , 9). Indeed, it seems fair to say that, to this day, these rules are “still not accepted, or in any case not practiced, when colored people [are] involved” (ibid.). Until World War II, one of the main tools of such legal and practical differentiation between white Europeans (and Americans) and the rest of the “colored” world, was the bomb, and more specifically, as Lindqvist painstakingly documents, the bomb dropped from airplanes. “Airplanes and bombs were examples of progress in military technology. And technology was civilization... Bombs were a means of civilization” (Lindqvist, History ,34). The first bomb – the first “civilizing” bomb – ever dropped from an airplane exploded on November 1, 1911. It came from an Italian machine flying over North Africa. Its geographical target was an oasis near Tripoli. Its human targets were Arabs. By 1924, by the time of the bombing of the town of Chechaouen, “bombing natives was considered quite natural. The Italians did it in Libya, the French did it in Morocco, and the British did it throughout the Middle East, in Indian, and East Africa, while the South Africans did it in Southwest Africa” (Lindqvist, History , 74). By 1939, Hitler had embraced and enhanced this tradition, deciding that

-13-

Islam and the West… for a better world @

Poland shall be treated as a colony. . . . In short: the ruthless expansionist policies carried out by Italy in Ethiopia and Libya, Spain in Morocco, the United States in the Philippines, and the Western European democracies of Belgium, Holland, France and England throughout Asia and Africa for more than 100 years were now brought home to Europe by Hitler and applied in an even more brutal form to the Poles (Lindqvist, History, 83).

These colonial policies and practices, along with improved technological and legal means, the accumulation of decades of “race science” and eugenics, made the Nazi genocide of Jews and Roma possible, along with the massive incarcerating and killing of communists and homosexuals, and the incendiary bombing of almost every major city in Europe by both German and Allied planes and rockets. The technology of the civilizing mission had come home to roost. Aimé Césaire speaks of this movement as of “a terrific boomerang effect” inflicted on the European bourgeoisie (Césaire, Discourse , 36), indeed, on the European population at large. It is about them that Césaire comments that before they suffered from Nazism “before they were its victims, they were its accomplices . . . they tolerated that Nazism before it was inflicted on them, . . . they absolved it, shut their eyes to it, legitimized it, because until then, it had been applied only to non- European peoples.” He adds: “Yes, it would be worthwhile to study clinically, in detail, the steps taken by Hitler and Hitlerism and to reveal to the very distinguished, very humanistic, very Christian bourgeois of the twentieth century that without his being aware of it, he has a Hitler inside him” but also that he cannot forgive Hitler for his crime, for the humiliation, for “the fact that he applied to Europe colonialist procedures which until then had been reserved exclusively for the Arabs of Algeria, the ‘coolies’ of India, and the “niggers” of Africa” (Césaire, Discourse , 36.) Divide and Rule Airplanes and bombs were only the most recent among the ruling instruments dispensed and deployed by the civilizing mission of Christian Europe upon “colored people.” Law and education, Christian missionaries

-14-

@ @

Jews and Arabs @ @

and the production of local elites, all the benevolent techniques summarized under the old principle of “divide and rule,” had long been efficient means of transforming and civilizing, that is to say exploiting, ruling, and often, if not always, eradicating or exterminating communities and ways of life. Writing of Algeria in the 1830s and 1840s, Tocqueville is well aware of the fine nuances of political and military rules and its effects and he unapologetically advocates a view from above that would later become the pilot’s vantage point. Tocqueville affirms the importance of distinguishing between “the two great races” that inhabit the conquered land. “It is obvious that we must tame these men through our arts and not through our weapons [ il est évident que c’est par nos arts et non par nos armes qu’il s’agit de dompter de pareils hommes ]” (Tocqueville, Sur l’Algérie , 52). But the distinction he proposes goes further than the recognition of different races, and of different ruling techniques. It is more refined, more discriminating. It divides reality and redistributes knowledge along novel lines. “With the Kabyles, one must address questions of civil and commercial equity; with the Arabs, questions of politics and religion” (ibid.). It is not just that there is a difference between Kabyle and Arab, then, but also that the very epistemological realm to which each “group” belongs is, in fact, different. Further on, Tocqueville will calibrate his concerns further, zooming in on the distinction between religion and politics. It is imperative, he says, to downplay the religious hostility that opposes the Muslims to the French – who are clearly perceived, and perceiving themselves, as Christians. Instead, Muslims must be made to feel that their religion is not in danger, that colonialism is not a war of religion. The goal of this pacification (an infamous euphemism, if there ever was one) is nonetheless clear. “Thus, religious passions will finally die down and we shall have only political enemies in Africa” (Tocqueville, Sur l’Algérie , 59). Tocqueville understands, of course, that the distinction between religion and politics is quite tenuous, and difficult to maintain in Algeria and elsewhere. Still, in defining the political enemy as distinct from the religious enemy, he is forcefully deploying the division of knowledge that, characteristic of

