Category: Intellectual

حادثة زليخة وبنية التفكير الجمعي المتوتّر

Zula

مروان الحسيني

أقف دوماً إلى جانب الكلمة الحرة العقلانية. تلك الكلمة الجريئة المنفتحة على التفكير النقدي الواضح والأدلة العلمية الراسخة. وهو في رأيي تفكير لا يزال غير فاعل كثيراً في سياقاتنا العربية، وإن كان كثيرون يرفعون لواءاته.

أقرأ مقالات لعديد من الكتّاب والمفكّرين العرب والأردنيين الذين يضعون أنفسهم في بلّورة التفكير النقدي، أو يقاربونها، وأجد في مقالاتهم ما يجدر الانتباه إليه وتطويره إذا ما شاء أحد أن يؤسس لحالة نقدية تفاعلية مثمرة بعيدة عن الأضداد ولغة الـ “نحن” والـ “هم”، وبعيداً كذلك عن ثقافة الهجوم والهجوم المضاد، وأساليب الاستفزاز الشعوري المتنوعة. (more…)

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‘Religion — phase two’

BeitMery-Blog5

The relation between religion and the media, in light of the problematic concept of freedom, was examined in Beit Mery, Lebanon, this week.

An exciting conference, in which I participated, addressed this complex triangle in a context of post-Arab Spring tensions.

Participants of various backgrounds and cultural references from many Arab countries presented their opinion on the subject. I represented the Royal Institute for Interfaith Studies.

As I am always interested in the theme of religious references and their role in the structures of different identity components, I was thrilled to see such diverse and complex identities gathered at the conference.

The hall in which it was held embraced Muslims and Christians, secular and spiritual people, conservatives and liberals, people from religious institutions and from civil society, in addition to all sorts of media representatives. Bloggers and social media activists were also present.

This varied mosaic added to the richness of the subjects discussed.

Points of views coming from hundreds of angles helped create a very active atmosphere of intellectual exchange. Elevated religious ideas, philosophical themes and humanistic trends were expounded at the same table, often with humour, fun and creativity.

The intelligent design of the sessions and their management met the expectations.

Indeed, tackling such an important subject as “freedom, journalism and religion” always requires a smart formula.

I was relieved to find out that it was not “just another conference”. The seriousness of the subject and the design produced a great environment, conducive to such intellectual exercise.

I always differentiate between religion as identity, and religion as representation. When religion is lived as an identity by its adherents, we need to look deep into emotions, mentalities and hidden forms of expression if we are addressing a serious issue. Yet, if a problem is related to a representation of religious affiliation, then a different approach is needed. In this case, it depends on the context it lives in.

This is often the situation of political parties that base their ideological discourse in religious conception and language. The conference in Beit Mery based its work on the latter embodiment of religious experience. Maybe it is a good idea for the organisers to think of another conference that tries examining the above-mentioned triangle with identity as its main flavour.

Though the conference discussed issues related to religious identities, its structure inclined to the representative mode of religions. It enriched the participants’ storage of religious-based images and shadows of images.

It was a great opportunity to map some of the crisis stimulating issues that reside deep in the conjunctions the freedom, journalism and religion combination.

I hope that the outcome, whether in publication shape or electronic format, will be an excellent foundation for what we might call “Religion — phase two”. Identity as concept and as a lived reality helps much in resolving many puzzles in the Middle East.

The writer is a media strategist, and an interfaith and intercultural specialist. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times.

Personalization versus Personalization

 

Marwan al-Husayni *

Many Arab writers are forced to clarify themselves at the beginning of some pieces they write: “I must say that I am not defending this person”. “First, it is better to clarify that I am not attacking him”. “This is not to say that I am against the government”. “This is not a pro government article”.

What are the factors that make us, as writers, state such clarifications? What pushes us towards adding these words? What culture and what mentality? Is it fear of misinterpretation, misjudgment or misreading?

