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Day Two: February 21, 2024

Session 4: 12:00 - 13:30

Peace and Cultural Development

Session Moderator:

          - Dr. Hisham Azmi - the Arab Republic of Egypt

Main Discussant:

          - Dr. Abdulhussein Shaaban - Iraq


A-  The Dialectics of Heritage and Modernization

          1- Dr. Karsten Xuereb - Malta

          2- Dr. Zuhair Tawfiq - Jordan

B- The Problematic of the National State Concept

          3- Dr. Juan Pedro Monferrer Sala - Spain

          4- Dr. Abdelilah Belkziz - Morocco


A- The Dialectics of Heritage and Modernization

1- Dr. Karsten Xuereb - Malta

The Dialectics of Heritage & Modernization addressing Peace & Cultural Development in the Mediterranean


This paper addresses the dialectics of heritage and modernization by providing an analysis of key tensions inherent to the relationship between these two expressions of humanity. It does this to highlight the historical context of the diverse ways in which writers, historians and critics have perceived this dynamic. This assessment provides the reader with ample tools with which to understand significant developments that are pertinent to peace and cultural development in the Mediterranean. The first part of the text refers to a variety of perspectives provided by different writers across various geographical spaces and periods. The second part grounds these observations in an assessment of current practice in the field of intercultural dialogue and virtuous cultural and economic development. The Mediterranean provides the context for discussion and enables the elaboration of a set of conclusions and reflections that aim to inspire further research and positive practice in the field of peace and cultural development.

Keywords: culture, development, heritage, Mediterranean, modernization


This paper addresses the dialectics of heritage and modernization in the context of peace and cultural development. It does this by focusing on critical interpretations and cultural practice that expose and try to reconcile the tensions inherent to this relationship.  It sets out its argument in five parts.

In the first section, Part I addresses aspects of modernization that shape our understanding of heritage. It does so with reference to examples of both Eastern and European twentieth-century thought, in particular to D. P. Mukerji, T. S. Eliot, Theodor Adorno and Pier Paolo Pasolini. Part II confronts issues at the root of cultural conflict and gaps in understanding within the framework of important scholarship, especially that of Iain Chambers, assessing significant developments in Mediterranean history. Part III refers to a set of theoretical frameworks related to Fernand Braudel and spanning the East and West of the Mediterranean, as in the work of Taha Hussein, with which to assess contemporary ways of thinking and practice, with an aim to sustain better forms of social relations.

In the second section, Part IV considers a particular example of best practice that may act as inspiration in addressing challenges arising from the tensions between heritage and modernization with an impact on further intercultural dialogue as a contributor to peace and cultural development. In conclusion, Part V sets out a series of recommendations, concluding thoughts and reflections with which to sustain further positive research and practice in the Mediterranean.


Section I

Part I

The dialectic between heritage and modernization

This first section considers some of the different ways in which philosophers and critics from the East and the West have addressed the dialectic between heritage and modernization. Indeed, over time, this dialectic has been considered in many contrasting  ways. With time, past conceptions have been considered to fall out of favour. Some notions have been replaced by others. Others still have returned, rediscovering their appeal through new-found relevance to contemporary contexts. However, one may argue that in the modern era, hence between the eighteenth and twentieth centuries, many in the community of researchers, academics, thinkers as well as practitioners in the field of cultural development believed that both individual as well as joint efforts sustained their search for what may be described as modernization. In the early part of the twentieth cenury Indian sociologist D. P. Mukerji described this effort as ‘a push to history towards the next higher stage’ (Madan 1977: 156). 

The idea of modernization may have become wearisome, especially in our times. However, it may be opportune to ask ourselves why this is so, particularly when applied to heritage. Looking back, one may ask whether the necessary tools with which to assess the concept have been developed to a level of satisfaction. The anthropologist T. N. Madan believed this was not the case. He gestured toward D. P. Mukerji for guidance towards achieving clarity in the quest towards understanding, managing and applying modernization through self-awareness. The exercise is fraught with risk. Some conceptualizations of modernity are unclear, confusing and self-defeating when trying to achieve a proper, full understanding. Indeed, Madan believed Mukerji himself fell short in providing the necessary explanations (Madan 1977: 159).

The end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries provided an epoch of important reflection on matters related to the living past and the ways in which heritage informed contemporary perspectives on the present and the future. As was the case with other non-Western thinkers, Mukerji considered that perspectives of the world stemming from outside Europe still relied too heavily on the liberal framework developed by the West. Among the main thought structures that needed challenging in this field, and that are pertinent to this paper, were the concepts of "progress" and "equality". These and other related concepts, such as "social forces" and "social control", were also part of the critical analysis in his seminal text Basic Concepts of Sociology (1932).

Madan finds that in his discussion of the dynamic between "progress" and "personality" Mukerji offers early perspectives of the way he later addresses modernization. The linear, evolutionist thrust forward, expressed through "progress" is challenged, and its status as a natural phenomenon denied. Instead, it is the notion of "purpose" in the life of human beings that is emphasised. Significantly, development is not necessarily equatable with growth. Rather, what is important is the equivalence with, in Madan’s words, ‘the broader process of the unfolding of potentialities’ (Madan 1977: 161). The ensuring tension between progress and development is adumbrated by Hegel and Marx, who already gesture towards, in Mukerji’s words, the ‘emergence of values and their dynamic character’ (Mukerji 1932: 9).

On the one hand, progress may be interpreted as a problem that has significant impact on human life. A number of characteristics are discernible, one of which is a sense of direction in time. On the other hand, development offers a malleable concept: it allows for a variety of means and tactics. Between the two concepts, we may identify the challenge of balancing values. One may also note that this frame of thought is embedded in South Asian, Eastern philosophy. Yet, interestingly, it resonates with contemporary perspectives about intangible heritage, for instance as encapsulated in the Council of Europe’s Faro Convention of 2005, to which this paper returns in a later section. The challenges evoked by progress and development stem from the changing individual who may thrive in a specific region at a specific time, not alone but in association with other community members who contribute to the development of a common set of fundamental features. These include customs, beliefs, traditions, rituals and, generally speaking, what we call cultural heritage.

Since this paper aims to connect this dialectical discussion to the field of cultural heritage, it is worth noting how, in Mukerji’s view, adopting a holistic perspective of modernization could have been a relatively positive form that progress could have taken for people in the Third World countries around a century ago, a period particularly consonant with the development of nation states and identities. In words written in 1932, but very prescient to our age, we are asked to consider how progress may contribute to freedom. This condition may come about if ‘our time-adjustments’, as they are described, should reflect freedom from the ‘necessity of remaining in social contact for every moment of our life’. This comment seems to hint at our hyper-connected world, which however contributes to many people experiencing the oxymoronic situation of being together alone. Our experience of fulfilment may stem from a further realisation that, in Mukerji’s words, in ‘leisure alone can man conquer the tyranny of time, by investing it with a meaning, a direction, a memory and a purpose. Obstacles to leisure, including the demands of a hectic social life, often mistaken for progress, must be removed in order that the inner personality of man may get the opportunity for development’ (Mukerji 1932: 29-30).

A meaningful experience of leisure, however, needs to be knitted into a community, as cultural rituals are.


Modernization & tradition

The early years of the twentieth century provided rich assessments of the dialectic between modernization and cultural heritage. On the one hand, technical and industrial changes and their impact on society advanced at a rapid pace. On the other, the traditional aspect of humanity, and its ongoing relationship with innovation, allowed for reflection being generated in a slow, careful assessment of the new scenario.

From a European perspective stemming from the cultural period associated with modernism, two figures provide further important interpretations of the tensions between past and present. The inexorable rise of fascism, and art movements associated with it, like futurism, contributed further to a sombre context within this timeframe. One of these figures is the English writer and critic T. S. Eliot. The other is the German philospher Theodor Adorno.

In commenting this geneology of thought, the Egyptian literary theorist Amr Amin Elsherif notes that Eliot attempts a negation of modernity within tradition. Eliot does this to try and control what he felt were the negative aspects of modernity by applying the positive elements of tradition. At first he tries to build a positive dialectical notion of integrating the modern within a longer perspective of tradition. Upon failing, he suggests an opposition, in order to contain the modern element (Elsherif 2022: 4).

Conversely, Adorno does not attempt a resolution of sorts. The main components, consisting of the governing principles of modernity and inherited behaviour, with rationalism and the development of reason on the one hand, and the ‘pregiven’ which seems natural and inherited on the other, are not resolved. ‘Tradition is opposed to rationality’, claims Adorno (Adorno 1993: 75). However, within that opposition, the seeds of modernity are identified within traditional and inherited culture. Therefore, the opposition is born of a reaction against it, recalling Adorno’s own inherited philosophy characterised by Hegel and Marx (Elsherif 2022: 5).

Adorno notes that ‘to imagine the absence of tradition in modernity [...] is naïve’ (Adorno 1993: 75). Therefore, his complex yet relatively neat approach shows that, while the dialectical conception of the relation between modernity and inherited tradition may appear negative, each element needs the other, doing away with synthesizing them into a symbiosis of unity. Adorno’s dialetic refers to the fundamental and formative philosphical era in Western thought associated with the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, of which he is however critical. The Enlightenment’s failure is evident in its modernity and the rationalist exclusion of any overarching meaning or ultimate end in life. This state of affairs points towards the return to heritage and tradition in many modern contemporaries, including Eliot.


The Opposition between modernity and tradition

Elsherif explains how the Enlightenment set in motion a very marked shift in European society. This resulted in modern notions of life and the underlying roots of the legitimacy of knowledge to veer off significantly from premodern ones. The Enlightenment established reason as the main value of judgment with which to validate knowledge and ideas. Consequently, community practices and social policies also changed. They reflected a tendency to challenge tradition together with its guardians and institutions that perpetuated accepted models of authority. Eighteenth-century philosophers were aware of and recorded the tension between modernity and tradition that seemed to coalesce around divergent value systems.

Nevertheless, as suggested by Adorno, the main point of contention was what each perspective held clearly in its sight. This was the authority of reason, and adherence to inherited tradition. Immanuel Kant described society’s growing realisation of the need to propel this centrifugal movement as ‘man’s exit from self-incurred immaturity’, enabled by a shift away from ‘the inability to make use of one's own understanding without the guidance of another’ (Kant 1996: 58). Immaturity is displayed by submission to authority, while modernity is evidenced in a state of maturity, whereby one identifies in reason the route to true knowledge, moral action and correct judgment (Elsherift 2022: 5).

Therefore, in Elsherif’s view, Kant’s modernity consists of a state of autonomy, characterised by self-determination. This state allows humanity to guide itself rationally, at last free of authoritarian control. Thus, liberalism, and its political form in the shape of individualism, challenge authority, and its unification of society. The notion of the individual is born of modernity, as is evident in expressions as diverse as Protestantism and Romancism (Elsherif 2022: 6). Furthermore, the separation between applying reason autonomously and allowing oneself to be guided by authority reflects the chasm between modernity and inherited tradition. Kant argues that were this distance not established, it would have been ‘impossible for [modernity] to broaden its knowledge [...]  to cleanse itself of errors, and generally to progress in enlightenment’ (Kant 1996: 61).

Inevitably, when rational autonomy enables maturity, the modern self-determining individual challenges tradition. Therefore, in opposition to immaturity, modernity allows for a ‘radical break’ with preceding history (Habermas 1998: 6). Furthermore, the break is legitimized when knowledge and action are founded on a rational basis. Reason acts as a guarantor of the validity of that knowledge that is shorn from those inherited traditions that are rendered futile.

To conclude this reflection on the tension, born in modernity, between modernization and heritage, it is worth noting that challenging the value of tradition as a well of authority demands the realisation and application of rules based on rationality. If the individual is in a position to steer themselves, then they will be able to apply the three Kantian critiques. These function as tools, implementing the ‘handbook of reason’ which, in Foucault’s terms, defines ‘the conditions under which the use of reason is legitimate in order to determine what can be known, what must be done, and what may be hoped’ (Foucault 1984: 38).


The myth of progress

The Mediterranean is a context that lends itself to assessing the dynamics played out between communities that, while embracing inherited tradition, have had to confront themselves with the shock of modernization. This space is a rich depository of ancient stories and techniques of narration. One of the chief ways of understanding oneself, one’s community and the space inhabited, is that of mythology. This paper now applies some of the dialectics discussed above and rooted in Eastern and Western frames of thought, to the Middle Sea. It does this through the application of myth.

Notions that are sustained through myth have been fundamental in forging a Mediterranean imaginary. Images nurturing sets of beliefs and understanding may further traditional approaches, dispel them, challenge them constructively, as well as support the development of other, competing, or complementing, perspectives. Metaphors may be used to elaborate the construction of an understanding of the kinds of changes that are both experienced and envisaged.

In the film Alexander the Great by Theo Angelopoulos, winner of the 1980 Venice Film Festival award for best experimental film, the competing notions of tradition and modernity, of development and progress, are poetically illustrated against a mythical, Hellenic landscape, that is trying to conceive of heritage that has been misplaced and misused, bringing forth falsified notions of political behaviour. The film begins with a group of aristocratic English guests of the Greek government ushering in the twentieth century. However, they are soon caught up between nostalgia, false modernity and efforts at reconciliation between competing narratives when they are kidnapped by a group of Athenian bandits, recalling the events that led to the Dilesi diplomatic incident between Greece and the United Kingdom in 1870.

The Classical mindframe of the bandits, led by the self-styled Alexander the Great, inspires the belief in continuity of national identity and its development. The process of political connectivity sweeps through the Enlightenment, the challenges to the Ottoman and the Hapsburg empires between the end of the eighteenth century and the onset of the nineteenth, Marxist philosphy and the ascent of a socialist vision for the worker, the farmer and the small trader who, hounded by the aristocratic order, as well as colonial conditions, like many in the Mediterranean world in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, turn to banditry, as was the case from Spain to the Balkans, from Kabylia to Sardinia, from Greece to Sicily and southern Italy.

In abducting the group of hopelessly Romantic English visitors, the bandits challenge their unwilling guests’ idyllic, Byronic visions by confronting them with their own, not wholly realistic, expectations. The context is further charged by our modern-day viewers’ knowledge of the totalitarian, fascist regimes the twentieth century harkens in, which is further darkened by the neofascist, military regimes that still threatened many societies in the Mediterranean, including Greece, after the Second World War.


The dialectic between progress and development

The professor of the sociology of cultural processes, Iain Chambers, for years at home in Naples, addresses some of the tensions underlying recent Mediterranean politics with reference to two very influential Italian, politically engaged thinkers at either end of the twentieth century, namely Antonio Gramsci and Pier Paolo Pasolini. While Gramsci lived and worked in spite of the fascist regime, that had imprisoned him, Pasolini often expressed his critical perspective on post-war Italy through very creative means, including film and literature. In their own ways, they outline the differences between development that nurtures society and behaviour which is detrimental to it. Gramsci was inspirational to Pasolini’s separation of progress and development in order to ‘uncouple them and set them in a critical relationship which strips them of their purely instrumental and economical logic’ (Chambers 2008: 109).

Pasolini identifies these two terms as key in contemporary discourse. He argues that public consciousness needs to be awakened to their relation by assessing their similarities and differences in meaning: are they synonymous of each other?; if not, do they describe different moments of the same phenomenon?; if still not, do they describe separate phenomena that coalesce?; alternatively, do they describe contrasting phenomena that only seem to coincide and reach out to one other? Pasolini strongly recommends the clarification of both terms to achieve a clear understanding of society (Chambers 2008: 110).

His contemporary social context suggested a direct link between the notion of development and the Right, not only in a political and ideological way, but especially in economic terms. The owners of industrial resources implement ‘practically unlimited industrialisation’ on the basis of technology and the instrumentalisation of science. Consumers are connived into the ceaseless loop of consumption and production of ‘superfluous’ goods, practising a model of modernity that does away with the inherited traditional values associated with sacrifice, diligence, frugality and religiously‐infused ethics (Chambers 2008: 110).

On the other side of the barricade to development, Pasolini locates “progress”. Those communities that strive for progress are workers, farmers and intellectuals of the Left. Generally, this group of people is exploited on the basis of their not being interested in immediate, cumulative and exclusive gain translateable into pragmatic and economic results that are bereft of human aspects of well‐being. Pasolini traditionally shared a great deal of affinity with these people who he described as ‘adorable’ since they did not pursue and assert their own rights but instead sought to further those of others before their own (Chambers 2008: 111).