-15-

Islam and the West… for a better world @

Orientalist and imperial practices, enables the division of populations along distinct lines of belonging and classification. Hence, Muslims must not be made to feel that their religion is in danger, but that is because the goal is to have – to recognize – only political enemies. War is thus negotiated first by determining the battlefield as political, and by restricting and then denying its religious dimension. Indeed, what must be prevented is precisely the awareness that what opposes France to Algeria is religious difference. What must be prevented is the religious association that could transcend local divisions, that disable organized resistance against the French conquerors.

The only common idea that can link and relate all the tribes that surround us is religion. The only common feeling upon which one could rely in order to subjugate them [and therefore lead them], is hatred against the foreigner and the infidel who came to invade their land (Tocqueville, Sur l’Algérie, 103).

Religion and politics therefore appear as strategic divisions, fighting terms, as it were, that do not only distinguish between communities but within them for military and ruling purposes. Kabyles and Arabs are thus not only distinguished on the basis of race, they are also said to belong to different realms (commerce on the one hand, religion and politics on the other). And the separation of realms, the distinction between religion and politics, further divides communities from themselves. It disables the possibility of collective action, the ability to recognize, and fight, the true enemy. The technological sophistication of colonial divisions does hark back, of course, to ancient and well-tried principles such as “divide and rule,” but like the bomb and the airplane, they combine earlier techniques with new scientific advances. Commerce and politics, race and religion – spheres of modernity in its benevolent and fighting faces – such as they were deployed in the colonies of Christian Europe came to function as divisions of knowledge whereby old alliances, different conceptions of community and of sociability, older forms of identity, were reshaped, abolished, indeed,

-16-

@ @

Jews and Arabs @ @

destroyed. Contemporaneous with Tocqueville’s visits in Algeria, Jesuit missionaries were deploying the same means of distributing knowledge, the same divisive understanding, aimed to create “pure Christian spaces” in Mount Lebanon (Makdisi, Culture , 91). They expressed “revulsion at the intermingling of Muslim and Christian, at the Christian’s practice of adopting Muslim names, and at their habitual invocation of the prophet Muhammad.”

We are sorry, these Jesuits wrote, that there was a sort of coexistence [fusion] between the Christians and the Muslims of Sayda. They visited each other frequently, which resulted in intimate relations between them and which introduced, bit by bit, a community of ideas and habits all of which was a the expense of the Christians. These latter joined in the important Muslim feasts, and the Muslims [in turn] joined in the Christian feasts; this kind of activity passed for good manners, sociability, while in truth it resulted in nothing more than the weakening of religious sentiments. (quoted in Makdisi, Culture, 92)

The “danger” of coexistence, ta‘ayush , was to be prevented not only by separating between communities, but by dividing them from themselves, from their own habits and practices, by fostering a different division of reality. The modern separation of spheres described by Max Weber found its origins and terrain of application in particular technologies of governing, embodied technologies that divided populations of course, but that also divided colonial labor: the missionary is not the diplomat, the governor is not a general. They do not serve the same function. In the colonies, this complex political, religious, military and economic apparatus, this novel technology, divided Druze from Maronite, Arab from Berber, Hindu from Muslim, and Hutu from Tutsi (Mamdani, When Victims ). It marks a rupture and a beginning, a very modern beginning of communalism, of sectarianism. In Mount Lebanon, it marks “the birth of a new culture that singled out religious affiliation as the defining public and political characteristic of a modern subject and citizen” (Makdisi, Culture , 174). In India, it puts into place the essential (even if not inevitable) premises of

