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الموقع تحت الإنشاء

النسخة التجريبية من موقع النهضة العربية (أرض)

Al Nahda Dialogues call for the emancipation of Arab thought


The Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development (ARDD) held an online webinar titled “Decolonizing the Renaissance: Toward a global human generativity” under the patronage of H.E. Mr. Fabio Cassese, Ambassador of Italy in Jordan with the participation of Dr. Amer Al Sabaileh, Non-resident Fellow, Middle East & North Africa, Stimson, Jordan, Prof. Raffaele Federici, Università degli Studi di Perugia, Italy and Prof. Mohammed Hashas, Department of Political Science of LUISS University of Rome, Italy.

Francesca Albanese, ARDD Question of Palestine program Coordinator, moderated the webinar. She indicated that the webinar sought to explore the meaning of the Arab Al Nahda in light of the meaning and evolution of historical Arab Al Nahda as well as the Italian Renaissance as it spread throughout Europe whilst simultaneously linking it to the current socio-political context in the MENA region. It aims to explore what can be learned from history and how deconstructing the colonial nature of the Renaissance might help reframe its important political values.

In his keynote speech, H.E. ambassador Cassese reflected on the Italian Renaissance’s contribution to the cultural exchange, which would not be possible without the exchange with the Arab world, at that time. He noted that both Al Nahda and the Italian Renaissance were united by the concept of rebirth and had the ambition to profoundly change the society in which they took place. He underlined three aspects of the Italian Renaissance: firstly, the role of women in the Italian Renaissance including their advancement in society through education, noting, however, that although they were better educated than their medieval counterparts were, they were still to fulfill the social function of caring for the family and being at home. Second, the relationship between the Renaissance and the church was central to the rebirth and religious people played an important role in making the wealth of knowledge that had been till then kept in monasteries, open to others. In this way, religion, when infused with humanism, can promote accessibility of knowledge, as well as moving knowledge away from the hands of the few.  Thirdly, the patronage of art and inspiring the power of intellect and creation of new original art which remains to be admired till the present day was celebrated and promoted by the public and private alike. These values played a unifying role in Italian society, which was then still very much divided.

Professor Federici delved into the ‘aesthetics of politics and keeping the spark on human renaissance’. For many, he noted ‘renaissance is often connected with art and culture, however, it must also be considered as a matter of political science, of a tolerance that allows humans to exist. He elaborated that although a lot can be gained from the Italian Renaissance, the Arab world must emancipate itself from western influence. Renaissance is ‘revival of learning’, Federici emphasized, ‘a wealth that already exists in many aspects of life in the region’: it is present-day education; it is the commitment to not leave anyone behind but guarantee rights to all individuals and it is the collective generativity of the Arab people.

Professor Hashas reflected on the Arab predicament, the European problem, and the common Mediterranean surrounding Renaissance. He emphasized that the crises of the predicament in the Arab world are mostly political. ‘The Middle East has been deeply marked by the legacy of colonialism and the influence of colonial powers, he noted. However, the Arab world has also been impacted by internal authoritarian regimes which creates an increasingly complex problem. With regards to the European Union and its views of the Orient, it has been strongly influenced by populist thought and to a certain extent, the imperialist attitude has remained. However, it must be recognized that the EU has a moral duty towards the Middle East due to the historical legacy and damages it has caused in the Arab world as well as the ‘shared Mediterranean’. In the past, the Euro-Mediterranean relationship has not been overly successful due to the pending political issues. Nonetheless, it should not be viewed as a complete failure as it is a process, and the Arab Renaissance of the 19th century must be explored with the benefit of hindsight and the changing dynamics must be considered. Nevertheless, ‘high levels of patronage still exist in the Middle East and the culture of endowment is lacking’, he concluded. There is a need for critical thinking across the Mediterranean, at both the political and intellectual levels. Evidently, dialogue and questioning must be used to insist on logical reasoning to elicit knowledge and address this missing element of social progress in the Arab world.

Professor Sabalieh explained that Renaissance is more than art and culture but a way of thinking, ‘the evolution of thought’. The Arab world has passed through three phases that have blocked the evolution of the human mind, he noted: imperialism, colonialism, and dictatorship, which has caused oppression of the minds of the people of the Arab world. In order to address this issue, there must be the emancipation of thought, people must be set free, to discover themselves and contribute to innovation. Arab people’s struggle today should be how to give people the chance to discover themselves, set their minds free from the prison of patriarchy, and be free to think without the associated religious and political taboos. By creating this freedom and emancipation of thought; the result by default should be increased value of the human being as well as human solidarity. ‘One must consider how the politics imprisoning renaissance can be released and how society can open itself to universalism; promoting tolerance and inclusivity as well as bringing down the patriarchy, allowing the Arab world to liberate itself from the current reality, Sabaileh concluded.

The participants concluded that the renaissance can be an enduring reality and could lead to the transformation of the world and the commitment not to leave anyone behind and to guarantee rights to all individuals. Stressing the role that democracy, as a truly universal value, emphasizing the importance of the middle class’s role in pushing and stimulating governments and institutions to develop inclusive education and advance art and culture, in addition to the importance of building bridges and combating extremist discourse and Islamophobia to reach a common global understanding, and the need for an effective and impactful civil society to ensure that.