In order to bring this discussion of terms to an end, it is worth extending our horizon to include elements of the Anglo‐Saxon context, also as it is many times considered as the main mover for the inexorable rush into economic development that is distanced from non-commercial, social, environmental and cultural elements. The terminology may tend to differ as well as constrast significantly, but the range of perspectives is enriching. For instance, Kirkpatrick Sale is a contemporary writer who critiques the compromising posture towards progress, thus subverting Pasolini’s use of the term. As has been reiterated at the recent United Nations Climate Change Conference COP28 in the United Arab Emirates (December 2023), and as had been previously stated at the COP27 (November 2022) in Sharm el-Sheikh, Sale notes that since the onset of capitalism only a fraction of the global population may be described as living in comfort. Furthermore, that comfort is continuously wearing away and is achieved at considerable expense. Sale recalls other writers who, earlier in the twentieth century, expressed related concerns. For instance, the poet e.e. cummings described progress a ‘comfortable disease’ of modern ‘manunkind’ (Chambers 2008: 112).

The last writer evoked by Chambers in this context is the Austrian anarchic economist Leopold Kohr. In his seminal work, The Breakdown of Nations (1957), he illustrated the failures of political progress through the following arresting image:

‘Suppose we are on a progress‐train [...] running full speed ahead in the approved manner, fueled by the rapacious growth and resource depletion and cheered on by highly rewarded economists. What if we then discover that we are headed for a precipitous fall to a certain disaster just a few miles ahead when the tracks end at an uncrossable gulf? Do we take advice of the economists to put more fuel into the engines so that we go at an ever‐faster rate, presumably hoping that we build up a head of steam so powerful that it can land us safely on the other side of the gulf; or do we reach for the brakes and come to a screeching if somewhat tumble‐around halt as quickly as possible?

Progress is the myth that assures us that full‐speed‐ahead is never wrong. Ecology is the discipline that teaches us that it is disaster’ (Chambers 2008: 114).

While this section considered different ways in which Eastern and Western thinkers addressed the tension between heritage and modernization, the next further locates this philosophical dialectic within a historical, Mediterranean context.


Part II

West meets Orient: Napoleon Bonaparte’s expedition to Egypt

A fundamental historical episode that significantly shaped the struggle between different conceptions of heritage and modernization is the French incursion into Egypt at the end of the eighteenth century. The recent Ridley Scott biopic of Napoleon Bonaparte (Napoleon, 2023) has re-ignited interest in the former emperor’s life, if it had ever waned. The 1798 campaign across the Mediterranean, aiming for Egypt, included a brief, six-day stay by the general in Malta, that initiated wide-sweeping social and political changes bringing to an end two hundred and sixty-four years of rule by the Hospitaller Order of the Knights of St John. The expedition had far-reaching consequences in matters of culture, among others, and gave rise to novel dynamics taking place between heritage and modernization (Xuereb 2014).

Historians and writers, as well as artists, have narrated this event as one of momentous significance for the Middle Eastern lands, but arguably, more so for Europe. The latter was then in the midst of discovering its modernity, and proceded to do so in relation to what was to be described as the ‘Orient’. Simultaneously, Egypt and other lands that were part of the Ottoman Empire came across new facets of European ways of life. These consisted primarily of technological and scientific means that allowed for further development, influence as well as dominance. The impact on East-West relations are still felt, and after more than two centuries this episode is considered as a line of demarcation between what preceded the modern era, and what came later, both in the Middle East in particular and Arab countries more generally, as well as in Europe. This encounter still instigates discussions related to development and progress across Mediterranean cultures (Laurens 2004).

Chambers describes the French enterprise as having woven a history where ‘modern, “progressive” Europe [took] possession of the rest of the world’ (Chambers 2004: 423). This episode is still relevant to the study of contemporary cultural relations since it provides a wealth of discussion for populations on all shores of the Mediterranean. A key point of analysis lies in the coming together of different cultures and ways of living that was not neutral and in turn led to a complex shift in power relations.

Part of the basis for this shift lay in the Mediterranean, particularly in the East, but also in the south of Europe, that started to be considered as an aesthetic and cultural backwater because way past its peak, a ‘lost world of antiquity, uncontaminated nature, and pristine ‘origins [...] safely consigned to the margins of modernity’ (Chambers 2004: 424). Chambers notes that the following nineteenth-century view of the Mediterranean was almost exclusively of a ‘Greco‐Roman figuration’, a mare nostrum lying in Latinised ancestry and a European past, thus enabling an ‘increasingly disciplined colonial project.’ The ensuing studies of archaeology, anthropology and historiography depicted the Mediterranean ‘as an integral part of Europe’ in a ‘deliberate act of recovery and resurrection (Chambers 2004: 420).’

The dynamic between France and the Mediterranean is a weighty and complex one with significant impact on the people of this space. Even in contemporary political terms, France is perceived as a leading modern force in the shaping of the Mediterranean, however often in terms that go beyond the Mediterranean itself. As the former prime minister of Malta Joseph Muscat notes, we need to ask how far ‘one can classify France as a Mediterranean country’ (Muscat 2011: 126).

The strategic approach by France towards the Mediterranean has a long history. The French writer Paul Balta assesses the incursion into Egypt by looking at the series of European (re)discoveries of Arab cultures and the South and East of the Mediterranean, following the interactions in the Middle Ages and the inception of the Renaissance inspired by scientific and philosophical advancements in Arab lands up to the first millennium A.D. Balta identifies three key moments that shape the modern approach of Europe towards the Arab worlds:

i. The first is the Enlightenment: this was referred to above;

ii. The second is Bonaparte’s incursion into Egypt: this includes the production of the seminal twenty-two ‐ volume La Description générale de l’Égypte;

iii. The third is the interest showed by the Saint Simoniens philosophical movement in advancing science, industry and a meritocracy.

Balta notes that these historic moments contributed to the Nahda in Egypt in collaboration with Syrio‐Lebanese intellectuals (Balta 1992: 25).

The incursion into Egypt was supported by a strategic vision of the Mediterranean by the French. Talleyrand, at the time minister for foreign affairs at the Directory, believed the Mediterranean should be exclusively a French sea so that his nation could control commercial development against its British rival. The attempt to occup Egypt was a necessary step in implementing this vision. The twentieth-century historian and diplomat François Charles‐Roux remarks that Louis XVI’s reign had already promoted the idea of conquering Egypt to dominate the Mediterranean. The historian Emma Spary considers the Egyptian campaign having been ‘at the root of the invention of the Mediterranean’ in the nineteenth century as well as that of the Orient (Fabre & Izzo 2002: 25).

Writer Thierry Fabre argues that the notion of civilisation, conceived in the Enlightenment, set this campaign in motion together with its supporting vision. Prefiguring so many aggressors and would-be conquerors to follow right up till our days, France portrayed itself as liberating Egypt from the Mamelouk yoke in order to extend its light of civilisation from Europe to the Orient. The historian Henry Laurens identifies the justification for the campaign lying in Napoleon’s conception of the notion of the ‘civilizing mission’. He argues that henceforth this concept becomes the ‘main theme of the European colonial undertaking’ (Laurens 2004: 28). The action putting into practice the civilizing mission had already characterised the historical development of Europe up till then; thereafter it became ‘essential’ in the West’s relations with the Orient. This spirit is clearly outlined in the preface of La Description générale de l’Égypte, edited by Fourier and Champollion‐Figeac and Napoleon himself. Fabre describes this driving force in terms of ‘sens‐puissance’, sometimes translated as ‘culture‐might’, channelled to support French interests and carve out enough space in which to manoeuvre and further nationalistic aims (Fabre & Izzo 2002: 26).

As witnessed by many observers, the pursuit of these goals went through the construction of an unequal relationship between Europe and Arab territories. The shift and ensuing disbalance in power relations was managed through the development of new concepts through innovation in weaponry, technology and other related areas. Balta notes that the onset of modernism seemed to widen the distance between the two shores. Indeed, what may have harboured potential and possible beneficial outcomes for all sides started to go inexorably wrong as soon as any vestiges of European idealism came up short in practice. Balta refers to serious limitations that stemmed from the corruption of the values of the French Revolution of 1789 and the ensuing double‐dealings by Europeans who, while promoting freedom from the Ottoman Empire sought colonial benefits through the establishment of new power structures. The European forces swiftly invested in the commercial and transportation infrastructure of the Middle East, doing so for their own benefit (Balta 1992: 26).

The northern and southern shores of the Mediterranean are still caught up in an imbalanced relationship. Balta argues that while the North bears part of the responsibility, so do the leaders of the South, among whom feature ‘the self‐fashioned Bonapartes’ (Balta 1992: 27). If considered as another kind of myth, namely a project, the French incursion into Egypt has led to far‐reaching consequences, enabling intercultural confrontation at many levels of cultural life on all sides of the sea. As many observers have noted, the mix of experiences and the exchanges of practice were significant and also positive, but the scars, physical and psychological, abound (Balta 1992: 27).


Division or encounter: the Latin lake and the Muslim domains

In 1943 the political writer André Siegfried contrasted the European model of life, still closely linked to the values imbued by family structures, in turn based on Mediterranean values, to the American manner of industrialisation. Siegfried appreciated the European and Mediterranean way of life and acknowledged the Mediterranean’s sense of unity, a characteristic he felt was quite particular (Fabre & Izzo 2002: 126). Therefore, Siegfried did not share the medievalist Henri Pirenne’s view of the Mediterranean having been divided by the Islamic presence. Rather, Siegfried appreciated the proportionate dimension and the proximity to humanity, elements that allowed the Mediterranean to flourish. While the Mediterranean extended its values to Europe, which thus benefitted from the closeness, Atlantic forces acted in contrast to this positive trend. In doing so, Siegfried echoed contemporary writers like Albert Camus and prefigured others like the Italian sociologist Franco Cassano.

Nevertheless, this perspective needs to be qualified. It represents a particular view of beliefs in the Mediterranean and its values. It is worth pointing out that Siegfried believed Europe was essentially white, and the main contribution of the Mediterranean to Europe, and what was worth conserving, was also white. Nevertheless, in the aftermath of the Second World War he became more conscious of the changing tides globally, particularly with regard to the growing industrial, military and cultural influence of the United States (Fabre & Izzo 2002: 123).

Chambers adopts yet another view that also subverts Pirennes’ perspective on the Muslim and Arab dominance over the Mediterranean space and the presumed split mentioned above. For Chambers, this event shifted Europe back into the Mediterranean and closer towards the Middle East. Therefore, the Arab conquest of important areas of al-bahr al-abyad established durable and pervasive patterns of influence and relations in the framework of Arab-European dynamics up till today. Ongoing attempts at nurturing intercultural and interreligious dialogue are similarly shaped. This awareness of the impact on the contemporary politics and social development of the space we share also led Chambers to include the plight of “illegal” migrants, their trafficking and unstoppable flow, who in their own way maintain the influence of the South shore on the North, apparently threatening but also ‘revitalizing’ Europe with new blood from the South and East (Chambers 2008: 128). Migration changes across the centuries, with emigration turning into immigration in places like southern Italy, also following shifts in colonialism as, for instance, expressed by Italy’s dreams of Empire in the nineteenth century, and recently captured very poetically, and from an African perspective, by the Ethiopian-American writer Maaza Mengiste.

Chambers cites Naples’ shifting sense of identity in Europe and the Mediterranean, from Spanish through the Bourbons to republican governance, as an example of the many fascinating aspects of the constellation of Mediterranean harbour, coastal and urban cities that endow readings of this varied space great diversity while allowing for degrees of interconnectedness. In this specific case, the impact of Americans in progeny and culture following the Second World War enables the connection to extend directly to the US. Therefore, the awareness of commonalities against essentialising tendencies needs to be sustained since, as Chambers notes with reference to the philosopher Walter Benjamin, even if the ‘disciplined repression of the past were to be recognized, cultural closure would continue to be popularly enforced in the name of national unity and cultural autonomy’ (Chambers 2008: 128).

The dialectical tension between heritage and modernization constantly underlies efforts at understanding the past in order to inhabit our present fully and consciously. Chambers asks crucial questions with regard to European identity, as well as how the interpretation of Europe’s history, with the aim of informing the present, may exclude multiplicity and bolster hegemony through a perspective that is monolithic. Europe still tends to identify itself as Christian, marginalising Muslim, Jewish and other elements from general history to the periphery whereby Europe can still engage with them, but not belong to them or allow renewed belonging to grow.

Chambers observes longstanding historical challenges between Europe and the Muslim and Jewish faiths, portraying them as external and internal adversaries at various junctures. Presently, these faiths continue to be perceived as fundamentally distinct from Christianity. This divergence is evident in European discussions on intercultural dialogue, which often depict the three religions as significantly apart. The Muslim and Jewish faiths are frequently positioned outside Europe, or, when acknowledged within, associated primarily with migrant communities.

The incorporation of Islam into European consciousness has posed historical challenges spanning centuries. The migration and assimilation attempts of Muslim communities from North Africa into French mainland society encountered a formidable test from the late nineteenth century through the twentieth century, arguably resulting in failure. While efforts to regulate the Muslim presence in North Africa by European colonial powers adhered to broad principles, albeit lacking structured policies, exemplified by le mythe kabyle in Algeria and Morocco, migrants to l'hexagon faced resistance and disorientation, notably influenced by prevailing perceptions of the Muslim faith (Chambers 2008: 144).

This narrative underscores a broader dichotomy in European discourse between Europe and the Mediterranean, reinforcing a separation between Christianity in Europe and Islam and Judaism in the Middle East. Considering a more comprehensive discourse encompassing the Mediterranean might challenge these distinctions, making it harder to sustain preconceived notions and prompting a more accurate reflection of reality.

Illustrative of the discordant relationship between Europe and the Mediterranean, Chambers cites Cassano's observation of Italy's 'unhealthy relationship' with a 'repudiated Mediterranean.' This relationship is intertwined with Europe and the West attempting to impose their desires through image projection upon the Mediterranean. Despite such efforts, Chambers underscores the notion that the Mediterranean remains 'a space, a sea, that is irreducible to (their) design' (Chambers 2008: 146).

As has been noted, significant imbalances in the Mediterranean have been sown by Europe through its historical practice of colonialism:

‘From the French expedition of Bonaparte in Egypt, the seizure and colonisation of Algeria, and the opening of the Suez Canal to the English occupation of Egypt and the Italian occupation of Libya, the Mediterranean is violently transformed into a European lake’ (Chambers 2008: 148).

The contemporary formulation of the notion of a European lake traces its origins to the Classical era and paradoxically presented itself as an endeavor to inclusively unify the Mediterranean rather than foster division. Contrary to the aspirations of European humanism inspired by the Enlightenment, as highlighted in remarks by Balta there was a betrayal of its own ideals by constricting interpretations of the Mediterranean and its association with Europe (Balta 1992). Jean Desthieux's 1935 observation, as cited by Chambers, underscores this paradox:

‘humanism, as generally understood, has contributed to restricting an understanding of the origins of civilization, to the degree that it has largely overlooked the Semitic, Christian and Islamic contributions in its over‐valuation of its Greek‐Latin baggage. This means that we have arrived at any antigeographical and unjust sense of the Mediterranean reduced simply to the dimensions of a Latin Lake’ (Chambers 2008: 149).

In the early 1930s, as the concept of a European lake gained popularity, L’Académie méditerranéenne, established in Nice in 1926 and later relocating to Monaco, primarily focused on the Greco-Latin heritage, despite its unclear objectives. Notably, the novelist Louis Bertrand was affiliated with this movement, alongside the poet André Suarès, who idealized Latinity without necessarily viewing it as a concrete reality.

Returning to Braudel, Chambers observes that the French historian's perspective still exhibited a ‘restrictive appreciation of the historical and cultural space’ he contributed significantly to elucidating. Both Braudel and Pirenne, according to Chambers, conceptualized the Mediterranean within the framework of the 'French lake' from 1800 to 1945, failing to acknowledge and grapple with the subsequent "loss" of that world. Chambers contends that their writings compensated for this loss by asserting a self-assured possession of the historical space represented by the Mediterranean. This, in Chambers' analysis, reflects an unwillingness to confront what was once a racialized global dominance.

Therefore, a comprehensive understanding of the Mediterranean necessitates acknowledging the disquieting realities arising from colonization and division, that have rendered the region fragile and obscured its inherent unity. To progress, he asserts the imperative of fully recognizing the colonial past and its enduring impacts on the present. This perspective is based on what unifies the Mediterranean, linking its history to the shared sea border and the common past shared by diverse regions surrounding the sea (Chambers 2008: 150).


Part III

Working together towards a Mediterranean imaginary

Numerous scholars examining the Mediterranean and its inherent tensions have characterized it as a constructed reality. Influenced by Palestinian-American critic Edward Said's insights, notably in Orientalism (1978), Chambers describes the Mediterranean as an 'imaginatively constructed' reality. This characterization is rooted in the self-referential construct derived from the paradigm of northern domination over the South, as elucidated by Said (Chambers 2008: 171). Both Chambers and Said provide fundamentally significant portrayals of the Mediterranean, contributing to fostering a comprehensive understanding of existing discourse and shaping a visionary perspective for the future.