-17-

Islam and the West… for a better world @

partition. Moreover, and in a way that remains more difficult to recognize but to which Tocqueville alerts us, the new technologies of colonial divisions were at their most efficient in the realm of knowledge. These forms of “colonialist knowledge” (Pandey, Construction , 6) were about restructuring knowledge and functioned so as to separate religion from politics, politics from commerce, and commerce from religion and politics. And each of these separations was enacted, incarnated in the restructuring, the management of communities and, that soon to be invented object of demography, “populations” (Kateb, Européens ). The point was less to eradicate enmity, as Tocqueville makes clear, it was rather to manage enemies, to rule and discipline them by refusing to grant them political identities or preventing their unification on the basis of religion. Colonial rule and knowledge was about preventing religion from becoming politics, hiding that conquest and commerce were a Christian enterprise, in which Christian powers competed but also collaborated. Not just divide and rule, then, but divide knowledge and rule, calling one group a race, another a religion, a third a polity. Calling this religion, and calling that race; calling this commerce, and calling that science. Like the bomb and the airplane, which were exported and imported in and out of Europe, colonial rule, along with its theologico-political divisions, along with race science and legal devices to claim territories or redistribute land, was practiced outside of Europe and inside it as well. The balancing movement between Europe and the “colored world” is a complicated one. It is said, for example, that Columbus took an Arabic speaking Jewish translator with him, for he thought he would thus be able to communicate with the native of India he expected to encounter. In the remainder of this paper, I want to turn to my main topic, Jews and Arabs, in order to describe some of the ways in which the dividing lines that continue to separate these “groups” have been constructed by ways of technologies of rule and governance such as the ones I have described so far.

-18-

@ @

Jews and Arabs @ @

Jews and Arabs Undissociable in the theological and political imagination of Western Christendom as well as in the rich history of their social and cultural contacts, Jews and Arabs continue to function as paradigmatic markers of distance and antagonism rather than of proximity and affinity. This is increasingly the case in France, the United States and, of course, Israel/Palestine. But beyond a geographical logic that seem to maintain an East/West division, the antagonism between Jews and Arabs operates, like the colonial technologies I was describing, on a number of levels and dimensions: historical (Holocaust versus colonialism), sociological (negotiating sexual difference, anti-Semitism versus islamophobia), political (the hegemonic of liberal, secular democracies and the so-called “war on terror”) and religious (the “judeo-christian tradition”). What I have argued elsewhere is that these dimensions partake of two histories that have been kept separated for strategic reasons, two histories that come under the headings of “Islam and the West” and “Europe and the Jews.” I conclude, therefore, with the claim that these two histories are, in fact, one: the singular management of Jew and Arab in Western Christendom through its transformations (Roman Catholicism, Reformation, Secularism). I argue, in other words, for the articulation of a Semitic perspective. Let me begin by quoting again from the description by Jesuits of the coexistence, ta‘ayush or convivencia that existed between Christians and Muslims on Mount Lebanon.

They visited each other frequently, which resulted in intimate relations between them and which introduced, bit by bit, a community of ideas and habits all of which was a the expense of the Christians. These latter joined in the important Muslim feasts, and the Muslims [in turn] joined in the Christian feasts; this kind of activity passed for good manners, sociability, while in truth it resulted in nothing more than the weakening of religious sentiments.

