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Home > Press releases
06-09-04 // 20:00h


The opening session of the dialogue “New Ignorances, New Literacies” focused on the dilemma posed by the clash of civilizations or of ignorances

Mohammed Arkoun, philosopher and professor emeritus of Islamic thought of the Sorbonne University, defended the idea of Humanism in the Islamic context. Arkoun referred to his book Combats in which, he said, “I deal with Humanism in the Islamic context, but not within Islam proper from a historical, political and cultural perspective.” “The combat should start within Islam itself,” added Arkoun.

Arkoun explained, “The Middle Ages were the time of the great literary debates that were all in Arab language all the way from Iran to Cordoba.” “Muslims in particular have forgotten its history,” pointed Arkoun.

For Arkoun, “Ancient and sophisticated societies do not produce positive knowledge because they also produce ignorances.” For the philosopher, “Modern reason refers to the 18th century, and the reason of the enlightenment is what enables a new worldview.”

Arkoun cited Nietzsche and “The appeal he made to move beyond the dawning of the 18th and 19th century, which are precisely the periods of enlightenment that conformed European and Western perceptions, judgments and assessments of the Islamic world, something that is a dramatic situation.”

The philosopher believes our present time tends to make use of “disposable thought.”

Arkoun said, "When we refer to 9 / 11 and try to observe what happened before, we find great ignorance that is produced not only through the media but also in schools.”

Arkoun explained, “In the third world, following the independence of the 1950s, many State parties were founded and they imposed an education that was responsible for the institutionalization of ignorance at large.”  

Jiri Dienstbier, Minister of Foreign Affairs of former Czechoslovakia, explained, “Rather than referring to the clash of civilizations or due to ignorance we should talk abut the arrogance of those who enjoy power.” Dienstbier said, “Very often foreign institutions were imposed on countries like Iraq without realizing that these would not work there because they are different societies.”

Dienstbier highlighted the importance of security today and explained, “Investments in sophisticated weapons have proved useless in the fight against terrorism; if we had invested more in development perhaps we would now have better living conditions.” For Dienstbier, what we hear, “The discourse of power, is hypocritical.”

Dienstbier added, “We tend to choose between good and bad terrorists; the former are called freedoms fighters and the latter are considered murderers. Dienstbier stated, “It is necessary to move from words into action.” “There is a lack of respect for the other worlds; we must intensify cooperation between Europe and the United States,” concluded Dienstbier.

Former president of the Republic of Malta Guido de Marco referred to Samuel Huntington’s idea of the clash of civilizations that pointed at “future conflicts and wars that would be different form the classical conflicts of the Cold War era.”

De Marco talked of the situation in Palestine and Israel “Two peoples that live as neighbors of a semi detached house and must learn to live that way.”

For De Marco, “we are trying to justify political events by focusing on this conflict of civilizations.”

De Marco believes, “Rather than a clash of civilizations or ignorances there is a conflict of interests and we are responsible for this, so we must avoid the clichés.” De Marco believes, “The dialogue between civilizations is essential because we have things to learn from the unity and diversity of the others.” “It is a big mistake to justify our actions with the argument of the clash of civilizations; it is everyone’s responsibility,” added De Marco.

Hisanori Isomura, President of the Maison de la Culture du Japon in Paris, explained that the United States suffered several shocks. “The United States always want to be the first and so their first shock was when the Soviet Union sent out their satellite Sputnik before they did.” The second shock for the Americans was “When Toyota became the first Japanese car manufacturer.”

Isomura believes that Americans, “Lack common sense and also a good public education system.” “It is necessary to educate and not only teach to read but also to transmit certain cultural values,” added Isomura.

Isomura explained, “He who is in control of the world is a treasurer in Wall Street.” Isomura stated, “An economy that works as a casino tends to reinforce a negative perception of the public sphere while the private sphere is regarded as always positive.”

Isomura referred also to “The media concentration in communications that wish to impose their ideas to the world.”

Isomura believes that Huntington’s theory on the clash of civilizations has several weak points. In the first place, he explained, “ All ethnologist agree in that there is no purity in the Asian region.” Second, he said, “Huntington is a covert racist because he believes in the superiority of the West in front of Islam.” For Isomura the third weak point is that the “He overlooks the differences between Europe and the United States.”

Isomura asked the United States “to be more modest and to think of others in order to overcome the dichotomy Empire of Evil – Empire of Democracy.” “It is high time that the United States adopt a more reasonable stance as a superpower,” concluded Isomura.

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