Similarly, the Maltese professor in global studies Michelle Pace endeavors to 'conceptualize the social construction of this area (as a holistic 'region') and scrutinize the underlying assumptions of such imaginings' (Pace 2006: 2). Such efforts play a crucial role in unraveling the complex fabric of Mediterranean discourse. Pace's approach is intriguing and holds promise, as her conceptualization not only serves as a theoretical exercise but also as a potential avenue for developing a method that facilitates action and provides a framework for practical endeavors. Central to Pace's exploration is the pivotal question of whether the Mediterranean should be regarded as a singular region or as a convergence of multiple regions. Pace arrives at the conclusion that neither view, that is either regarding the Mediterranean as a singular region or as a convergence of regions, is entirely satisfactory. Temporarily setting aside the concept of regions, she centers her research on the concept of identity. Therefore, Pace observes that the Mediterranean brings together multiple identities that exhibit overlaps and are engaged in a dynamic relationship.

From this perspective, the construction of the Mediterranean is an ongoing process, evolving on the basis of a set of identities that are themselves in the making, shaped by various discourses and representations. Regarding the notion of regions, Pace highlights their dynamic relationship with the Mediterranean, emphasizing the notion that ‘regions are themselves products of processes of identity construction’ and that ‘[r]egions are not natural entities but rather social constructs’ (Pace 2006: 4). The challenge of translating theory into practice is intricately linked to the complexity of the constructs themselves. Whether at a regional sub-level or within the broader Mediterranean regional dimension, one of the primary challenges involves reconciling the differences among European territories, both those within the European Union (EU) as well as those outside, notably the Balkan states, Turkey, together with the Middle Eastern Arab countries, Israel, and North Africa.

Braudel bestowed upon the Mediterranean a status it had not previously held (Fabre & Izzo 2002: 106). The historiographical perspective framing the Mediterranean as a 'regional and intra-cultural entity' was shaped by Braudel's 1949 thesis and the interdisciplinary methodologies of the Annales School. This conceptual framework gained prominence with the unfolding of events such as the North African campaigns and the invasion of Sicily in 1943 (Frendo 2012: 18). Fabre observes that Braudel conferred retrospective legitimacy on the Mediterranean by conceptualizing it as an 'ensemble historique' or historical ensemble. The philosopher Jacques Rancière aptly notes that the Mediterranean is not naturally united but finds its unity through writing, including the contributions of scholars like Braudel. This written discourse serves as a robust foundation for framing the Mediterranean as a constructed reality, as mentioned earlier. The influence operates bidirectionally through time, prompting consideration of why figures like Braudel, deemed outdated by some, continue to be highly regarded and referenced by others.

In the pre- and post-World War II era, Braudel advocated a perspective aimed at fostering unity and transcending divisive ideologies and nationalisms. Scholar Oswyn Murray sheds light on Braudel's fall from favor during the 1968 revolutionary movement and Pompidou's government, where he was perceived as simultaneously too reactionary and too radical, portrayed as both resistant to change yet challenging to established academic institutions and methods at the Sorbonne and beyond (Braudel 2002: xviii). Simultaneously, Braudel's historical perspective, notably characterized by the 'longue durée' and a holistic approach to history, faced criticism from Michel Foucault and poststructuralists. The notion of the historian as neutral, objective, and detached from history was discredited, with historians being viewed as “interpreters” shaping history in relation to the present.

Ironically, Braudel's influence experienced a revival in neighboring Italy during the 1970s, as his works were translated relatively late into Italian. This resurgence occurred at a time when, paradoxically in France, Braudel was falling out of favor. Nevertheless, French authors such as Thierry Fabre continue to acknowledge Braudel's significance as an important figure (Braudel 2002: xvii).

Since World War II, a period coinciding with the Mediterranean perpetuating its decline in international influence, the initial contributions and subsequent rediscovery of Braudel have bestowed a renewed luster upon the region. This resurgence is evident in the re-evaluation of the Mediterranean's historical significance concerning its global standing. In contemporary terms, both politically and culturally, the Mediterranean appears to have reclaimed some of the importance and centrality it lost in broader international affairs. Nevertheless, the Mediterranean's role appears to remain predominantly on the receiving end, with larger or extra-Mediterranean powers shaping primary developments – consider the different roles play by the US, Russia, China and the Gulf States. To empower Mediterranean communities to have more influence over policies shaping their lives, innovative approaches and forward-thinking strategies are needed. As is discussed in the next section, Part IV, actions aimed at supporting cultural expression may play a pivotal role in achieving this objective.

One method of repositioning the Mediterranean as a construct from the perception of a backwater to a more central and internationally significant position involves relocating it to a more globally relevant territory. Braudel's insights are particularly pertinent in this context and can serve as a source of inspiration. For example, in examining the Mediterranean's relation to the global dimension, Braudel challenges us to consider whether: 

‘since this human history was in perpetual motion, flowing down to the shores of the Mediterranean where it regularly came to a halt, is it any wonder that the sea should so soon have become one of the living centres of the universe, and that in turn it should have sent resonant echoes through these massive continents, which were a kind of sounding‐board for it?

The history of the Mediterranean lent an ear to the distant sounds of universal history, but its own music could be heard from far away too. This two‐way flow was the essential feature of a past marked by a double movement: the Mediterranean both gave and received – and the “gifts” exchanged might be calamities as well as benefits. Everything was in the mixture and [...] the brilliant arrival of the earliest civilizations in the Mediterranean can already be explained as the coming together of different elements’ (Braudel 2002: 16).

A contemporary perspective on Mediterranean unity is offered by the writer Predrag Matvejević, presenting a distinct yet related construction. A notable contrast between Braudel and Matvejević lies in their approaches to the Mediterranean: while one embraces a holistic view, the other presents a 'differentiated vision' of the Mediterranean. Matvejević's construct incorporates negative elements, viewing the Mediterranean as dominated by interpretations of its past rather than visions of its future. He perceives the region as suffering from representations of its reality that are entangled with distorted versions of what is actually real. He argues that the Mediterranean and the discourse surrounding it are inseparable, and at times, the discourse itself has been detrimental to the region. The rhetoric employed in discussions about the Mediterranean has, on occasion, served ulterior and negative motives (Stillo 2010: 23).

A key component in shaping the concept of the Mediterranean is the consideration of identities, as previously noted in relation to Pace. The use of the plural term 'identities' instead of the singular 'identity' is intentional, reflecting the acknowledgment that communities, even within a larger social unit encompassing these identities, are never homogeneously composed of identical individuals or social groups. This view aligns with Amartya Sen's caution against 'unique categorization,' emphasizing the importance of avoiding the tendency to identify and describe people solely in relation to others or in opposition to others (Sen 2006: 10).

However, recognizing the bonds that exist between individuals and groups permits a certain degree of generalization, as practiced here. Identities in the Mediterranean have been observed to both diverge significantly and converge towards a sense of unity. This unity is not based on singular characteristics but rather on general common trends and values (IEMed 2011). In this context the philospher John Baldacchino interprets the term “Mediterraneanism” in a positive light in relation to a ‘discussion of Mediterranean identity [that] revisits the political mystification and instrumentalization of art and society and how it impacts on the development of an artistic genre that claims national borders’ (Baldacchino 2010: 10).

Efforts to elucidate as well as categorize the complexity of identity through rigid frameworks are juxtaposed with the broad approach embraced by Braudel. Baldacchino discovers in Braudel a wellspring for profound reflection on the interweaving of a Mediterranean character that is synonymous with the diversity that shapes it:

‘The Mediterranean’s character “is complex, awkward, and unique. It cannot be contained within our measurements and classifications. No simple biography beginning with date of birth can be written of this sea; no simple narrative of how things happened would be appropriate to its history”’ (Baldacchino 2010: 12).

Indeed, history gifts us with a wealth of stories of confluence and conflict in the Mediterranean. In Les racines historiques de la notion de ‘méditerranéisme’ en Égypte, the Egyptian writer Mohammed Afifi underscores how, over the ages, the Mediterranean has developed the perception that it belongs to numerous peoples who, depending on societal configurations, intermittently share elements of that space. Afifi delves into the various names by which the Mediterranean has been referred to across different regions and eras, drawing attention to examples such as Rifa’at Rafi’ al‐Tahtawi’s nineteenth-century narrative Takhlis al‐Ibriz, recounting his significant cross-cultural journey to France in the 1830s. This exploration shows that individuals like al-Tahtawi, and Arabs in general, regarded the Mediterranean as a Roman Sea, highlighting the conflictual coexistence on both sides of the sea.

In contrast, Afifi presents another perspective from the Egyptian writer Taha Hussein, who strongly advocated for a Mediterranean consciousness and a shared mentality among its peoples. This viewpoint led to clashes with postcolonial sentiments favoring a more narrow nationalism. Afifi quotes Hussein (1938) as follows:

‘Il n’existe pas de différence de mentalité ou de culture entre les peuples qui ont vécu autour de la mer des Roum et qui ont été influencés. Ce sont les circonstances politiques et économiques qui différencient le peuple de ce littoral du peuple d’un autre littoral. Ce sont aussi les circonstances politiques et économiques qui avantagent un peuple et désavantagent un autre’ (Al-Kharrat & Afifi 2002: 3).

Taha Hussein emphasizes the role of political and economic circumstances as contributing factors to the differences among the diverse peoples of the Mediterranean. He contends that divisions stem from external differences rather than inherent internal ones within the people themselves. This perspective prompts an exploration of the human element often entangled in the broader narrative that delves into the clash of cultures within the Mediterranean space.

Building on this historical trajectory, David Abulafia highlights the problematic nature of the concept of unity in the post-classical Mediterranean, marked by the conflict between Islam and Christendom and economic disparities between the East and West. Nevertheless, Abulafia observes that conflict did not always impede trade, such as during the time of the Crusades, and commercial unity persisted. The central and common actor, particularly from a perspective centered on the human factor rather than larger historical or political movements, is humankind. Baldacchino, drawing from Abulafia's focus on the human dimension, expands on his observations regarding the distinctive characteristics of a Mediterranean aesthetics within the context of any existing commonality, a perspective arguably absent from the 'Braudelian Mediterranean' (Baldacchino 2010: 14).


An Egyptian Perspective

Further examining conflicting perspectives on heritage and modernization in the Mediterranean context from an Egyptian standpoint in the 1930s provides valuable insights into understanding other facets of the historical development of the space and its prospects for cultural and pacific wellbeing. One prominent issue that garnered significant attention was the role of Mussolini in the lead-up to World War II. His influence may also be noted in the realm of Egyptian internal affairs during a period marked by fervent intellectual debates, notably under the influence of figures like Taha Hussein. At this time one notes a sharp rise in Egyptian nationalism, resulting in opposition to Great Britain in particular, and the West in general. Within this context, one may note the establishment of the Muslim Brotherhood in Ismailiyya in 1928 and its subsequent move to Cairo in 1933 (Al-Kharrat & Afifi 2002: 34).

Hussein utilizes the Mediterranean as a means to strike a balance between Egyptian nationalism and Arab/Islamic orientations, on one hand, and those advocating for maintaining positive and open relations with the West, on the other. Interpreting the 1936 Britain-Egypt accords in this context, Hussein expresses a positive view. He supports political independence while also favoring cultural ties with the West. Engaging in a common intellectual exercise prevalent in the inter-war period of the first half of the twentieth century, Hussein traces connections between Pharaonic Egypt and Ancient Greece. Despite this, Hussein acknowledges that the Mediterranean may also serve as a tool to promote liberalism (Al-Kharrat & Afifi 2002: 38).

Several other intellectuals played significant roles during this period and in the years that followed. Salama Moussa aligns with Taha Hussein's views, while Sateh al-Husri, a prominent figure in Arab nationalism, opposes Hussein's perspectives. Hussein Moenes, specializing in Andalusia, inspired Afifi to observe that: ‘L’Andalousie présente le meilleur exemple du méditerranéisme avec ses rêves et ses espoirs’. Moenes addresses several key issues related to Egyptian and Mediterranean identities by asking: ‘Sommes‐nous de l’Orient ou de l’Occident?’ Moenes contends that Egypt was Arabic/Oriental by geographic and political circumstance but culturally open to the Mediterranean and the West. Due to his views, Moenes found himself at odds with Nasser's regime and the pervasive influence of pan-Arabism around the time of the 1952 revolution. Gamal Hamdan, arguably the most insightful and influential observer of Egyptian society during this period, regards the Mediterranean with skepticism, seeking to assess its significance in relation to, but not surpassing, other dimensions of Egypt.

Moving on to conclude the appraisal of perspectives in this section, in a significant development that marked Egyptian society in the 1990s, the majority of opposition parties were not enthusiastic about the resurgence of Mediterraneanisms. This was interpreted as running counter to Arab identity and being perceived as aligning with the interests of the West. A similar tendency may be observed in other Arab countries at the time, partly due to the negative impacts on public opinion across the Mediterranean following the First Gulf War.


Section II

Part IV

Intangible heritage in practice: The Phoenicians’ Cultural Route as a framework for intercultural dialogue

In the geopolitical context, spanning local, regional, and international dimensions, and considering the tensions between inherited tradition and modernization discussed thus far, this paper proceeds to assess the dynamics inspiring intercultural dialogue in the Mediterranean basin. Therefore, this section considers one instance whereby tensions inherent in the Mediterranean may be addressed through long-term and sustainable collaboration across different sections of the political, economic, cultural and social spectrum.

The relevance of culture to tourism, coupled with the development of intercultural dialogue, has become a pivotal aspect of research into Mediterranean tensions. Cultural tourism has become regularly evaluated in terms of its sustainability as well as its contrbution to addressing competing priorities between the fields of heritage preservation, conservation and the values inherent in tangible and intangible heritage on the one hand, and and its growing significance in the context of the modernization of sites and community structures on the other. The Cultural Routes recognized by the Council of Europe will serve as an example of this dynamic (Innocenti 2018: 76).

Cultural routes represent specific tourism products and services designed to connect individual sites, thus enhancing accessibility to a particular heritage theme. These routes vary in scale and the cultural heritage theme they emphasize (Timothy 2017). Beyond their cultural significance, cultural routes also may play a crucial economic role (Timothy & Boyd 2014) and contribute to social development by fostering sustainable tourism (Council of Europe 2011; Mansfeld 2015).

The Council of Europe describes a cultural route as a:

‘(...) cultural, educational heritage and tourism cooperation project aiming at the development and promotion of an itinerary or a series of itineraries based on a historic route, a cultural concept, figure or phenomenon with a transnational importance and significance for the understanding and respect of common European values’ (Council of Europe 2013).

Cultural routes wield significant economic and social impacts on communities engaged in this form of commercial exchange and intercultural dialogue. They have the potential to stimulate community participation in cultural activities, fostering greater engagement with cultural heritage and facilitating processes of intercultural dialogue (Council of Europe, 2011). The European Commission underscores the role of cross-border routes in the tourism sector, emphasizing their contributions to social solidarity and economics (European Commission 2010).

UNESCO has recognized cultural routes as one of the four heritage categories for the classification of World Heritage Sites since 2005, thus elevating their status. In 2008, the International Council on Monuments and Sites, ICOMOS, introduced its Charter of Cultural Routes, outlining the evolution of the concept of cultural assets and establishing codes of conservation and management for cultural routes (Durusoy 2016: 115).

The Phoenicians’ Route, certified as a Cultural Route by the Council of Europe, operates as a cultural tourism network of excellence. The route serves as a platform for intercultural dialogue in the Mediterranean, focusing on recent developments in the field of heritage, particularly the impact of modernization in cultural practices, including tourism. It addresses many elements of tangible and intangible heritage related to the social significance accorded by Mediterranean communities, both within and outside Europe, to artifacts, sites, and monuments along the route, intersecting with the tourism sector.

Established in 2004 as a not-for-profit association, the Phoenicians’ Route serves as the guarantor of the European Cultural Route commemorating the Phoenicians' influence on Mediterranean and European heritage. It manages relations with various institutions and acts as the reference organization on Phoenician heritage, prioritizing the dissemination of knowledge about the culture and history of ancient Mediterranean civilizations. The route has been endorsed by the World Tourism Organization since 2016, currently spanning fifteen countries. It adopts a cross-cultural model to strengthen connections between diverse populations, employing heritage pedagogy to encourage an integrated and responsible approach to cultural tourism and community development. The route adheres to the Council of Europe’s European Landscape Convention signed in Florence in 2000 and the European Convention on the Role of Cultural Heritage for Society signed in Faro in 2005.