-19-

Islam and the West… for a better world @

There is no question that this kind of coexistence is predicated on vastly different understandings of political rule and legal regime, social relations and collective identity, a distinct distribution of resources as well as a different way of negotiating violence and conflict. For better or for worse, it is the kind of coexistence that has been brought to an end with modernity. In the specific case of the Jews, the transformation entailed a reflected division, a logic of separation that was meant to increase the political and conceptual distance between Jews and Arabs, Jews and Muslims. Well- known examples are, of course the Crémieux Decree of 1870, but equally important, and no doubt more massive in terms of numbers affected, are the activities of the French based network of schools of the Alliance Israélite Universelle. As one of the teachers of the Alliance wrote in 1930 Damascus, “France has achieved the moral conquest of the Jews in the East” (quoted in Rodrigue, Images , 269). Working in a way that is uncannily similar to the missionaries of Mount Lebanon, the Alliance furthered the goals of the French civilizing mission and participated in making the Jews into aliens to their native environment. But what is essential to remember is that the attention lavished by the different empires on newly constructed “minorities” (the Maronites, the Kabyles, the Jews) was part of a new management of populations, a larger restructuring of rule and knowledge, a extensive redefinition, a separation of, politics and religion, race and ethnicity, and so forth. The culmination of these technologies and their staying power can be seen in two more sites. First, in the lack of attention directed at Edward Said’s assertion that the history of Orientalism, the history of Islamophobia, is “the history of a strange, secret sharer of Western anti-Semitism” (Said, Orientalism , 27), an assertion that, grounded in the sound knowledge of a still invisible history, sought to alert us anew to Aimé Césaire’s insight into the relations that link colonialism and the Holocaust. Second, and obviously related, is the lack of attention directed at the history of the category of “Semites” and particularly at the way in which it functioned and was

-20-

@ @

Jews and Arabs @ @

deployed by the Nazis, in their racial doctrine and policy. It is striking that until 2002, no inquiry had been conducted – or at least published – regarding the presence or absence of Arab or Muslim detainees in Nazi concentration camps. Similarly, and equally striking, is the fact that there has been little reflection on the name given to the most haunting figures among Auschwitz inmates, the name Muselmänner , or Muslims. That name, widely disseminated throughout the most canonical works of post-Holocaust writing and scholarship remains massively ignored (Anidjar, The Jew, the Arab , 113ff). Any knowledge of the issues sedimented in these two illustrations would make it obvious that Holocaust denial is tantamount to colonial denial of the kind advocated by the French state. Clearly, the two events are distinct events (as all historical events must be), but they partake of the same logic, the same technologies and conceptions with which I began. Moreover, the division between them, a division upon which the Holocaust industry described by Peter Novick and Norman Finkelstein remains dependent, this division and its strategic purposes are singularly illuminated when one considers the revisionist law promulgated by the French parliament on February 23, 2005 – that is, one month minus one day after the much publicized 60 th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. For it is clear that this law was meant precisely to maintain a distinction that has been foundational to colonial knowledge and practice. At a time when the distinction between Jew and Arab is serving so many interests in Palestine/Israel (where “Jew” and “Arab” are distinct “nationalities” that ground in the law the discrimination and the separation – the apartheid logic – that constitute the dominant horizon of a “solution” to the conflict), in France (where anti-Semitism is used to erase other forms of racism, indeed, used to enforce old and new forms of racism and inequalities; where Arab Jews are turned against Arab Muslims), in the United States (where the “war on terror” is waged on Arabs and Muslims while laws condemning anti-Semitism are promulgated, while support for Israel continues to be unconditional, ensuring American hegemony in many

-21-

Islam and the West… for a better world @

more, less publicly discussed, ways), it is imperative to recognize that Jews and Arabs, Jews and Muslims, continue to constitute one of the main foci of new technologies of rule and governance on an ever growing global scale. To uphold the division between Jew and Arab, between Jew and Muslim is to uphold the division of sectarianism and nationalism, between religion and secularism, religion and politics – a hypocritical division that serves a Christian-dominated hegemony, a Christian view of religion. It is to maintain the division between Holocaust and colonialism, capitalism and missionary activity, and so forth. To uphold these divisions is to serve the interests of those who, like Tocqueville, showed selective concern for the enslaved and the oppressed; those who, like Tocqueville, seek to “tame” populations by making them into convenient enemies, turning them against each other, and more dangerously, against their own selves.