Sometimes I feel that our cultures in the Arab World are built only on two extremes: praise and satire. If I write about some errors of a certain person, then I am against him or her. If I mention some positive attitudes of another person, then I am totally pro.

Such interpretations by a majority of readers are the results of “personalization mentalities”. Most of them focus on persons not ideas. Objectivity is lost amid a thick fog of misreading or non-reading at all.

“Personalization” is often used nowadays to mean customizing web pages or applications according to the interests and needs of the individual to facilitate life in the Cyberspace. “Personalization” in our cultures means that the personal mood or stand controls everything else.

One of my previous articles gained a modest number of comments on one of the news websites. Most of the comments were about my photo which was posted with the article. The commenters thought it was a photo of the person whom I was talking about his art in order to explain my core idea. We both had our share of attack: I for praising his creativity, and he for being himself. Anyway, no one commented on the main ideas of the article.

As a result of such mentalities, most writers are judged, not discussed. In a social context, the “personalization” approach is also a mainstream. One is not praised for his or her skills, ideas, achievements, creativity or intelligence. It is personal connections, ties or moods that control the process of social classification.

This is why many writers feel it is necessary to clarify that they are not writing based on personal stands. They are sure that they will be misjudged and mislabeled by many readers who turn on the machines of personalization while reading. Is it a crisis of mistrust or a complexity of social, psychological and historical factors? Many analyses go beyond the mere fact of misinterpretation.

A culture that is based on strong sensations of praise and satire expects any writer to work within those two edges. Other edges are not allowed. Analysis is disregarded and misjudgment is activated. Thus, “personalization” becomes the main criteria for building any approach towards individuals.

Unlike “personalization” in the Cyberspace, “personalization” in the Arab social space does not facilitate life. Writing, as a social activity, is doomed right from the beginning. Creativity is also ruled by personalized narrow outlooks.

If one personalizes his writings to fit others personalized attitudes frames, then he is a powerful writer. If he goes for the hard task of objective thinking and analyzing, then he is ignored for “personal reasons”.

 

* Media Strategist, Interfaith and Intercultural specialist

Rethinking, rejection or reform?

 

by Marwan Al Husayni | May 14,2012 | 22:28

I had the privilege to be in contact with two of the world’s revolutionary professors and thinkers. Both are deceased now. Mohammed Arkoun died in September 2010, Kamal Salibi died in September 2011. Both were 82 when they left our world.

I knew more about Islam from Salibi, who was Christian, and more about Christianity from Arkoun, who was Muslim. I learned more about the mechanisms of critical thinking and objective writing from both.

While working closely with Salibi in Amman on many interfaith and intercultural projects, I read most of Arkoun’s books. I was taken by his lifetime intellectual project “Rethinking Islam”. I was introduced to almost all aspects of his intellectual pulse before I met him in 2007.

I assisted Salibi in writing his diaries, “A Bird on an Oak Tree”, and officially was the editor of the book. I also used to translate between Arabic and English for him in daily academic works. He left Amman at the end of December 2003. The connection between us resumed through e-mail and Facebook.

I am not writing this article to just say that I knew the two professors. They both were great teachers for me and I benefited much from them intellectually. But they belonged to what I call “isolated identity”.

They were intellectuals whose works were rejected by wider Arab and Muslim circles, and were politically attacked for their archaeological efforts in history, knowledge and thought. They excavated and uncovered new epistemological layers for better understanding the history of early Christianity and Islam. Still, they were condemned for ideological reasons.

“Isolated identities” in the Arab world means that scientific thinking leads to rejection, discrimination then isolation. Neither of these two men took the mainstream conceptions for granted. They scientifically defied deeply rooted realities and revolutionised the way of looking at histories of Christianity and Islam. Their works faced a long process of isolation and distortion.

The mindset of “rethinking” always faces the mechanisms of rejection in the Arab region. This is how I feel and live it.