The scientific committee and the steering committee of the organization comprise international experts across diverse cultural fields. These committees collaborate closely with the International Organization of Social Tourism, the Observatory on Tourism in the European Islands, and the International University Network of the Route to address a variety of pressing issues stemming from the ongoing tensions between heritage and modernizing trends in society and the economy.


Intercultural dialogue in the Mediterranean

Several studies have delved into how intercultural dialogue may help address conflict in the Mediterranean. Dialogue in the Mediterranean may occur among partners who may not be on an equal footing. It needs to recognize the imbalances between the so-called North and South, as well as among actors with cultural and political significance in shared geo-social territories, encompassing western and eastern European, Balkan, Asian, Middle Eastern, Mashreqi, and Maghrebi regions. As has been noted in the previous sections, distinguishing the boundaries of influence in local cultural relations expression and exchange is challenging. The pervasive impact of this influence extends across various societal levels, including the business sector, education, tourism, digitalization, design and gastronomy. Notably, one may observe a shift and expansion in commercial interests, with markets in the Arabian peninsula and China adding themselves to the traditional American interests.

The Phoenicians’ Route traverses diverse territories in the Mediterranean, uniting various institutional contexts. This includes official authorities at the local government and academic levels, as observed in Italy, Croatia, Spain and Lebanon. These members engage in sharing experiences and best practices with each other and with civil society organizations. It is noteworthy that, among route members, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are relatively few compared to national and regional authorities. Additionally, some countries, such as Tunisia, have single memberships representing the entire nation, often undergoing renewal with shifts from one NGO to another. Malta, for instance, is represented by the cultural association Inizjamed.


Intercultural dialogue in a migratory Mediterranean

A papal address on World Tourism Day 2022 emphasized the value of cultural routes, with Pope Francis succinctly linking the cultural and tourism dimensions of such initiatives, thereby highlighting their potential for fostering dialogue and peace. This renewed emphasis on a system supporting positive international relations through culture appears to be a reaction to the equally persistent but arguably louder and more pervasive rhetoric of conflict (The Holy See 2022). A prominent method of distinguishing and dividing people involves a nationalistic approach towards culture, as noted by Stuart Hall:

‘[i]nstead of thinking of national cultures as unified, we should think of them as a discursive device which represents difference as unity or identity. They are cross-cut by deep internal divisions and differences, and “unified” only through the exercise of different forms of cultural power’ (Barker 2003: 253).

An important element at the heart of cultural identities and their role in shaping the relationship between traditional and modernizing characteristics in society lies in migration. Indeed, the migration patterns of individuals traveling to Europe have evolved constantly, departing from the trend observed among their predecessors. While earlier migrants often traveled to the colonizer's homeland or close to the ‘imperial center’, contemporary migrants seek countries where their chances of acceptance may be higher, resulting in more arbitrary patterns. This shift has given rise to a ‘more random logic of migration’, contributing to the ‘relatively wide distribution of particular groups’ across Europe (Robins 2006: 25). Consequently, a ‘new kind of dispersed and cross-border migration pattern’ has emerged, characterized by flexible and diverse migration flows, connections and networks (Robins 2006: 25). The advancements in communication technology have played a crucial role in facilitating these patterns by making relationships across most borders cheaper and more accessible.


The contribution of the Phoenicians’ Route to intercultural dialogue

In the midst of changing behavioral patterns, European organizations recognize the culturally and economically lucrative links between the Mediterranean region's past and current tourism practices. The EU, in its official documentation addressing innovative approaches to urban and regional development through cultural tourism, emphasizes several key points. For example, in the latest call for Horizon Europe transnational collaboration addressing cultural tourism, the European Commission underscores the importance of its various forms as drivers of growth, jobs and economic development. Cultural tourism may also contribute to the understanding of other peoples' identities and values, fostering intercultural understanding and social development in Europe through the exploration of diverse cultural heritage. However, despite the inherently cross-border nature of cultural tourism, its full innovation potential in this regard remains underexplored and untapped. Development levels vary between regions and sites, leading to imbalances, with certain areas lagging behind while high-demand areas face unsustainable exploitation. Additionally, there is a significant knowledge gap in terms of quantitative and qualitative data on cultural heritage tourism and its contribution to European culturalization, economic development, and social development (European Commission 2023).

Regarding the Cultural Routes program of the Council of Europe, one observes its affinity with the Faro Convention, emphasizing the importance of local citizens and their connection to their region in understanding and identifying cultural heritage (Council of Europe 2005). Local involvement through the Cultural Routes networks aims to attract new activities and encourage sustainable tourism while safeguarding both tangible and intangible expressions of heritage.

This interpretation of the Mediterranean puts into practice the aim to foster regional development through cultural heritage policies, acknowledging the contribution of cultural tourism to nurturing intercultural dialogue and further developing European stability, harmony and integration, all while investing in EU macro-regions at economic and social levels. Collaborative initiatives with the EU, such as the Route 4U program, have been launched to strengthen this dynamic. This program promotes the identification and drafting of guidelines for transnational regional policies on Cultural Routes, the development of new competencies and skills through e-learning modules, and the creation of goods and services such as a Cultural Routes card and interactive trip planners.

As of 2023, there were forty-seven Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe, each with distinct themes that illustrate European memory, history and heritage, contributing to an interpretation of the diversity of present-day cultural heritage. The Phoenicians' Route specifically refers to the major nautical routes used by the Phoenicians since the twelfth century BC, essential for trade and cultural communication in the Mediterranean. Through these routes, the Phoenicians and other great Mediterranean civilizations fostered a Mediterranean cultural community, facilitating the exchange of manufactured articles, people and ideas.

Abulafia highlights the Ancient Greeks' occasional prejudice against trade-related aspects, particularly directed towards the Phoenicians, preferring military or governing prowess over commerce (Abulafia 2011: 65). While this Classical suspicion of inferiority may have persisted over millennia, it can be viewed in a positive light in today's world, which places a significant emphasis on commerce divorced from warmongering and political affairs. In the twenty-first century, there is a shift in interpretation that allows for a more positive assessment of Phoenician trade practices, aligning with the contemporary focus on sustainable economics and virtuous financial practice. The current interest in the Phoenicians is closely tied to the cultural and social activities that contribute beneficially to the growing tourism industry, especially when approached in ways that balance economic gains with environmental sustainability and cultural respect, in line with UNESCO principles. Importantly, the positive assessment of Phoenician activity is attributed to its perceived absence of acts of colonization and military imposition .

In the Maltese context, the Phoenician presence holds a significant place in people's imagination and emotional interpretation of their past and identity. Phoenician activity in Malta peaked between the eighth century and the Hellenistic period, declining around the fourth century BC. Anthony Pace notes that Malta served as an intermediate port of call along the routes towards the Tyrrhenian, contributing to the development of an 'environment of exchange' (Pace 1998: 96). This historical role has shaped Malta's history, the interpretation of its past, and the contemporary imaginary that connects living people to a mythical past.

The inclusion by the Phoenicians' Route of Malta since 2017 seems to have tapped into the curiosity that accompanies scientific research into the biological makeup of the Maltese and other Mediterranean people today. The Council of Europe recognizes the critical role of culture in delivering its core mission of defending human rights, practising democracy and upholding the rule of law. Supporting culture as the ‘soul of democracy’ involves advocating strong cultural policies and governance, transparency, access to decision-making, participation in policymaking processes and the fostering of creativity.

The acknowledgment of divisions and injustices experienced by the people of the Mediterranean is considered the first step towards the improvement of relations in the region. Evaluations of the history of the Mediterranean, both past and present, are crucial for understanding the dynamics of this space and generating a vision for better future relations among all those involved.

Charles Coutel, professor of philosophy, emphasized the significance of dialogue and mutual respect between cultures and religions as essential contributors to the closer integration of Mediterranean peoples during the Civil Society Forum held in Barcelona in 1995, arguably a seminal moment in the chronicle of efforts towards positive Euro-Med relations (Chambers 2008: 41). In the subsequent year, at the 1996 Bologna event, the focus on the intangible heritage of the Mediterranean was underscored. However, the prioritization of politically and economically sensitive matters over cultural considerations led to its eventual relegation, a decision also influenced by security concerns. Coutel, citing Italian researcher Giuseppe Sacco, outlined the primary challenges facing the Mediterranean (Chambers 2008: 41). Therefore, to address the challenges posed by fanaticism and integralism, as well as counter the theory of the 'clash of civilizations' proposed by Samuel Huntington, Charles Coutel emphasizes the need for a comprehensive strategy (Said 1994: 108). Coutel draws a connection between Pirenne's theory, suggesting Islam's role in dividing the Mediterranean, and Huntington's thesis. He argues that references to scholars like Braudel and Siegfried, while well-intentioned, are insufficient to challenge such theories, despite providing solid frameworks for initiating the discourse (Ministère des Affaires étrangères 2008: 40).

Siegfried's observation that, despite its historical reputation as a cradle of civilization, the Mediterranean remains a source of conflicts and tensions underscores the complexity Coutel seeks to address (Ministère des Affaires étrangères 2008: 40). While not being able to provide ready-made and exhaustive solutions, the Phoenicians' Route acts as a practical exercise that actively contributes to this discourse through programs fostering collaboration with professionals and students in cultural and tourism-related fields. Partnerships with local communities and regional stakeholders, artistic ateliers, festivals, researchers and institutes for higher education facilitate the growth of connections that support training, capacity building and professional development in these sectors.

Finally, it is worth noting that since 2014, the Phoenicians' Route has established the International Network of Mediterranean Schools, Edu.Net, creating a cultural space for exchange and policy-making rooted in positive practices of heritage pedagogy. This network engages in exercises that encourage creative approaches to identity matters through the design of cultural heritage materials, thereby strengthening the commitment of new generations to intercultural dialogue. The network offers various opportunities for cultural and didactic exchanges, twinning, and intercultural journeys to explore commonalities in Mediterranean cultural identities.


Part V

Concluding observations: the influence of modernization on heritage and its impact on peace and cultural development

To conclude, a few aspects illustrating how modernization can have a profound impact on heritage in several ways, both positive and negative, will be presented. These will be followed by brief points about the contribution of heritage to peace. In both case, the aim is to stimulate further discussion on the basis of wide-ranging research inclusive of different perspectives, and possibly inspire positive action.


Cultural Transformation:

Positive Impact: Modernization can lead to the preservation and revitalization of cultural heritage. It may encourage a renewed interest in traditional practices, languages and customs.

Negative Impact: Inversely, rapid modernization can result in the erosion of traditional values and practices. As societies modernize, there may be a decline in the importance and practice of certain cultural traditions.

Architectural Changes:

Positive Impact: Modernization can bring about the development of infrastructure and urban spaces that coexist harmoniously with historical sites. Adaptive reuse of old buildings for modern purposes can help preserve their historical value.

Negative Impact: Urbanization and modern construction may lead to the demolition of historic structures or the alteration of traditional landscapes, impacting the visual and historical context of heritage sites.

Technological Advancements:

Positive Impact: Technology can aid in the preservation, documentation and restoration of heritage. Digital tools, such as 3D scanning and virtual reality, can provide new ways to experience and learn about historical artifacts and sites. The process from digitization through digitalization to digital transformation is full of promise and potential for a fruitful use of modernization to the benefit of heritage.

Negative Impact: Dealt with superficially, overreliance on technology may diminish the authenticity of the heritage experience. For example, virtual tours might not capture the essence of being physically present at a historical site.


Positive Impact: Modernization can facilitate cultural exchange and the sharing of heritage on a global scale. This can lead to greater appreciation and understanding of diverse cultural practices around the world.

Negative Impact: Globalization may sometimes result in the homogenization of cultures, as dominant cultural practices tend to overshadow local traditions. This can lead to the loss of unique cultural elements (Gil-Manuel Hernàndez i Martí 2006).

Economic Development:

Positive Impact: Economic growth associated with modernization can provide resources for the preservation and promotion of heritage, and benefit the stewards and guardians within the local communities. Tourism, for instance, can bring in revenue to support the maintenance of historical sites.

Negative Impact: Economic pressures may lead to the exploitation of heritage sites for commercial purposes, potentially compromising their integrity and authenticity (UNESCO 1972).

Educational Opportunities:

Positive Impact: Modernization often improves access to education, fostering a greater understanding and appreciation of heritage among the population. Educational programs can promote cultural heritage awareness.

Negative Impact: The emphasis on modern education may downplay the significance of traditional knowledge and skills, leading to a loss of certain aspects of heritage.

Therefore, the impact of modernization on heritage is multifaceted and depends on how societies navigate the balance between progress and the preservation of cultural identity. It requires thoughtful planning and policies to ensure that modernization enhances rather than erodes cultural heritage.


The contribution of heritage to peace

Finally, heritage can contribute significantly to peace in various ways, fostering understanding, tolerance and a sense of shared identity. The following text outlines some of the way in which heritage may contribute to peace:

Cultural Understanding:

Promoting Dialogue: Heritage may encourage dialogue and mutual understanding among diverse communities. By sharing cultural traditions, histories and values, community members may explore common ground and build bridges between different groups.

Preservation of Identity:

Fostering a Sense of Belonging: Heritage helps individuals and communities connect with their roots, fostering a sense of belonging and identity. When people feel secure in their cultural identities, they may be more open to constructive dialogue with others.

Shared History:

Building a Common Narrative: Heritage often involves a shared history that can serve as a basis for building a common narrative. Recognizing shared historical experiences can promote a sense of unity and peaceful relations among different communities.

Cultural Diplomacy:

Soft Power: Heritage can be a powerful tool in international relations. Countries can use their cultural heritage to project a positive image, promote goodwill, and engage in cultural diplomacy, possibly contributing to constructive relations between cultural groups and nations.

Tourism and Exchange:

Cultural Tourism: Heritage sites attract tourists, fostering cultural exchange and enabling understanding. Interactions between people from different backgrounds through tourism can lead to increased tolerance and appreciation of diversity.

Conflict Resolution:

Reconciliation: In post-conflict situations, heritage can play a crucial role in reconciliation efforts. Acknowledging and preserving the heritage of all involved parties can be a step toward healing and rebuilding trust.

Promoting Human Rights:

Cultural Rights: Since the acknowledgment of heritage is key to the preservation of cultural rights, in themselves an essential part of human rights, respecting and protecting the cultural heritage of individuals and communities may contribute to a broader framework of human rights, thus creating a foundation for peace.

Community Building:

Social Cohesion: Heritage activities, events and rituals may bring communities together. When people actively participate in protecting and promoting their cultural heritage, this practice can strengthen social cohesion and contribute to the development of peaceful and inclusive societies (UNESCO 2005).

Education for Peace:

Learning from History: Heritage provides a tangible and experiential way for people to learn from historical events, including the consequences of conflict. Understanding aspects of the past can inform efforts to prevent, mitigate or better manage, future conflicts.

Environmental Stewardship:

Natural Heritage: Together with cultural heritage, natural heritage such as ecosystems, landscapes, and biodiversity is crucial to wellbeing. Collaborative efforts to preserve natural heritage can foster cooperation and mutual respect among different communities.

In summary, heritage may contribute to peace by nurturing cultural understanding, preserving identity, providing a shared history, enabling the practice of cultural diplomacy, promoting sustainable and virtuous tourism and exchange, aiding in conflict resolution and reconciliation, upholding human rights, sustaining communities and acting as an educational tool for peacebuilding efforts. Recognizing and valuing diverse heritage may contribute to the development of more inclusive and resilient societies (UNESCO 2005).


A final reflection: the significance of building bridges

Palestinian activist Omar Barghouti and Maltese poet and professor of literature Adrian Grima propose a transformative approach to the Mediterranean by challenging conventional views and re-contextualizing the space to explore new possibilities and positive prospects. Their re-thinking spans political and social observations, extending to pragmatic suggestions for energy and trade. By encouraging this re-positioning, they seek to introduce fresh perspectives to the major issues affecting the Mediterranean. In the authors' view, and as observed in this paper through various philosophical, critical, historical and literary references, the Mediterranean represents a conflict entangled in myths and misunderstandings, but it is also a source from which new paths can emerge. Jointly, the diverse communities of the Mediterranean may aim to reclaim their space by building cultural bridges and exploring innovative ways to engage with the region (Barghouti & Grima 2005).





2- Dr. Zuhair Tawfiq - Jordan


How do we read and represent heritage? What is the relationship between heritage and modernity or modernization? Is it possible to formulate a procedural or theoretical approach to interpreting the relationship between the two, providing a reconciliatory formula for employing both in contemporary living, considering that modernity represents contemporaneity and the spirit of the age, while heritage embodies the intellectual past, that is, the content of Arab-Islamic thought regardless of the temporal period in which heritage begins and ends? This in itself poses a contentious issue. Here, pastness and salafism is the methodology, vision, and the comprehensive view of the world that believes in a past possessing the authority for renaissance, change, the capability for salvation, and the sole standard for truth. Thus, heritage becomes every historical or imagined normative past used for interpreting reality and envisioning the future?!