-22-

@ @

Jews and Arabs @ @

WORKS CITED

1. Anidjar, Gil. The Jew, the Arab: A History of the Enemy (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2003). 2. Césaire, Aimé. Discourse on Colonialism . Trans. Joan Pinkham (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2000). 3. Kateb, Kamel. Européens, “Indigènes” et Juifs en Algérie (1830-1962): Représentations et réalités des populations (Paris: INED, 2001). 4. Lindqvist, Sven. A History of Bombing . Trans. Linda Haverty Rugg (New York: New Press, 2001). 5. Makdisi, Ussama. The Culture of Sectarianism: Community, History, and Violence in Nineteenth-Century Ottoman Lebanon (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000). 6. Mamdani, Mahmood. When Victims Become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism, and the Genocide in Rwanda (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001). 7. Pandey, Gyanendra. The Construction of Communalism in Colonial North India (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1990). 8. Rodrigue, Aron. Images of Sephardi and Eastern Jewry in Transition: The Teachers of the Alliance Israélite Universelle, 1860-1939 (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1993). 9. Said, Edward W. Orientalism (New York: Vintage, 1979). 10. Tocqueville. Sur l’Algérie . Seloua Luste Boulbina, ed. (Paris: Flammarion, 2003).

-23-

P ATHWAYS TO AN O PEN W ORLD

Kenneth White

‘On the earth and in the skies, as in the diversity of languages and colours, there are signs for all creatures.’ (Koran, Sourat XXX, Verse 21)

The world at the moment is divided (though there can be weird collusions) between, on the one hand, a bureaucratically organized globalism whose bottom line is the profit motive, with no sense (ethical, aesthetical) of quality of life, and, on the other, a conglomerate of oppositions to this system comprising various types of often blinkered, sometimes blind localism, identity ideology tinted with more or less narrow nationalism and religious reaction often fanatical. Given such a context, what chance is there of a world that enhances individual life, develops the human mind, and promotes something even remotely like harmonious social living ? Given that governments are, on the national scale, more or less exclusively devoted to the year-to-year management of a great concentrated mass of citizenry large sections of which are subject to increasing pathology, and, on the international scale, more or less impotent in face of the bulldozer tactics of the military and economic superpowers (now one Super-Power) ; given that education is being reduced more and more to immediate utility ; given that the media, with exceptions very few and far between, deal only in the dramatic and the nitwitted, anything like an easy optimism is impossible. Not only is there nothing like a real answer in the air, but, while situational commentaries abound, the fundamental question is rarely raised.

-25-

Islam and the West… for a better world @

We are far from the situation in which, within a small city-state, twenty- five centuries ago, a politician, Pericles ; an architect, Phidias ; and a poet, Sophocles, could meet on the heights of Atlas with the idea of giving a radiant form to the city, making it ‘the school of Greece’– a project demanding, certainly, politics, but, back of the politics, a paideia , a whole system of poetic and philosophical education. Nonetheless, it’s with something like this in mind that, as I understand the project, we are gathered here in Qatar, and it’s with the idea of going back beyond the merely political situations into the possibility of a re- grounding that I have conceived my contribution. Maybe, before going into East-West ground, I should present briefly, from the perspetives opened at this meeting, my own background. 1. Out of the West I was born and educated in a country, Scotland, that provided the first in-depth study and analysis of the modern amorphous, confused and conflict-ridden situation. I’m referring to Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations . Because of this study of liberal capitalism, Smith has come to be known as ‘the founder of modern economy’. But Smith’s purpose in that book was analytical, not promotional. In other texts, written during his occupancy of the Chair of Moral Philosophy at Glasgow University, Smith made his thinking concerning the new situation clear : the minds of men would be ‘contracted and rendered incapable of elevation’, education would be ‘despised or at least neglected’, and heroic spirit would be ‘almost utterly extinguished’. Given this background and this perspectival awareness, I might have turned into a sceptic or a cynic (both of these attitudes can imply stimulating astringencies). Instead, I turned into an intellectual nomad.