Arkoun and Salibi are remembered on some occasions and in limited circles, although they invested their lives in huge intellectual projects that are of great importance to humanity. For both of them ideology and private agendas are killers of scientific and critical thinking.

Sometimes, Salibi and I would spend a whole day editing one paragraph of few lines. The next day he would cancel the whole paragraph because “someone might hear an echo of distant ideology in it”, he used to tell me.

“I do not want to enrage anyone because scientific and objective writing must be as pure as light.”

He believed a scientific idea should introduce itself.

Arkoun talked about “the strategy of rejection”, which is a result of “imprisoning mind by ideology”. For him, ideology is ignorance; when mind is imprisoned by ignorance, it uses rejection to extinguish enlightened thinking.

Sadness was the end result for the minds of both Salibi and Arkoun.

When I last saw him, Salibi was leaving for Beirut with sadness in his eyes. I saw the same in Arkoun’s eyes while he was talking about “those who insist not to listen”.

When ignorance becomes a mainstream manifestation, what is the best identity marker that intellectuals should magnify: rethinking, rejection or reform?

The writer is media strategist, interfaith and intercultural specialist. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times.

Islamophobic questions raised by Muslims

by Marwan Al Husayni | Apr 10,2012 | 22:42

“Islamophobia” is a term that came into common use after the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States. It refers to the hatred and fear of Islam and Muslims in certain Western contexts.

This is history now. Current affairs in the Middle East and the Arab region are leading to a new aspect of the fear of Islam. Muslims themselves are becoming Islamophobic.

The chaotic and complex nature of change is one reason. Other reasons are the over-politicising of the peoples’ movements and the high cost of human conflicts.

Modified versions of political Islam with a touch of democracy and constitutional flavours are not accepted by everybody as eligible substitutes for totalitarian regimes. But the rise of oppressed Islamic parties to the power in Arab countries is apparently supported by the United States.

This new US coalition with Arab Islamists is not expected to address the real issues concerning the citizens of the region in a healthy way.

One such issue is freedoms. The drastic changes that are taking place in the Middle East are magnifying the hopes and fears of the peoples.

Are the new Islamist regimes or governments expected to meet the hopes or add to the fears? Are the Islamists ready to change and walk down the paths of citizenship, civil liberties, women’s rights and respect for political, social and religious diversity?

While many analysts perceive the Arab world as a religiously conservative place and its people generally want to see an important role for Islam in public life, new feelings are making themselves felt.

The winds of the Arab Spring are bringing seeds of more hatred to the region. In the past, hidden conflicts dominated the political status quo, especially when it had to do with a dialectical relation with the regimes. Now it is all public, after mobilised citizens broke down many barriers of fear.

Still, there is one fear to deal with by the individuals. In the social sphere, most Arab Muslims do not differentiate between Islam and Islamists.

“Those who pray and go to the mosques are better than me” was an often-heard justification for rationalising the support for Islamists by many individuals. A Koranic verse, a hadith or a fatwa by a certain sheikh would be an accepted answer to any big problem or crisis. This is not applicable when managing a country.

The Islamists are not the leaders of the “Arab Spring”, yet they are rising to the power. Many analysts and commentators refer to the “social fabric” and “historical reasons” when explaining this illogical, but understandable, outcome.

But living in the past while building future is a losing game. The tools for change and power are totally different. Issues like economic reform, development, poverty, unemployment, social justice, freedom of speech and religious diversity need a new set of thinking.

Questions which were once popular in Islamophobic Western circles are likely to have a strong presence in the Middle East: Is Islam compatible with democracy? Is Islam compatible with freedoms? Is Islam compatible with women’s issues? Is Islam compatible with modernity?

The list is too long.

Islamists are rising to power in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. They have louder voices in other countries, like Jordan, Morocco and Syria. Many Muslims are already asking: Are Islamists compatible with power?

The writer is media strategist, and interfaith and intercultural specialist. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times.

http://jordantimes.com/islamophobic-questions-raised-by-muslims