These questions seem to be a reproduction or a reminder of renaissanceist ideas that have now transcended themselves, moving from the realm of science to ideology, to the point that some have grown weary of this problem, which has turned into a dilemma or an antagonistic dichotomy, considering it a false problematic in principle! That is, an issue from which no specific cognitive return is expected, and for which there is currently no corresponding meaning to reality and reason. Researching it yields no result, and it will not produce the desired meaning for us in the present or future. The truth is that the rhetorical strategies I encountered reached a dead end with their ideologies. They preferred to retreat or ignore, refusing to fulfill the cognitive obligation required of them by changing their perspective and re-developing the methodology of their rapprochement. These ideologies were faced with the following choice: either acknowledging the shortcomings of their methodology, which requires intellectual courage to break free from the pattern that led us to a dead end and adopt a different approach, or insisting that the issue lacks meaning altogether, considering the problematic false, and thus persisting in the same approach.Top of Form


The Priority of the Dialectical Relationship

The contemporary Arab thought was preoccupied by the issue of heritage and modernity, or modernity and heritage; the arrangement of words here is not arbitrary or based on considerations of linguistic coherence and musical harmony, but rather lies within the strategies of deconstructive reading, meaning, according to Derrida, the first is considered to have priority over the second, so when we say "modernity and heritage," it means that modernity takes precedence, and it is the origin here, and the word following it is merely subordinate and influenced by it, and vice versa.Top of Form The nature of these readings, their levels, and the extent of Arab intellectuals' interest in the problematic(1) were varied. Some of them started from modernity, considering it a central primary issue that must confront heritage first in order to overcome it and then transition to modernity. They dedicated considerable attention to it within the context of their general intellectual project. Most of these intellectuals belong to modernist currents and ideologies of leftism, liberalism, and critical realism, including Tayeb Tizini, Mohammed Abed al-Jabri, Abdullah Al-Arawi, Ghali Shukri, Mahmoud Amin al-Alim, Fahmi Jaddan, and others. Others addressed the problematic starting from heritage itself, witnessing modernity within the context of their search for an Islamic Arab renaissance or the revival of that renaissance, which they believed had stalled in periods of decay. They are proponents of the salafi trend such as Malek Bennabi, Taha Abdul Rahman, and Mohamed Amara. There is a third reconciliatory trend between the two directions, namely the Arabist or Islamic leftist trend, which seeks to bridge the gap between both sides. They believe that the issue of heritage and modernity is not merely a theoretical problem in contemporary Arab thought, but rather a practical issue related to the present, future, and cultural identity of Arabs and their anticipated role in the world and their contribution to its globalization and civilization. Each direction has its own sources and justifications within its framework derived from outside its reality. All these directions, in one way or another, have salafi elements that trace back to their previous references in Islamic history or European history. Each of them has its strengths and weaknesses, and they all involve intertextuality and dialogue within themselves and with their sub-directions. The commonly used tripartite division (liberal/salafi/reconciliatory) in the history of modern and contemporary Arab thought holds only procedural significance for the scholar studying the problematic. It is a concept that lacks the cognitive competence and realistic correspondence that characterize complex scientific concepts, especially since its cognitive frameworks neither possess absolute independence, nor capable of representing the problematic and interpreting it solely based on the data of their own framework or in isolation from other frameworks. In parallel with intertextuality, influence, and impact, there is another level of contradiction and divergence. Can we, if we overlook this aspect, derive a comprehensive collaborative theory from the common denominators among these currents that approaches the relationship between heritage and modernization, emerging triumphant and retaining the rights of both parties in terms of presence, centrality, intellectual and material effectiveness, with the condition for such an endeavor or dream is the elimination of contradiction and difference, which is impossible?

It is difficult to conceive modernity or heritage in isolation or merely as opposing binaries or interrelated entities. Often, any discourse on heritage implicitly refers to its antithesis, without which it cannot truly exist, whether by rejection or adaptation, as imagined by the discourse of Salafist ideology, for example. This attributes negative characteristics to modernity, associated with Westernization, colonialism, and secularism opposed to religion. The Salafist narrative aims to portray modernity in a negative light, regardless of its complexity, diverse experiences worldwide, and historical dimensions. This portrayal facilitates its critique and undermines its Arab discourse, aiming to safeguard Arab thought from it to preserve authenticity, identity, and Arab-Islamic heritage.

On the other hand, the ideology of modernization and modernity (Western) itself poses as the authoritative power for all modernity worldwide and questions any modernity that does not adhere to the Western standard, which has essentially become a historical relic as the West enters the post-modern or post-modernity stage, to borrow Mtaa Safadi's terminology. In this context, where modernity dictates and controls ancient heritage, we find heritage elements containing vibrant components capable of coexisting with and thriving in modernity. Conversely, there are modernity or modernist currents in the East and West that draw their roots from and encompass many ideas, trends, and references from ancient rational, philosophical, non-rational Sufi, metaphysical, and Gnostic heritage.


The Impossible Mission

What is required of us in the context of the dialectical relationship between the ego and the other? This problematic that encapsulates the relationship between modernization and modernity with tradition and manifests in it. What is needed to be liberated from the burden of heritage to facilitate engagement with modernity? Can emancipating oneself from the heritage all at once, akin to the Turkish model (Mustafa Kemal Atatürk), and dismantling its ideological commitments to the past suffice, with taking into consideration that heritage, with its weighty burden, still permeates our Islamic religion and civilization? Nothing proves otherwise, and therein lies the problematic for which there is no universally satisfying solution or consensus, because discussing the past and transcending heritage implies the unspoken, suggesting a call to abandon religion or isolate it from life, stripping it of its public efficacy and confining it to private individual existence.

I cannot assert definitively, but what is noteworthy is that most interpretations of heritage have reached an impasse, leaving the problem unresolved across all ideological and cognitive levels. The contradiction between the past and the present, or between modernity and heritage, remains a binary opposition that seems insurmountable. Is this the final verdict and the only necessary conclusion from the intellectual effort that has persisted for half a century in contemporary Arab thought?

In the context of critique and counter-critique, the integration and accumulation of ideas have disintegrated, especially since most thinkers preferred to pursue their intellectual projects regarding heritage and modernity independently or as a refutation of others' approaches and final judgments. Their goal was to surpass and dismantle each other's projects, establish new readings, and the irony lies in those who started from the same ideological base but arrived at divergent conclusions due to different rhetorical strategies and methodologies. This was evident among Marxist thinkers who were united by ideology but divided by methodological vision. The results of Taieb Tizini were different from those of Abdullah Al-Aroui, and the outcomes of Ghali Shokri differed from those of Mahdi Amel. There were thinkers who, despite starting from different ideologies and directions, reached convergent and complementary conclusions, such as the critical rationalist Fehmi Jad'an and the Marxist Hisham Ghosayb in drawing on aesthetic values from heritage(2). Similarly, Muhammad Amara, the Islamic thinker, converged with Hussein Marwa, the Marxist, in adopting historical materialism, rationalism, and revolutionary movements in Islamic history as a living heritage(3).

Heritage manifests itself in the lives of Arabs on all levels: in their social behavior, patterns of thought, methodologies, psychological structures, and most importantly, their comprehensive vision of existence. Today, heritage aligns with religion, which is precisely where the problem lies, as I mentioned earlier. Without this alignment, the problem would have resolved itself automatically, or at least it would have ceased to be perceived as problematic, and Arabs would have transitioned to modernity easily and smoothly(4). However, radical modernity, which aims at modernization, necessitates abandoning traditional past and adhering to the present or transitioning to contemporaneity, which is often associated with Westernization. Consequently, to be modern, one must be Western, which prompts Arabs to be cautious, leads them to an extreme return to heritage and behavioral and psychological adherence to traditions under the premise that they are inherently part of Sunnah and religion(5).

Therefore, what is the benefit of heritage and its (binding) principles for an extreme liberal, secular, or modernist who does not recognize them in the first place, if the ethical principles and modes of thinking and behavior prevalent in the present are inherited sacred norms that have become deeply rooted alongside tradition, conformity, paternal authority, and political and intellectual despotism? How can he reconcile with his heritage that he perceives as the problem rather than the solution while being fully aware of how Western modernization shattered the structures of what is traditional and old in numerous places, and while that was a necessary condition for Europeanization and modernization under the banner of contemporaneity and progress!(6)

However, this modernity is not the whole story. Its achievements and concepts have been misunderstood in a manner contrary to their reality! It is as if it is reduced to a single connotation or a single dimension, as if it is the offspring of Western centrality, from and to it, in a closed cognitive and civilizational system. It is as if it and radical secularism are one and the same, as practiced by the French Revolution of 1789, the Russian Communist October Revolution, and Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in Turkey, when their revolutionary decrees separated religion and religious morals from society, not from the state or politics as they are in themselves and as we understand them here. Accordingly, enlightenment mind is also misunderstood in a confusing way, and does not constitute for the traditional mind a reference framework or cognitive tool for understanding oneself and existence; rather, it is seen as the antithesis of transmission, as part of a binary opposition where opposites only coexist in a state of conflict. Similarly, what applies to the misguided understanding of modernization and modernity applies to the biased understanding of heritage. Rarely does the traditionalist invest the mind in understanding and interpreting religious texts in a modern or rational manner, as their predecessors the Mu’tazilites did in theology and philosophy. What applies to the mind also applies to its approach to individual freedom, which is one of the fundamental tenets of the liberal project resulting from modernity. This freedom is then understood as a negation of the unity of the nation and the authority of the Imam, because through plurality and acknowledgment of the legitimacy of difference, it undermines the unity of the community and dismantles the conservative (patriarchal) societal structure that cannot withstand the demands of the mind and finds justification for its effectiveness only through repression, curtailing freedoms, obstructing modernity, and retreating into the past and heritage. This retreat is justified under the guise of preserving authenticity and contemporaneity, to maintain its continuity in a time where its existence lacks legitimacy as long as it opposes reason and freedom. So, there is no room for modernity in the presence of heritage, nor is there heritage in the era of modernity. However, this conclusion is not necessarily binding from the premises as a logical necessity. Our inference is that there is a common space for interaction and integration between modernity and heritage if the process adheres to the standards of reason and the conditions of freedom.(7)


In the Modernity of Heritage and the Authenticity of Modernization

The problematic of heritage and modernization entails the nature of the historical relationship between the elements of the past and the present. Is (heritage) a historical extension of the chronological past, representing a natural continuity from the past to the present? Or does it signify a qualitative advancement, given that the present is a product of the past? Or is it an unnatural transformation (a historical mutation) based on the negation and discontinuity between the past and the present, which has now been surpassed?

How does heritage coexist in our historical present, especially in the era of modernity? And how is it interpreted, being the past that derives its existence and legitimacy from the contradictory structure of the conditions of producing the present, which supposedly generates contemporaneity within the unity of the historical process?

Authenticity lies in the historical element that transcends time, when it becomes a constant in the era of modernity or within modernity itself. This occurs through achieving objective recognition of its worth and was a direct cause for progress and civilization. This authenticity (the extended heritage) is only understood through a historical reading seeking its roots from which it emerged. If it were not contemporary and aligned with its reality in its time, it would not have transformed into authenticity and maintained its dynamism until now under the label of authenticity and its intellectual manifestations. It has transcended its time and looked towards its future, meaning our present, assuming that this present is an objective product of its own history.(8) However, our historical delay in the present, which seeks modernity, is not structural or essential. It is not solely a result of our intrinsic history but rather a consequence of our encounter with the Other, their superiority, and their intermingling in our structure, shaping our history and future through comprehensive subordination. In other words, the heritage imposed itself by penetrating the era of modernity, while Arab modernity, due to its weakness or its sense of uniqueness or distinctiveness, seeks to root itself in heritage to market itself in a traditional environment.(9) If we want to confront the heritage in the face of modernity, we need to innovate a guiding model inspired by the Western experience. I emphasize that it should be inspired by the experience and not simply copied, from the standpoint of the historical independence of the Arabs. This means searching for what nourishes the project of Arab modernity from Arab identity, history, and innovation. However, that is far from it, as the methodology of desires often reflects aspirations and emotional reasoning more than it reflects cognitive reasoning. We are still in the process of an ongoing project; we have neither begun nor completed it yet. Therefore, heritage continues to be read through ideological lenses, as perceived by the present, influenced by tribal judgments and exaggerated interpretations that reinforce its assertions. Readings only occur within the context of contradiction and divergence with modernity, meaning within the unity and conflict of opposites (heritage and modernity). Despite the diversity of interpretations and current strategies of Salafism, liberalism, and reconciliationism, they all share a common foundation driven by the logic of exclusion, i.e., the logic of separation and confinement. This entails isolating and confining one side of the equation in a binary formulation of either/or (modernity or heritage), rather than embracing modernity and heritage as requiring dialectical reasoning and creative imagination to innovate a Hegelian synthesis of the two issues. Unfortunately, the reconciliatory trend has not fulfilled its promises to dissolve differences, integrate both sides into a unified whole, and transcend contradictions. It continues to exist in a state of tension and has failed to achieve synthesis and integration. Hence, the most we perceive of it is a simplistic tendency that aspires bridging heritage and modernity through an arbitrary process that yields a hybrid intellectual product susceptible to fragmentation rather than generating a genuinely new compound. More often than not, this results in favoring one side over the other at the expense of the other, so mediation, and the successful arithmetic mean between mathematical quantities, does not succeed in adopting the same solution in reconciling conflicting ideas and principles. In order to avoid being overly critical of reconciliationism, we point out the significance of Zaki Najib Mahmoud's reconciliationism and the achievements of absolute reconciliationism in reproducing the following concepts in the following manner:

Shura by Democracy - (Modernist)

Democracy by Shura - (Salafi or Traditionalist)

Social Contract through Allegiance - (Salafi)

Allegiance through Social Contract - (Modernist)

The people of dissolution and contract by the parliament

Parliament by the People of Dissolution and Contract

And in terms of formulations:

Islamic Personalism - Mohammed Aziz Al-Habbabi

Khaldunian Rushdieh Marxism - Mohammed Abid Al-Jabri

Khaldunian Marxism – Hisham Ghaseeb

Islamic Secularism - Fahmi Jad'an

Islamic Socialism - Moustafa Al-Sabai

And this is what has been produced, for example, but genuine mediation and formulation remain distant. Thus, reconciliationism has persisted in one form or another as a rebellious inclination against itself due to the rebellion of its principles and constituents against it. This has led it to a dead end, as it is neither acceptable to the Salafis nor satisfactory to the liberals, not to mention the critical rationalists who have rejected all ideological readings.(10)

I reiterate what I said before: heritage is the modernity of its era, and without that, it would not have endured, acquired the vitality of living heritage, and distinguished itself with dynamic effectiveness, becoming an intellectual reference and a comprehensive authority both internally and externally. However, it carried within its vitality contradictory traits that imposed both connection and disconnection with the present. The current modernity, in essence, represents a qualitative change, as the quantitative accumulation of human achievements from the moment of heritage to its historical time led to its emergence in its present form. The source of the dilemma in accepting or rejecting it does not only stem from how it is interpreted but also from the nature of its foundation. It is based on the heritage of the other, which denies the relationship of its modernity with the heritage of another, which is our heritage in the era of Arab-Islamic civilization in the Middle Ages. It is regrettable that we have become disconnected from our civilizational heritage, which has not evolved or continued, nor have we engaged with it, to the extent that we have to manufacture our own modernity. The question now is whether Arabs can propose a modernity different from the path of Western modernity, which has acquired universality, in order to achieve a modernity that aligns with our identity in our present or with our living heritage.

It is difficult to speculate to predict that or to achieve what has been accomplished through alternative methods or under conditions and standards that have not yet materialized, due to the continuation of the historical time that produced modernity, and increased our need for it despite the critique of postmodernity and its proponents among Arab intellectuals and thinkers. The solution, as I mentioned earlier, lies in drawing inspiration from the human, universal, and global aspects in this modernity, which necessarily will not contradict the human values inherent in living heritage.