-26-

@ @

Pathways to an Open World

This term, ‘intellectual nomad’, I found in Spengler’s Decline of the West , but I immediately gave it more scope than Spengler envisaged. In Spengler, the intellectual nomad is a rather furtive character, wandering in the backstreets of the modern city, moving between nihilism and nirvana. I wanted to give him more space, more energy, and more light. If I could look back to those figures of the late seventeenth and eighteenth century — Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Fénelon – that Paul Hazard, in his study of 1935, The Crisis of European Conscience , called ‘heroes of the mind’, I wanted also to move out beyond the kind of repetitive criticism that the sensation and notion of crisis can so often degenerate into. As ‘intellectual nomads’ of the type I envisaged, not only enlightened, but spatial and energetic, I thought rather of the wanderer Nietzsche and the erratic Rimbaud. Intellectual nomadism meant moving, not only from country to country, but from culture to culture. Every culture is partial – developing some aspects, neglecting others. Intellectual nomadizing from one culture to another is necessary if one is to arrive at the notion of something that can be called a complete culture. What I had in mind also was a complete work : an œuvre , an opus . By ‘complete work’, I meant more than just a production line of books, content to take their place among other products coming off the conveyor-belt and subject to increasingly reductive market pressures. I meant the opening of a field, which would be expressed via essay, prose books of errancy and residence, and poem. The essays would provide a cartography. The prose books would present itineraries and places within that general mapping. And the poems would render the more exact and concentrated moments of the movement. Engaged in this travelling (physical and mental), in this work, the intellectual nomad has little inclination, or time, for platform performances, socio-intellectual debates, or oecumenical gatherings. As an intellectual, he is nomadic, not socio-political – he does not belong to the intelligenzia. He

-27-

Islam and the West… for a better world @

is out to open space, and considers that in the ultimate instance it’s thanks to a few spatial works evolved across period and place that humanity keeps its head above nonentity. The ancient Chinese made a distinction between intellectuals of the market-place and intellectuals of the mountain. The intellectual nomad is of the mountain, and the desert – and of movement. He carries no flag, is the spokesman of no identity-group, incorporates no local socio-cultural context. He may be less conspicuous that way, he may even pass, in the contemporary context, unnoticed, but it is he who provides, for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, breathing space and breadth of thought. That said, anarchistic individualist as he may be, the intellectual nomad is not averse to association. If I can allow myself in this preamble to be just a little more autobiographical, I have myself always been a founder of groups. In Glasgow, one of the hot spots of the Industrial Revolution, a city red and black, I founded, as a young writer and teacher, a group devoted to what I called ‘cultural revolution’ (no reference to Mao – I invented the term on my own basis and for my own purposes). In France, in 1967, just after my break with Britain, and in time for, in tune with the may ’68 revolt, the last time when real, radical issues were raised, if at times confusedly, in the public sphere, I founded another group, devoted to what I now called ‘culture-analysis’ (like psycho-analysis, but bringing in a wider field of reference). Later, in Paris, I founded yet another group, devoted now to what I thought of as ‘the great drift’ (post-modern, post-historical, post- humanist). And finally, in April 1989 (symbolically, in the opening month, two centuries after the breakout of the French Revolution), I made the biggest attempts of all in this sphere of founding and grounding by starting up the International Institute of Geopoetics. We shall come to the theory and practice of geopoetics later. After this little introduction, necessary for the opening of the field as I see and conceive it, what I want to do now is address the burning historical issue of our wide-ranging agenda : the relationship, involving, on the politico-

-28-

@ @

Pathways to an Open World

economic front (backed up by religion), confrontation, clash, conflict and confusion, between East and West, between Orient and Occident. 2. Into the East What the East, as a whole, has known of the West is not the best of the West, it has in fact most often been the worst. As for the West’s knowledge of the East, it is, to say the least, vague. The contours of this zone of ignorance can be extended by asking : what, in the present process of global degradation, does the contemporary West know about the best of the West, or the contemporary East about the best of the East ? In a wellknown phrase, often quoted, Rudyard Kipling made the declaration : ‘East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.’ Most people who quote this phrase have never read the poem from which it is drawn. In the poem, a real meeting does take place – between Kamal and the British Colonel’s son – after a hard ride, on a mountain-top. To extrapolate from the poem, and on the basis of culture-analysis, it’s possible to say that at the summit of all the cultures, there is a common space. When there is talk, in the context of East and West, of a conflict of civilisations, what is really being talked about is a confused confrontation of sub-West and sub-East. To overcome this situation will take more than oecumenical gatherings full of pious wishes and moral declarations, it will take, on both sides, in both camps, education and culture-work aimed at the opening of that greater, common space.

