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The Arab reality as seen by Prince El Hassan

The world revolves around us but we do not necessarily revolve around the world
Prince El Hassan bin Talal
Prince El Hassan bin Talal

Badr al Abri His Highness Sayyid Theyazin bin Haitham al Said, Minister of Culture, Sports and Youth and general supervisor of the Cultural Club extended a generous invitation to Prince El Hassan bin Talal to deliver a lecture last Thursday under the title ‘The reality of the Arab world in light of international tensions and their impact on the region: a future vision’. The lecture was held under the auspices of Dr Abdullah bin Nasser al Harrasi, Minister of Information.

I attended the lecture to listen to Prince El Hassan bin Talal as an intellectual rather than a politician, especially as he possesses a cultural project and founded the Humanitarian Forum in 1982. He also founded the Forum of Arab Thought in 1981 and the Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies (RIIFS) in 1994.

I was full of hope that the cultural perspective would be highlighted and that the presenter would dig deep into the man’s thoughts and cultural visions. However, the post-lecture atmosphere switched to the political aspect because Prince El Hassan bin Talal was known in the collective mindset as a political rather than an intellectual personality. The prince’s cultural viewpoints were worthy to be explored particularly those related to the philosophy of human person, peace, minorities, among others.

The lecture provided deep cultural insights from a horizontal perspective as the prince, in my view, combined between man and the process of revival which was precisely the topic of the lecture. As a lecture dealing with the reality of the Arab world, the revival rhetoric revolved around Arab people. However, the word Arab is not confined only to the Arab ethnicity nor to Muslims as the prince clarified that there are four significant races namely: Arabs, Turks, Persians and Kurds. His inclusion of the other three races is an indication of their influence on reality on the one hand and the significance of North Africa and the Southern Mediterranean on the other hand owing to their natural and human wealth. We should focus our attention on the region stretching from Morocco to central Turkey which is home to the aforementioned ethnic groups. This region has a remarkable linguistic as well as religious diversity. Linguistically, various languages such as Hebrew, Shehri, Amazigh, Aramaic, Syriac, Hindi, Urdu, Balochi, Swahili and many more languages are spoken in this region.

In terms of the religions, the prince pointed that the Levant, for example, is inhabited by Muslims, Christians and Jews all of whom have had their influence on the cultural and the civilizational landscape since antiquity. Besides, the Levant contains culturally influential groups such as the Druze and the Maronites. The Coptic, Armenian, or Syriac Orthodox Church had been outweighed by the Arab or Abyssinian Orthodox Church. In addition, the Arab world has a broader religious diversity that includes other religious groups such as Sabean-Mandaeans, Yazidis, and the Kakais, among others.

El Hassan bin Talal believes that this region has a natural and cultural diversity. It is home to the largest ports of the world but we are struggling over the terms Arabian Gulf or Persian Gulf and Gulf of Aqaba or Gulf of Aden while the world has shifted to alternative shipping lines. Despite the underground wealth aplenty in the region, the people suffer from poverty, deprivation and shortage of electricity and water. This region suffers from a large number of displaced people and victims of natural calamities and wars.

As I have already mentioned, His Highness’ way of thinking is based on correlation between humans and revival, so we have to start from the language of revival rather than that of egoism, war and destruction. We should think in accordance with human values because the renaissance is worthless without being linked to human dignity and this is why we should embrace the culture of humans and revival.

His Highness thinks that we should also surpass the language of war and trust in others rather than in ourselves. There is a law for war, but there is no law for peace. The question is: Have we ever thought about post-war outcomes and how do we deal with those outcomes in terms of human rights? For example, the Palestinians were not entitled to any rights after the Mandate, however the rights were granted to the Jewish and Palestinian state only.

Regarding trust in others rather than in ourselves, is manifested by our absolute trust in the Security Council. The prince believes that the International Security Council should be renamed ‘International Council of Disorder’. That is because the whole world complies with the resolutions of the United Nations; however the resolutions that do justice to us are not enforced. This is how he summarised our reality: the world revolves around us but we do not necessarily revolve around the world.

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