Our only option is to respond to the challenge and preserve the true core of modernity: reason, rationality, enlightenment, and universal human values that transcend Western particularism. This allows us to engage with modernity without fear and to integrate it with heritage, but not just any heritage! This requires standardized political and intellectual conditions that liberate heritage from utilitarianism, opportunism, obscurantism, and the idealistic tendency that seeks to manipulate and exploit it for the service of a present lacking in modernity, and lacking the justifications for its continuation (the dead heritage) in the present and the future.(11) Therefore, no stabilized modernity or heritage have an impact on progress without the openness of modernity and secularism to heritage, preserving its rights and enabling it to address the demands of the normative reality, where (modernity and modernization) we do not find the satisfactory answers or solutions to the spiritual challenges of the era, which fall within the domain of heritage in one way or another. As for the material and scientific needs, they naturally fall within the domain of modernity, and if there are areas where modernity and heritage can contribute together, the criterion for prioritizing between them is the alignment with reason, reality, scientific knowledge, and the needs of the time. However, the conceptualization of science and what is scientific, as well as its standards in the positivism that is originally biased towards modernity poses a significant obstacle to the invoking of heritage and employing it into new civilizational or developmental projects. Thus, it is imperative to transcend the positivist instrumental understanding of science and the traditionalist interpretation of heritage to allow both sides to contribute and coexist.Top of Form

The Contexts of the Problematic in Contemporary Arab Thought

Modernist methodological studies have raised the issue of heritage in contemporary Arab thought as a problematic one, with interrelated relationships within the following contexts:

- Summoning for revival and employment politically and intellectually

- A Summon for Displacement and Override

- A Teleological Summons for Liberation from the Authority of Heritage, not from Heritage itself

This last summons means, for example, returning us to our historical self, or in Al-Jabri's words: returning us from heritage beings to beings with heritage(12), but transforming this heritage into a subject for independent historical self free from the burdens of the past and present, in which there is more ideology than knowledge, because it involves an implicit position on heritage because it has lost its effectiveness and validity, and it is no longer a driving self for the Arab at the spiritual level at least, and it has turned into a lifeless subject, and this is a problematic position and a subject of conflict between contemporary intellectual trends.

As for the second form of summoning (for employment), it transformed heritage - or what in contemporary thought is called living heritage - into a starting platform for achieving modernity, similar to the European return of Greco-Roman heritage to achieve renaissance. The advocates of revitalization - most of the Arab thinkers - differed in the nature of the heritage that possesses the characteristic of the necessary living heritage and is capable of employment, modernization and revitalization to activate the renaissance and modernity. None of these thinkers has found out or wondered about the fate of heritage and its fate after the renaissance, modernity and the achievement of the resurrection, what will we do with it, and will heritage remain a heritage, or will it be immanent to current modernity, or integrated into it, and will we work to equate it with modernity to end up with a modernity that renews itself, or - and this is the worst possibility - modernity "waits"?!

Our efforts are focused on deepening modernity with modernity and employing heritage as a catalyst to enter the contemporaneity, not jumping from it to postmodernity, as this is a project that has no justification in Arab life that has achieved material modernization or some of it, but has not achieved real modernity, which is the entrance of modernity and contemporaneity as it is a message and a tendency for modernization of mentality and emotional standards(13). This intellectual modernization is on the agenda of history since the Arab Renaissance in the nineteenth century as a project in progress . We do not  want to turn modernity into heritage, but rather we want to recognize the role of heritage in its history, and in its context in the present and the future, and to allow it to assert its effectiveness in its own field, being related to the spiritual construction of the nation, and one of the cultural components of Arabism and identity .

The summon for modernity to embrace heritage is no longer just a utilitarian vision of a glorious past; rather, it has become a human necessity and an objective response to questions of identity and self-realization, seeking to restore psychological balance to the Arab and the cognitive in a changing world full of challenges. It no longer sanctifies the past while questioning Enlightenment values and modernity, which have become subject to criticism and undermining in the West. The echoes of attacks on them in the Arab East and Maghreb are clear and evident. I believe that the post-modernist campaign has not succeeded in the West. Modernity remains robust, and the West continues to value its achievements in freedom, democracy, human rights, reason, diversity, humanity, and individualism. However, concerns about its negative fate are justified in the Arab context, as it remains fragile and has not fully penetrated the entire fabric of Arab society, and is also exposed to attacks from both Salafism and post-modernism, lacking justification in the Arab environment, and there is no authority that fully embraces and protects it (Modernity), except to activate its authoritarianism against modernity and modernists themselves, using modern tools to increase its effectiveness. The struggle is between modernity and tradition, or pre-modernity, or the heritage controlled by Salafists which is turned by them into a dead and deadly ideology capable of undermining modernity in several countries and several places, leading to regression and the depletion of heritage of its living content, retaining only its dead or outdated rituals and the worldview that no longer aligns with modernity.

Therefore, it is not risky to say that we are still in the early stages and have not overcome historical delays in achieving modernity and progress, as well as participating in contemporary global civilization. Just as we failed to gain global consensus on our heroic role in building the global civilization in the Middle Ages, which was an important factor in achieving Western modernity. In addition, we still rely on the West and are far from achieving the historical independence of the Arab self. The West - the center of the world - has become an obstacle to achieving any competitive modernity elsewhere outside its geographic and cultural framework. It perceives any such endeavor as a threat to its interests, balances, cultural centrality, and guiding model in modernity, despite the sweet talk about balancing interests, common human denominators, and seeking a common Arab-Western model in modernity. What is truly required is an Arab project reconciled with Western modernity that is not interested in conflict! What will happen when the Arab civilizational project is opposed to the West and its interests?

If the conflict-oriented perspective prevails in the East or the West over the global human civilization project, and reproduces old political conflicts, cutting off bridges of communication and turning it into a cultural or eternal identity conflict, it is natural for Arabs to revert to or cling to a nostalgic identity that focuses on historical constants such as language, religion, and heritage. As long as these are targeted in globalization and cultural colonization and are used to construct a narrative derived from this triad, transcending time and national affiliations, this regression will only be significant and important if it undermines the effectiveness of modernity and its role in enlightenment and Arab renaissance!

The heritage in contemporary contexts has become a defensive mechanism against the other who adopts the guise of colonialism in the modern age. Built upon the historical self-experience since the foreign invasions during the Crusades to the era of imperialism, it has transformed into an ideological justification for adopting a negative stance towards modernization and modernity, which were originally perceived by Arabs during the colonial era as a Western phenomenon. Arabs only recognized modernity during the colonial period as a structure that manifested alongside it, as if it were part of imperialist West. Consequently, it was met with reservation, criticism, and reinforced suspicions of its symbols and projects. This deepened nationalist and Salafist tendencies at the expense of modernity and liberalism, and Arabs during the first and second renaissances failed to discern what Salama Musa later distinguished between the colonial West and the West of modernity. Things will not be set right, and heritage will not become an intellectual and emotional foundation for embracing and reconciling with modernity to achieve renaissance in the Arab imagination, except through reviving heritage on two levels: firstly, to defend the targeted identity from the recurring cultural colonization that seeks to uproot Arabs from their historical roots—an unfortunate reality that cannot be denied. Secondly, to revitalize knowledge to benefit from the values of rationality, freedom of will, the experimental approach, and revolutionary movements of contemporary reality. Otherwise, modernity will reach a dead end. And there are several objective and subjective factors that threaten and work to undermine it:

1- The absence of a social and political carrier for the project of modernity and the comprehensive Arab civilizational project.

2- The nature of the middle class (the Arab bourgeoisie) that is nominated to be the potential achiever of modernity and reconciliation with heritage, as it is a subordinate class and a colonial province, governed by the law of assimilation between past and present, as described by Mahdi Aamil (14), and it excels at making compromises that exclude concepts of rupture and revolution from its imagination.

3- The nature of intellectual and social despotism instead of political despotism, which has expanded the realm of constants and reduced the realm of variables.

4- The failure of modernization due to (living) tradition, which is based on political authority, as witnessed in the efforts of Islamic reform from Muhammad Abduh to the latest modernists.


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There is no alternative to liberating from dependency on previous models to activate heritage in an Arab modernity that liberates the self from the authority of heritage, controlling it by reinterpreting and reinterpreting it with reason to transform the Arab from a traditional being outside of his time into a contemporary individual of modernity with a heritage capable of being employed in a renaissance based on constructive modernity, which is capable of absorbing the shock of the other and his colonization and modernity, which can turn against him - as happened in some countries - and establishing a new cognitive compound that extracts its modernity from its colonization in the nineteenth century, returning to its roots in the Enlightenment or before that, and responding to the West with its own intellectual weapons, which it used against feudalism and the allied power of the Church with reason and the right to self-determination, human rights, and freedom. This requires a profound self-awareness and objective awareness of the historical West and its relationship with its past that has been surpassed by modernity. The feudal and traditional past in the West has exhausted its potential for continuity and has relinquished its positions at a critical moment in Western history.Top of Form

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 As for the Arab renaissance project, it aims to empower itself with heritage by providing it with its volitional energy. If we consider that heritage is tasked with renewing the world of ideas, meanings, values, and emotional intelligence, while modernity is tasked with changing the world of things and the existential vision of the world and cognitive reason. However, there is nothing preventing communication, integration, and interaction in a neutral ground where modernity and heritage intersect, complement each other, and do not compete, avoiding rupture, separation, and conflict between the old and the new. Not everything new is modern, and not everything old is dead tradition. Arab heritage is not mere tradition as it was in European history, which prompted Europeans to struggle against and transcend it.

The revival or summoning of heritage within Western spheres, Orientalism, regional experts, and Arabization (the new Orientalism) that has inherited Orientalism is understood as an indication of Arab inadequacies and their failure to penetrate their traditional present and achieve modernity. Thus, the revival within Orientalism signifies only one negative connotation from the era of the Renaissance to the era of globalization, which, in reality, aims to standardize cultures and legitimize engagement in hegemonic culture while abolishing specificity. Consequently, the revival symbolizes a structural deficiency in Arab intellect and a preconceived doubt about its ability to achieve self-realization internally, namely, rationalization and modernization according to contemporary standards. It fails to consider the revolutionary and positive aspects or contemplate the significance of divergence. This denotes a rejection of conformity and compliance with a model now subject to scrutiny, accountability, the search for alternatives, and engaging in a calculated venture to establish a specific modernity that caters to Arab needs for renaissance and progress, and that relies on the living rational heritage or that capable of revival, which is understood within its historical context, without burdening it with tasks beyond its capacity.

As for transferring the civilizational project from the arena of confrontation with the West to the realm of interests and balances without the West relinquishing its goals in the region, and enticing the issue of heritage into the arena of exchange before dismantling Western centrality or easing it, it is nothing but a tendentious call to adapt Arabism and Islam; that is, heritage with its components - language, culture, religion, and history - to the conditions of cultural hegemony's survival, which refuses independence for others and only accepts subordination through stripping heritage of its driving principles (living heritage), its will (inspiring values), and its mobilizing role (ideology); thus excluding it from the public domain, stripping modernity of its Arab foundation, and confining its circulation and discussion to the private sphere. This is what I call negative summon or revival; that is, reviving heritage to liquidate its presence and existence, and if that proves difficult, neutralizing its effectiveness by changing its essence to dissipate the need for it, while in contrast, confining modernity to the Western experience, and stripping the Arab modernity of its living heritage, that is, its roots and authenticity, making it easier to expel it from the Arab public sphere. Responding to this is a challenging and complex task, but it is necessary to renew heritage with modernity by activating it within heritage and activating heritage in the era of modernity by dismantling Eastern and Western centralizations in both Eastern and Western imaginations at the level of knowledge and practice.

Until now, there is no comprehensive liberation from Western hegemony and subservience, especially after other modernist models, such as communism and socialism, have been weakened and discredited. The only response now comes from utopianism and ideology through deletion, dismissal, and exaggerated interpretation of modernity and heritage, stripping both sides of integration, exchange, and totality. This aims to make both sides conform to a specific ideological framework that serves the other and not the Arabs, by alienating heritage specific to Muslims as a whole from Arabs, considering it as foreign and unrelated to Arabs, as if it were a new populism. In contrast, the failure to assimilate modernity and localize it is explained by distorting its nature and implanting elements incompatible with its essence into Arab soil. In this context, we point to the Western imagination's understanding of tradition as a symbol of everything retrogressive and scientifically, politically, and culturally backward, where no one is there to advocate it or adopt its values, and Europe did not rise and transform into nation-states and national identities, a process that began in the Renaissance and was completed in the Enlightenment, except by rejecting tradition and the church, and by overcoming the feudal era through bitter struggle. This stands in stark contrast to the Arab stance on heritage, which they cherish along with its civilizational achievements, and which they do not contemplate a complete break with it as a justification for progress and entry into modernity and modernization, as some Arab thinkers, like Taha Hussein(15), Salama Moussa, Abdullah Laroui, and others, believe. I believe that insistence on this stance, (either A) either modernity or heritage, represents a form of logical fallacy or what is known as a false dilemma, which closes off the realm of alternatives and leaves us with no third option. This reflects a predetermined ideological position either in favor of heritage or modernity. To clarify, we can illustrate the logical picture of the false dilemma as follows:

The false premises are as follows:

1- Either we choose modernity (M), or we choose heritage (H).

2- There are no other choices.

3- We cannot choose (H).

Therefore, we have no alternative but to choose (M).

          In other words, the contemporary intellectual problematics in the Arab world, such as globalization, heritage, modernity, modernization, and secularism, are not purely Arab issues; rather, they echo the problematics of the West and Westernization. They carry a significant load of knowledge, history, and ideology that have contributed to complicating the analytical scene and conflicting approaches.


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Now we move on to the logic of heritage, or the principle underlying its operation, which generates the content of this heritage and its substance from empirical sciences, linguistic approaches, religious interpretations, and situational contexts in historical Islam (beyond the framework of revelation), and its relationship with modernization and modernity.

As for the content, time has surpassed it, yet it has retained a small portion of it through its strength and merit in terms of knowledge and practicality, or through the power of authority, while its methodology and intellect remain the productive component of heritage, which is the core of the problematic, which requires critique and deconstruction. This is the task of the revival, whether teleological or negative, of heritage, in order to critique the textual intellect or what Taha Abderrahman refers to as "al-mua'aqalah," which has produced heritage within its framework and conditions.

Was "al-mua'aqalah" correct? And were its conditions of effectiveness standard conditions that allow us to form the stereotypical images, whether negative or positive? If this statement is true in principle, then this means that the produced heritage is exemplary, matching its model, and fulfilling the methodological assumptions of the present, which the historical experience has followed from the past (the era of heritage) to the era of modernity (awareness of heritage). However, if the produced heritage deviates from its model and is produced under non-standard conditions, then the hidden, dark, and unspoken side is much greater than the uncovered civilizational achievement, and what has been produced is to remove its presence and entrench its absence. This poses a greater epistemological challenge for modernized research, extending beyond the surface, to delve into the depths of heritage, manuscripts, and knowledge, to uncover its secrets and dimensions, searching for the missing links, the silenced narratives, and the blank pages, refusing to settle for what is merely apparent. It also entails going beyond the present understanding and the superficial manifestations of truth. However, this does not imply alignment with Mohammed Amara's viewpoint on the necessity of reviving dead heritage alongside living heritage, nor does it endorse confining this endeavor to elites and specialized academics, away from the broader public.(16)

This interpretation leads us to a priori choice that predates experience, rooted in a Salafist ideological stance towards the past as a natural outgrowth and a historical inevitability for its logic or for its self-conscious mind, where its historicity becomes the history of the achieved, justifying its cessation of exploration beyond the existing. This forces the modernist to pass negative judgments that necessitate its displacement and return to its vital domain, temporally and historically, to its past and the historical era preceding modernity.

As for the option of research and exploration, it means that the intellect of heritage has not yet been exhausted, and modernity has not surpassed it, and it can be activated to produce values, visions, and theories that align with reality through processes of transmission and borrowing.

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Arab left-wing choices - for example - are distinguished by their ideological preferences. These forces have felt compelled and committed to engaging in a decisive intellectual battle with traditional classes and their conservative and regressive ideas, aiming to settle political and intellectual scores, because building the new necessitates demolishing the old. On this basis, left-wing intellectuals turned to heritage in search of (progressive) ideas and figures, or leftist ones, to deploy them in the battle of destiny. Often, their discoveries and research related to the marginal, the specific, the incidental, and the oppositional to the general trend, represented by Sunni Islam (Islam of authority, nation, and majority). Therefore, the value of sectarianism, ideas, and political and religious movements, whether private or oppositional, were elevated because they stood against authority and society, regardless of the nature of their ideas and metaphysical references. This was to prove that heritage is not a homogeneous whole, but rather has a metaphysical structure that is opposed to liberation and progress. Thus, it is possible to demonstrate "progressive," modernist, and materialistic tendencies in heritage and to reclaim some historical Islam or heritage from the hands of reactionary forces that claim the monopoly of truth and representation. The left has benefited from this stance by providing it with a sense of authenticity, historical belonging, and continuity, to ward off the accusation of westernization, and as compensation for its existing Western symbols and references outside of itself. For example, but not limited to, the Marxist approach became active in heritage, achieving noteworthy epistemic advancements, and later shifted in theoretical practice from being an "applied" method to a "pragmatic" one - in the language of Al-Jabri - that unconsciously called for arbitrariness, selectivity, reductionism, and the desire-based approach in general, in order to settle the dispute between the past and the present and to provide a historical justification for the existence of the new leftist as a qualitative and linear evolution in heritage of what was revolutionary to later self-realized and becoming modernist, with modernity being construed as Marxist!