Let’s look at that kind of work and movement in the East.

Anyone interested in the life and death of civilisations and in the development and decline of mind-space, is bound to turn sooner or later to Ibn Khaldûn, one of the great searching minds of the world.

-29-

Islam and the West… for a better world @

‘The decline in civilisation’, he writes in his Prolegomena (that is, the prologue to his History of the World ) ‘had so degraded the arts and the sciences that the total loss of the high art of writing seemed imminent. But then, recently, there came to us, here in the Maghreb, a book out of Egypt…’ It was in 1372 that Ibn Khaldûn holed up in the fortress of Ibn Salâma in North-Western Algeria to write his immense investigation concerning the history of the world and, in particular, the evolution of systems of thought and means of expression. It’s a sharp, lucid study, without teleology or eschatology, concerning the dynamics of power and the rise of religions, as well as the relative merits of nomadism and sedentarity, desert-living and urbanism. Ibn Khaldûn felt the shock-waves in the Arab-Muslim world from the Turco-Mongol advance, he was witness to the collapse of the old empire of Bagdad that had housed the school of philosophy founded by al-Kindi (where Aristotle’s Organon was translated), and he foresaw worse to come. That made him neither boil with belligerent anger nor shut himself up in brooding fatalism. Having completed his study, he began to teach, working towards a redefinition of society and a re-grounding of culture, opening the minds of students, awakening their enthusiasm – arousing thereby (shall we say ‘of course’ ?) the hostility of the political and religious authorities in power. Towards the end of his life, he wrote an autobiography, bearing the significant and revealing title : Travels in the East and the West . After history (etymologically, from the Greek : ‘finding things out for oneself’), geography – the moving from territory to territory, the discovery of the earth. There I think in the first instance of Ibn Battuta, whose life was a perpetual exile. Between 1330 and 1370, one can follow his tracks in Arabia, Irak, Iran, the Yemen, on the Red Sea and on the African coast, in the Russo-Mongol area, in Afghanistan, in the Maldives archipelago, and in China. When, on his return to Morocco, he dictated an account of his travels, he not only extended the scope of geography, no mean thing in itself, he also provided the mind with unaccustomed latitudes and

-30-

@ @

Pathways to an Open World

longitudes, gave it an amplitude . In this context of geographical extension and expansion, I think also, with pleasure and gratitude, of that ‘master of sea-knowledge’ ( mu’allim al-bahr ), Ibn Mâjid, who sailed the Indian ocean in the fifteenth century, who wrote one pilot-poem ( urjûza ) after another (‘in all the climates of the earth, along all the shores of the sea’), gathering them into his Kitab al-fawâïd . If ever a seaman corresponded to the portrait of the pilot-bodhisattva as contained in the old sanskrit text, Jâtaka-mâlâ , it was Ibn Majid : ‘He knows the stars ; he knows the regions of the Ocean by the fish, by the birds, by the colour of the water ; he has a good memory and is in full possession of his faculties ; he can stand heat, cold, rain, fatigue ; he gets to the other shore.’ In that Sanskrit text about the bodhisattva (a being on the way to enlightenment) geography is a metaphor for a way of being in the world, a dimension of the mind. Several Arab texts point also in that direction. Let me refer first to Ibn Arabi, known in the traditional West as Doctor Maximus. Born in Spain, at Murcia, originally engaged in law, he felt himself more and more closed in, more and more opposed to the established order, more and more dissatisfied with the existing models, and decided to get out ‘on the way’. Physically, he moves through Egypt, Palestine, Bagdad, Damascus, Anatolia… mentally, he seems to go in all directions, purposely avoiding anything like systematic method. But gradually there emerges both a mental cartography and an intellectual grammar, with its own particular lexicon. Ibn Arabi’s way is an opening on to the universal. Thanks to spiritual practices lying way outside anything like habitual, orthodox religion, be it that of the people, that of the theologians, or that of the philosophers, he engages himself, body and soul, but above all with acute intelligence, on a high road towards the Real, with ardent desire at its inception, and the radiant light of the Logos at its culmination.