As for the critical rationalism implicitly biased toward modernity, it assumed - in its quest for self-definition - its objective integrity and detachment from ideological burdens. It approached heritage as an epistemic subject and a historical datum from the past, that simultaneously possesses an efficacy in progress or regression according to its nature.

The question that arises is: Is there harmony and integration in heritage that allows us to convert its unity into a single analytical problem, or is there an artificially fabricated “contrived” overlap between its conflicting components?

The heritage is characterized by its unity in structure and its division in essence. This led al-Jabri to divide the Arab mind into mystical, rational, and rhetorical minds. However, Taha Abdurrahman opposed this division, starting from a completely different premise: the integration and unity of heritage. He advocated for the exclusion of any disruptive elements (contrary to the Salafi pattern) in the heritage that deviate from the traditional Islamic framework.(17) As for Fahmi Jad'an, he excluded revelation from heritage and focused on human achievements in religious, scientific, and literary fields as a solution to the problematic and to facilitate dealing with it.(18) This contrasts with the proposition put forth by Abdullah Abdul Dayim, who emphasized the connection between religion and heritage to understand heritage and how to interact with it.(19)

Therefore, the perspective - or perspective in its meaning contained in the sociology of knowledge - is the one capable of determining the nature of the heritage subject and making it susceptible to interpretation and interaction rather than conflict with modernity.

Whether heritage is revolutionary or reactionary ideology, and in reality it is neither one nor the other, there is no societal unity in history that is homogeneous and aligned with both the modernist and traditional imaginations equally, nor is there a complete reconciliation that transcends social classes and conflicting ideologies to produce harmonious societies without political terrains and intellectual conflicts, except in utopia.

Can the logic of modernity uncover what is concealed to bring it forth and adopt it, or to obscure it? Can we demonstrate the reactionary nature of heritage by isolating what is known as living heritage, which lacks effectiveness, from dead heritage, which exercises its effectiveness by virtue of the intellectual and political forces that drive it, and say: This is heritage, and we align with modernity? Thus, radical modernity ideology controls heritage, issuing predetermined judgments to justify its advancement over it and to transcend it temporally and historically, thanks to its effectiveness and alignment with the needs of the era and humanity. As for the discourse of the so-called "dead" heritage, it often positions itself above modernity, issuing ethical judgments against it and casting doubt on its ability to satisfy human spiritual needs, as if heritage were the ultimate repository of values. Thus, in the eyes of heritage advocates, modernity has become an irreconcilable example that cannot be integrated with the present, except at the expense of heritage itself, which has transformed into an idealized model capable of existence without interaction or engagement with modernity. Thus, we arrive at a normative project that cannot be achieved and a realistic project that is impossible to implement.Top of Form

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The Logic of Connection and Disconnection

Can the logic of connection and disconnection achieve an intellectual renaissance and produce a new synthesis between the two sides by surpassing the heritage of modernity with the modernity of heritage? On one hand, and on the other hand, is it possible to generate a new modernity solely from the heritage of modernity?

There is no heritage that is advanced or timeless enough to transcend its era, nor is there heritage that lags behind or perfectly aligns with our era, unless it is a product of our present time. Every authentic heritage is contemporary - just as modernity is authentic, contemporary, and aligned with its own history that produced it. Heritage is authentic because it is contemporary to its era, or aligned with the history of its production while it appears contemporary to us today because it was originally authentic; that is, it was qualitatively new according to the holistic vision of our ancestors regarding existence.

Why then do we not explore within our heritage for a sense of modernity and align it with the heritage of modernity that has surpassed it or subjected it to post-modern scrutiny to achieve a negation of negation or a Hegelian elevation of heritage, which entails both preservation and negation simultaneously?

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Summoning and Conformity

I believe that most readings of the problematic of modernity, heritage, and the research therein - regardless of their orientations or epistemic and ideological content - are dialectical readings aimed at differentiation and affirming the validity of their methodology or viewpoint, while failing to fully grasp the problematic or integrate with others, or to fully immerse themselves in the heritage. Most of what they achieve is the exploitation of one subject within another: heritage within modernity, or modernity within heritage.

We do not wish to assert or adopt a definitive stance and claim that solutions derived solely from analyzing the problematic from outside are bound to fail. Willful solutions for change are not sufficient to equip Arabs for modernity by extracting them from their own heritage. Likewise, neither spontaneity nor spontaneousness, which exempts the self from work and is armed with the inevitability of linear progress, is capable of destabilizing established structures, including heritage, and allowing it to disintegrate on its own. Moreover, there is no single reference point or consensus on its nature, but there is consensus on revitalizing living heritage and employing it in the project of renaissance. However, which living heritage, what are its characteristics, vitality criteria, and the societal forces and classes it represents and is represented by?

The idea of invoking heritage and interpreting it for the purposes of understanding, integration, and utilization constitutes one of the most significant propositions among Arab intellectuals. Invocation occurs in the following contexts:

1- Exonerating heritage from the accusations of modernity that it is a lost past.

2- Exonerating modernity from the accusations of heritage that it is a form of Westernization and conspiracy.Top of Form

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The opposite direction, the direction of summoning for refutation and appropriation, is carried out by the evocation of heritage for:

1- Revealing its circumstances and expelling it from reality, then returning it to its natural habitat (the historical past it originated from), regardless of its overlap with religion, and in terms of disguising it, indirectly undermining religion.

2- Exalting certain aspects of heritage at the expense of others, to expel them from history - considering them corruptive to the whole or alien to the self - and disrupting its epistemic and political balances, to prove the historical validity of a contemporary ideological direction and legitimize its continuation in history.

3- Diminishing its epistemic value to overthrow the discourse of established identity onto alterity, and establishing it on another basis that provides conformity and resemblance to the West, facilitating its penetration from within.Top of Form


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The complex analyses of the poles of critical rationalism and Marxism have undermined simplistic solutions, while the introductions have obscured the traditional and uninspiring results reached by all with a complex network of modern concepts.Top of Form However, despite their reliance on their new tools and methodologies, they found in practice only Western references and Orientalism, which they condemned. They thus mirrored their opposites and attempted to surpass their reality, which turned into a heritage reality with someone else's heritage. Similarly, the Salafis aligned with the heritage and turned it into a living heritage with authority. What both produced amounted to nothing more than: the heritagization of modernity or the modernization of heritage. The fear is that if these intellectual readings were to turn into political and ideological projects from which we can only expect the heritagization of the heritage itself.

As for the modernization of modernity, it is a logically and practically contradictory process that can only be achieved by abandoning one of its pillars, that is, the modernization rooted in post-modernity, which contradicts the Arab civilizational project seeking rationality and liberation, or relinquishing the essence of modernization itself and its achievements, ultimately leading us back to a materialistic modernity that eliminates intellectual modernity and excludes it from the realm of possibility or returning to its own history (modernity) to reproduce its past from the Enlightenment era. However, this is an undertaking that is difficult to accomplish or accept due to the magnitude of the tasks awaiting Arabs to be completed in the shortest possible time.

This, in my estimation, has prompted the skipping of stages, or the reduction of evolution in the language of al-Arwi, and representing the achievements of successive European revolutions, starting from the beginning of modernity without traversing through their European timeline that produced them. Is this possible? Does it belong to the nature of the problematic to remain without a solution, and the solution without hope? "In the arena of understanding this trend that the heritage studies have taken in contemporary Arab thought, which is that these problems have asserted themselves onto Arab consciousness as heritage issues only because they have not received a historical answer politically, socially, and culturally in our modern and contemporary history. Hence, for this reason, they have remained suspended and susceptible to reassertion."(20)

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To sum up, there is no complete separation between heritage and modernity unless the communication and connection between the past and the present, the self and the other, Islam and the West, are severed. At the same time, heritage remains a repository of the glories of the Muslim Arab, from which values of resilience, challenge, and morale lifting are derived, and it continues to be an inexhaustible treasure trove of aesthetic values in literature, art, and philosophical thought that inspires contemporary artists, writers, and thinkers, starting from the prose and poetry of Sufism, the rationalism of Mu'tazilite and the jurisprudence of interests, the experimentalism of Jabir ibn Hayyan, the linguistic research, the ancient narrative, the thought and logic, to the arts of calligraphy, ornamentation, and Islamic architecture. These are all subjects and contributions worthy of inspiration and appropriation. They easily find their way into our cognitive, aesthetic, and emotional formation, shaped by modernity and what heritage has left within us.

On the other hand, there is no middle ground between the two sides as opposing counterparts, nor is there a neutral composition between all the elements of modernity and all the elements of heritage (living). However, there exists a specific composition at a certain moment that ultimately leans in favor of heritage, particularly in spiritual matters, and another composition that leans in favor of modernity in practical life issues.Top of Form


However, in general, there is a balance and mutual benefit between the two sides, with a rational recognition of the necessity to achieve modernization from an Arab and Islamic secular modernity that transcends the arbitrary confrontational nature that assumes contradiction and conflict between heritage and modernity and requires a formula of conciliation between them. I would almost argue that this is the only available solution on the horizon, which is implied by most of the Arab authors' theories, or what is left unsaid by them. There are no other realistic and rational solutions as long as the nihilistic rejection of one side of the problematic or the fabrication is rejected and unproductive.






3- Dr. Juan Pedro Monferrer Sala - Spain

Why is al-Andalus a Historical Model of cultural Integration?

Dr. Juan Pedro Monferrer-Sala

Dr. Nader al Jallad


It is very likely that the title of the present work will attract the attention of some of those present in this august room. In fact, it is even possible that it might even make someone uncomfortable who might ask the question, after all that has been said and written on the subject: Was al-Andalus an example to follow in terms of “convivencia” for the communities of its time. In this regard, we should remember the famous talk given by President Obama a few years ago in this same great city of Cairo.

The term “convivencia” is a Spanish word that basically refers to the act of people living together. It is one of the few Spanish terms that have managed to enter the English language with relative ease, where the term has gone far beyond its meaning to come to signify a special type of coexistence, bordering on the ideal relationship, and therefore superior to other forms of relationships, based on what happened in al-Andalus.

However, in this article, it is not our objective to study the socio-political and religious aspects of what happened in the societies living in al-Andalus since 711, the year of the arrival of the Arabs in the Iberian Peninsula, and 1609-1614, the period of the expulsion of the Moriscos after the decree of Toledo, which means more than nine centuries of Arab presence in the Iberian Peninsula. We believe that the events and vicissitudes are well known to all, and there is a vast and qualified bibliography on the subject. Let us just add that those expelled, former Andalusis, were Spaniards (allow us to use this anachronism!) in their own right, as history can show based on existing documentation.

 As said above, this is not the subject of our present paper.  Our interest is focused on a field that has been studied in some detail by specialists, which we believe has not been given the place it deserves. What is more, we believe that it has been relegated to a secondary space for reasons that could be described as “functional” in favour of another field that is more productive in social matters: history.

In this sense, we could even state, without a doubt, that the history of al-Andalus has managed to swallow up the culture of al-Andalus to a somewhat considerable extent. Obviously, we are not claiming that the culture of al-Andalus is unknown; however, it is clear that the history of al-Andalus, or at least some general aspects of it, such as the aforementioned “convivencia” that took place between the three cultures that lived in al-Andalus, has managed to eclipse what is undoubtedly the greatest Andalusi heritage, its culture: that is to say, the works composed by its intellectuals, authors, philosophers…, in short, all the cultural production that took place in al-Andalus in the Arabic language.

We are aware that the culture of al-Andalus goes beyond textual production and encompasses other facets, such as architecture, outstanding examples of which are the Mosque of Cordoba, al-Madīnah al-Zahrāʼ, al-Ḥamrāʼ in Granada, etc. However, we must agree that in terms of integration it was cultural activity, and intellectual activity in particular, that made the interaction between individuals from different communities and of different religions possible.

It is therefore worth asking whether what al-Andalus really represented was a model of intellectual and cultural integration in general, more than a model of social integration. And it is obvious that for such an enterprise an essential, as well as the most powerful tool was the Arabic language. This tool is what made communication, the exchange of ideas and understanding between intellectuals possible, which in turn allowed the construction of a culture of unparalleled prestige in the Middle Ages. Furthermore, through translation, it was also possible for all the knowledge compiled and generated in al-Andalus to spread through Europe, thus producing a renaissance in the European culture and with it, the arrival of the modern era in the old continent.


Baghdad: The seeds

As we have just stated, the Arabic language was what made it possible to create the basis for cultural integration, bringing intellectuals of different religions together while becoming the channel of transmission of two great cultural heritages: the classical Greco-Roman and the Indo-Iranian, which formed a part of what is often referred to as the “Arab cultural legacy” (al-turāth al-thaqāfī al-ʻarabī).

The process of Arabisation initiated by the Umayyad caliphs of Damascus marked a major change in the construction of the apparatus of state administration (khidmah), the Arab state itself, in general, and the Arabic textual heritage. Originally started for a socio-political purpose, during the Abbasid period, a translation movement began to contribute the Arabic cultural heritage, which was related above all to the initiative of caliphs such as Hārūn al-Rashīd (763/766-809) and his son al-Maʼmūn (786-833 CE). What they did was essential for the construction of an Arab cultural legacy and for the formation of the pioneering rationalist Arab intellectuals of the 9th century, bringing so many benefits to the immediate and later Arab culture.

What is also worth mentioning here that part of the construction of this abundant and rich Arabic legacy was made possible by the active participation of Christian translators, especially Nestorians, who, after adopting Arabic as their own language as a vehicle of literary transmission, it became the target language of two other languages, Greek and Syriac. In addition to all of that, we should highlight the important participation of translators from Persian, neo-Muslim translators who translated important works of Indo-Iranian knowledge within that great institution known as Bayt al-Ḥikmah or “House of Wisdom”.

In this way, Greek, Syriac and Persian Works, crucial to the development of knowledge, were translated into Arabic, which thus became a major instrument for the transmission of classical and Indo-Iranian culture in the East and West by translating the works of authors such as Aristotle, Plato, Galen, Hippocrates, Dioscorides and many others. This outstanding movement of translation did not only lead to the transmission of said works, but it also created the cultural basis of rationalism among Arabic-speaking intellectuals who, regardless of their religion, had no qualms about working together with the sole aim of studying the knowledge of the ancients and using it to advance knowledge, now in the Arabic language. Consequently, the Arabic language became a kind of a lifeline for works that in many cases had been confined to small circles of scholars with little chance of disseminating this knowledge to the rest of the world. This was the great achievement of the Arabic language, becoming the channel for transmitting the knowledge of antiquity.

The interest of the caliphs in promoting translation, together with the collaboration of translators with the Abbasid caliphate, made it possible for intellectuals of different religions to collaborate, contributing to the Arab culture. It is this climate that explains the importance of the philosopher al-Fārābī (870/3-950), called by the Arabs “the second master” (al-muʻallim al-thānī), given that the first was Aristotle, as was recognized among other thinkers like Ibn Rushd and Maimonides. The great teacher al-Fārābī, for example, studied with Christian intellectuals who participated in his training, such as the Nestorian Christian intellectual Yuḥannā b. Ḥaylān al-Ḥarrānī (d. 910 CE?) with whom he learned logic.  But what is interesting is that al-Fārābī was, in turn, the teacher of celebrated Christian thinkers, such as the Syriac Orthodox (i.e. Monophysite) Yaḥyā b. ʻAdī (893/4-974 CE), who in turn was the mentor of an important generation of philosophers, most of them Muslims.

This was undoubtedly a unique exemplary moment in the history of universal culture because the intellectuals of those times - regardless of their religious affiliation - were able to find the necessary balance and capacity with which to reach an understanding, united in the struggle for a common goal: the acquisition of knowledge that would allow them to feel morally free in their intellectual exercise. We believe we are not mistaken if we affirm that there has not been a similar moment in history.

This led to what has come to be called “the universalist humanism”, which served to affirm the roots of classical philosophical ethics in Islam, where we find philosophers, such as al-Fārābī and Ibn Ṣīnā (980-1037 CE) who form the beginning and the end of the enormous philosophical activity developed in Baghdad during the Buyid period (945-1055 CE). This period, which was described by Kraemer as “Humanism in the Renaissance of Islam”, was characterized by the premises defined by its followers, which consisted in the adoption of the knowledge of the classical Greek philosophers with the aim of achieving a higher education and a solid training under the fundamental principle of the unity of the human being based on humanistic and philanthropic principles (insāniyyah).