-31-

Islam and the West… for a better world @

It’s high-roading of this kind, from epiphanic place to epiphanic place, one finds in the initiatic (I’d rather say : exitiatic) tales of Avicenna and Sohravardî. ’My name is The Live One, son of the Watchman’, one reads in The Story of Hayy Ibn Yaqzan (composed by Avicenna during his imprisonment in the fortress of Fardajân in Persia). My homeland is the Land of Light. My profession is that of traveller. I travel to the distant shores of the world.’ To travel to ‘the distant shore’ means to leave, not only any kind of spiritual comfort, but any merely oppositional, re-actionary position in which one howls one’s anguished soul or hits out blindly ; it means turning one’s back on a heavy, opaque world, breaking out of the prison of determinisms and positivisms, and undertaking an exodus, a passage ; it means an itinerary of research and discovery. The traveller abandons collective precepts, common consciousness, closed dogma, the weight of mere opinion. The effort is to go beyond not only those who forge fictions, mixing the true with the false, but also beyond all symbolic structures, even those charged with sacred meaning. As one advances on the way, the practice becomes finer and finer, until, at the ultimate stage, one practises a ‘meditation outside meditation’. It’s this kind of progradation (a finer notion than ‘progress’) that one finds in Sohravardî’s Western Exile and in Avicenna’s Bird Flight. The idea is to ‘go East’. But, says Sohravardî, ‘you’ll be making a big mistake if by “the East” you understand Damascus or Bagdad.’ To ‘go East’ means to escape from the condition of exile from one’s real self, from one’s creative energies, it means a de-conditioning. ‘Be always on the wing, don’t attach yourself too much to any nest, because it’s in their nests that birds are captured.’ Once ‘on the wing’, one may have to cross territories of uncertainty and zones of darkness. But if one perseveres, one can arrive at a place without a name ( Sohavardî’s Nâ-Kojâ-Âbâd ) in which one can

-32-

Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Page 5 Page 6 Page 7 Page 8 Page 9 Page 10 Page 11 Page 12 Page 13 Page 14 Page 15 Page 16 Page 17 Page 18 Page 19 Page 20 Page 21 Page 22 Page 23 Page 24 Page 25 Page 26 Page 27 Page 28 Page 29 Page 30 Page 31 Page 32 Page 33 Page 34 Page 35 Page 36 Page 37 Page 38 Page 39 Page 40 Page 41 Page 42 Page 43 Page 44 Page 45 Page 46 Page 47 Page 48 Page 49 Page 50 Page 51 Page 52 Page 53 Page 54 Page 55 Page 56 Page 57 Page 58 Page 59 Page 60 Page 61 Page 62 Page 63 Page 64 Page 65 Page 66 Page 67 Page 68 Page 69 Page 70 Page 71 Page 72 Page 73 Page 74 Page 75 Page 76 Page 77 Page 78 Page 79 Page 80 Page 81 Page 82 Page 83 Page 84 Page 85 Page 86 Page 87 Page 88 Page 89 Page 90 Page 91 Page 92 Page 93 Page 94 Page 95 Page 96 Page 97 Page 98 Page 99 Page 100 Page 101 Page 102 Page 103 Page 104 Page 105 Page 106 Page 107 Page 108 Page 109 Page 110 Page 111 Page 112 Page 113 Page 114 Page 115 Page 116 Page 117 Page 118 Page 119 Page 120 Page 121 Page 122 Page 123 Page 124 Page 125 Page 126 Page 127 Page 128 Page 129 Page 130

Made with FlippingBook Online newsletter