This climate of philanthropic humanism imbued with thinkers of different religions, combined with individualistic and cosmopolitan principles, succeeded in designing a kind of human prototype that was adopted by philosophers and by the emirs and patrons of intellectual activity. This allowed intellectuals to get together in circles, schools and societies that served to bring Christians and Muslims together, united by the common interest in Greek philosophy and interpretative activity, to influence each other, contributing to the culture of the Arab society then.

This circle of intellectuals who gathered in Baghdad in the 10th century were indebted, above all, to two important previous moments: firstly, the translation movement initiated around the institution called Bayt al-Ḥikmah, among whose most notable representatives was the Arab Christian Nestorian Ḥunayn b. Isḥāq al-ʻIbādī (808-873 CE), who in addition to ḥakīm was a celebrated translator into Arabic from Greek and Aramaic-Syriac, as well as a teacher of reputed translators;  secondly, the movement of thinkers that emerged in ninth-century Baghdad, where the muʻtazilī movement generated a method of theological rationalism or kalām that would powerfully influence Muslim thinkers as well as Jewish and Christian authors who were strongly influenced by the new rationalist method practiced by the mutakallimūn.

This environment in which humanist, cosmopolitan and rationalist elements coexisted was the breeding ground for intellectuals of different religions to become, above all, followers of three intellectuals: the Muslim al-Fārābī and the Christian Mattā b. Yūnus (d. 940) and Yaḥyā b. ʻAdī, the latter a disciple of the former two. His disciples copied and translated into Arabic a whole series of ancient scientific, philosophical, medical, etc. texts that were available to them and thus addressed the relationship between Arab-Islamic knowledge and the Greek tradition of wisdom, as well as between philosophy and religious doctrine. This path of knowledge led to the knowledge of Aristotelian thought through translations of Aristotle’s works into Arabic, especially the Organon and Physics, and to the development of original philosophical works coming from Aristotelian influence.

Thus, the intellectual activity developed in Baghdad during the 9th and 10th centuries by Muslim, Jewish and Christian thinkers is of vital importance for understanding both the tradition of thought based on interpretative rationalism in the Arab-Islamic world and in the West, first in al-Andalus as a receiving, generating and disseminating center for the ideas that came from the East and later Europe, whose renaissance owes much to the transfer of knowledge that took place thanks to the Arabic language.


Al-Andalus: The tree

The origins of the cultural formation of al-Andalus are to be found in Egypt, as one of the greatest connoisseurs of Andalusian history and culture, as the Egyptian scholar Mahmud Ali Makki, concluded beyond any doubt. He was the first to explain in a masterly manner the history of the development of the Arab culture of al-Andalus by looking towards the East.

It is well known that al-Andalus generated works in Arabic of enormous value and great originality. Here we can mention the works of famous authors such as Ibn Ḥazm and his Ṭawq al-ḥamāmah (“The Ring of the Dove”), Ibn Shuhayd and his Risālat al-tawābiʻ wa-l-zawābiʻ (“The treatise of familiar spirits and demons”), Ibn Ṭufayl and his Risālat Ḥayy b. Yaqẓān (“The treatise of Ḥayy b. Yaqẓān”, better known as Philosophus autodidactus), Ibn Rushd and his Faṣl al-maqāl fī mā bayn al-ḥikmah wa-l-sharīʻah min ittiṣāl (“The decisive treatise on what connects wisdom with law”), and many others. However, at the root of Andalusian knowledge, in the production of literary, philosophical, scientific and even historiographical works, there is knowledge, influences, works and authors from the East. Without in any way denying the creative genius of the Andalusian authors, the Eastern influence was present among Andalusian writers, philosophers, theologians, historians, and scientists from the very beginning and would continue to influence them until the end of the era of al-Andalus.

It is quite impossible to understand the culture of al-Andalus without taking into consideration the culture that arrived in great waves from the East. The journeys undertaken by Andalusian authors to Eastern lands for the pilgrimage (ḥajj) were the great driving force that enabled those who undertook this long journey, which sometimes lasted months or even years, to have a series of contacts with Eastern masters with whom they studied and acquired knowledge and books that were brought back to al-Andalus on the traveller's return. The journeys were not exclusive to Muslims, as we know that Christian intellectuals also travelled to Eastern lands where they came into contact with intellectuals of different religions from whom they acquired knowledge and books, and with whom they kept in contact over the years.

However, it was not only Andalusians, Muslims, Christians and Jews who travelled to the East, a significant number of Arab personalities and intellectuals arrived in al-Andalus from the East: mainly Muslims, but also Jews and Christians, who contributed, each in their own way, to the cultural enrichment of al-Andalus. Let us mention three different examples that allowed the arrival of knowledge from the East to al-Andalus: firstly, we have the figure of Abū l-Ḥasan ʻAlī b. Nāfiʻ, better known by his nickname of Ziryāb, i.e. “jay” (c. 790-852 CE), whose influence in musical and poetic matters, among others, was of enormous relevance to the culture of the Cordovan court.

On the other hand, in the case of Christians, we have evidence of the relations of Andalusians with Coptic-Arabic culture. For example, we see this in the use of Coptic alphanumeric notation in a 10th century Mozarabic manuscript. We also know that Khālid b. Yazīd b. Rūmān, a doctor from Cordoba in the mid-9th century, was in contact with the Coptic physician Nasṭās b. Jurayḥ, with whom he exchanged medical works. It is obvious that there were contacts with Egyptian Christians, where information and influences would flow in both directions normally.

It should be added that this complex channel of contacts and influences among Arab intellectuals was not only of an individual nature, since the Andalusian state, Jewish leaders and the Andalusian church also established contacts and agreements of an ad hoc and permanent nature with Eastern powers and institutions. In this whole process of influences and circulation of knowledge (ʻulūm), the indispensable tool was, once again, the Arabic language, both for communication between intellectuals and for the transmission of texts.

This is the climate in which the Arab culture of al-Andalus originated: Jewish, Christian and Muslim intellectuals communicating, studying and teaching in the language of cultural prestige of the time, the Arabic language, always under the influences coming from the East, which since the 9th century had systematically set in motion the mechanism of transmitting knowledge of classical Greek and Indo-Iranian antiquity through the Arabic language.

To a certain extent, although with less success, the caliphs of al-Andalus wanted to emulate the Abbasid caliphs, especially by commissioning translations of scientific and historical works, but some Taifa kings, in imitation of the Cordoban caliphs, also followed in the footsteps of the Eastern rulers by commissioning intellectuals to produce works of various interests. In this second case, we have the example of Abū l-Qāsim ibn Ṣāʻid al-Ṭulayṭulī (1029-1069 CE) and his Ṭabaqāt al-umam (“Categories of nations”), a great historiographical compilation of the philosophical and scientific knowledge of the Arab world.

However, it is in the first case where we find concrete evidence of what we have called cultural integration, more specifically intellectual integration, which took place in al-Andalus where collaboration between intellectuals of the three religions took place in various fields such as the study of astronomy. This was important for the scholars (ḥukamāʼ) of al-Andalus, but of such little respectability on the part of the Maliki jurists of al-Andalus.  In addition to the abundant examples we have among Jewish authors, the interest shown by Christian intellectuals in the Arabic language is also well known, for the evidence indicates that in the urban environment the educated layers of the population were perfectly Arabicised in the 9th century, as is shown by the number of texts we possess from that century, as well as the activity of translators carried out by some clerics who worked in the service of the emirs of Córdoba.

An example of great interest as a collaborative venture between a Christian translator and a Muslim author is the Arabic translation of the Historiae adversus paganos by the Spanish Paulus Orosius, which in Arabic is entitled Taʼrīkh al-ʻālam (“History of the World”). Ibn Khaldūn, the celebrated 14th-century historian, attributed this version to the joint work of a Qāsim b. Qāsim b. Aṣbagh, a Muslim from Cordoba. Aṣbagh and that of an Arabised Christian, who has not long ago been identified with the Mozarabic Cordovan author Ḥafṣ b. Albar al-Qūṭī (d. 10th c. CE). This translation is an example of the interest that the Caliph al-Ḥakam II (961-976 CE) had in history books, a genre that he did not hesitate to actively promote by commissioning translations of works for his famous library, which would not cease to be enlarged by the number of volumes entering it.

A second case, also relevant, is the work known as The Calendar of Córdoba, actually entitled Tafṣīl al-zamān wa-masāliḥ al-abdān (“Division of the Seasons and Benefits of the Bodies”). The work was composed around 961 at the behest of the Caliph 'Abd al-Raḥmān III (929-961 CE), who commissioned the Cordovan bishop Rabīʻ b. Zayd (c. 908-980), whose Latinized name was Recemundus, a native of the city of Elvira, near Granada. The work, which contains information on Christian festivals, liturgical practices in al-Andalus, the signs of the zodiac, agronomy, medicine, hygiene, etc., is a clear example of the varied cultural interests of the Umayyad Andalusian rulers at the height of the Cordoban Caliphate.

It is also worth mentioning the case of a book that responds to the bishop of Córdoba's interest in having a production of literary quality for use in the liturgy. This is the versified translation in rajaz mashṭūr of the Kitāb al-zubūr or “Book of Psalms”, which was penned by the Cordovan Hafṣ b. Albar al-Qūṭī. It is one of the oldest literary landmarks of Mozarabic literary production. This translation, commissioned “with the licence” (bi-idhn) of the bishop of the Cordovan church Valentius (usquf li-l-bīʻah Bālans), is dated to the year 889 (wa-fī l-ṭāʼi thumma al-fāʼi thumma al-ẓāʼi) of the common era (khuṭṭat li-taʼrīkh al-Masīḥ al-Sayyid).  It is therefore most certainly a late 9th-century text.


Europe: The fruits

The European modernity reaped its fruits thanks to the seeds sown in al-Andalus, whose roots go back to the Islamic East, which is well-known. The European Renaissance, in this sense, is indebted to the transmission of the flood of knowledge that reached Europe from the East after passing through al-Andalus. The channel of transmission was none other than the Arabic language, thanks to the large number of translations commissioned by the Abbasid caliphs of Baghdad.

Literary works of Indo-Iranian origin such as the Kalīlah wa-Dimnah, philosophical treatises such as Plato’s Republic and Galen’s medical corpus were translated from Persian, Greek and Syriac into Arabic in the East. All the rich wealth of translation, together with commentaries on translations, reached al-Andalus where the intellectuals devoted their time to the study of these texts, thus making an important contribution to the development of knowledge. Thanks to the works of al-Fārābī, for example, Andalusian philosophers, such as Ibn Ṭufayl, Ibn Rushd and Maimonides came into contact with Aristotle, thus producing a significant advance in logic or theological hermeneutics in al-Andalus.

As we have already mentioned, the importance of Eastern influences was a determining factor in the construction of culture in al-Andalus. But the Andalusian intellectuals were not mere slaves to the knowledge that came from the East, for they themselves contributed to the consolidation and development of the various subjects that made up the catalogue of sciences. They even contributed, in many cases, to enriching the cultural and scientific heritage in Arabic initiated by the Abbasid caliphs by commissioning translations of various works, including the second translation into Arabic - this time complete - of the great botanical work of the Byzantine physician Dioscorides, generally known as the Latin title of the Materia Medica. The translation, commissioned by the Caliph ʻAbd al-Raḥmān III, provided a complete translation of the five volumes that made up the work, which were translated from Greek into Arabic by a Greek monk named Nicolas and the Andalusian Jew Ḥasday b. Shaprūṭ, minister to the caliph.

However, undoubtedly, the most important aspect of the transmission of knowledge from al-Andalus to Europe was once again the involvement of translators. “The sciences of the ancients” were translated into Arabic in the Islamic East and from there transmitted, among other places, to al-Andalus. Then, al-Andalus was the driving force of the transmission, using another linguistic channel, in this case, Latin. The immense legacy transmitted from the East in Arabic was now preparing for a new episode that would prove essential for the construction of modern Europe: the translation of Arabic works into Latin and their dissemination through the centers of study in medieval Europe, a knowledge that contributed decisively to the formative design of European intellectuals.

Here, too, the number of examples is huge, so we will limit ourselves to mentioning only a few examples. Let us bear in mind that in the 12th century, the city of Toledo was home to a large number of Arabic-speaking Christians, the so-called Mozarabs. Translators of recognized prestige worked there, such as Domingo Gundisalvo, Iohannes Hispalensis et Limiensis, Robert of Ketton, Herman of Carinthia and Gerard of Cremona, among others, who translated a considerable number of works from Arabic into Latin, although on occasions they translated into a vernacular language and then transferred this translation into Latin. These translators translated from Arabic into Latin works on medicine, astrology, astronomy, philosophy, botany, as well as literary texts. These translations would form the solid base of knowledge with which Latin-speaking intellectuals would begin the cultural modernization of Europe.

The work of the translators of the Iberian Peninsula in the 12th century and later closed a circle opened in Baghdad in the 9th century. The collaboration of Muslim and Christian scholars around the institution of Bayt al-Ḥikmah enabled the translation movement to be set in motion, with which the construction of the Arab cultural legacy was designed, making it possible to transmit of the knowledge of the ancients, mainly the knowledge of classical Greek and Persian cultures. This immense legacy of knowledge reached al-Andalus, where it was essential for the development of knowledge by Andalusian intellectuals and was subsequently transmitted to Europe thanks to the Latin translations of all the knowledge transmitted in the Arabic language.

The Arabic language, which became a new lingua franca replacing the previous lingua franca, Aramaic, became not only the language of the new Arab state, but also the language of communication, and at the same time the language of prestige in the new societies that coexisted in the new Arab state. This prestige would make the Arabic language a powerful channel of cultural transmission, thanks to which the world was able to make a major change as it moved towards the threshold of modernity.



The current situation of humanity is certainly disheartening: wars, poverty, injustice ... One looks back over the long history of humanity up to the present and cannot understand how mankind has learned so little during all these centuries. Surrendered to an apparently dazzling progress and a materialism that is a mere mirage, we have renounced the most precious things that human beings can offer: understanding, comprehension, collaboration, help... The greatest gift that a human being can receive is the help of another human being, regardless of where they come from, who they are, or what they believe in. These intellectuals of al-Andalus, following the footsteps of the sages of the East, knew how to find that balance which confers solid morals and ethics because they knew how to listen. In short, they knew how to understand the other.

Perhaps the example of the intellectuals of al-Andalus and their Eastern predecessors can help us all to respect each other, to understand each other and to fight against the injustices that surround so many people who suffer day after day. And perhaps the example of the intellectuals of al-Andalus will also help culture to take the place that is now, unfortunately, occupied by brute force and unreason. This is probably the lesson we have not yet learned. However, it is now urgent that we do so for the good of all, especially for the good of those who will come after us. Let us for once be intelligent, as so many Andalusi intellectuals were in their day. Let us honour their memory and their work.






4- Dr. Abdelilah Belkziz - Morocco

In the National State

Firstly: In the National State

If it is a vital strategic resource for the advancement and civilizational construction industry that the West has sought to possess, it is indeed that resource embodied in the entity of the modern national state, and the West has succeeded in producing it. Yes, any impartial historian can attribute to the West conquests that were unparalleled, indeed, in manufacturing their chapters before some of them - or some of their consequences - moved to all corners of the world, and can consider that the Renaissance, religious reform, scientific revolutions, the industrial revolution, the dominance of rationalism and experimentalism, the philosophy of enlightenment, national unity movements, major political revolutions, secularization... among those conquests in which Europe and the West had no equal in their launch; and they can be counted among their strategic resources that created for them superiority and supremacy, and created for the model of their modern civilization that immense attraction in the world. However, nothing has endowed Europe and the West with the causes of power than the construction of the nation-state, to the extent that all those conquests accept to be viewed as mere preludes and necessary conditions for the emergence of that great historical event represented by the establishment of the nation-state system in modern Europe.

This means, to begin with, that Europe owes its progress and the strength of its civilization primarily to the political factor; and that politics is the key to all horizons that can be explored. This is not to belittle the importance of other significant factors such as the Renaissance, reason, science, industry, and so forth, but rather to emphasize that the political factor is the driving force behind the collective operation of other factors within the societal system; as if the political factor is the engine of that machine, ensuring its smooth operation. It is true that just as the major European conquests prepared the conditions and reasons for the emergence of the modern nation-state system, the rise of the latter opened up vast opportunities for expansion and exertion of influence outside Europe and the West. When some claim today that the civilization of Europe and the West has dominated the world and become "universal," imposing its major phenomena (capitalism, industry, technology, rationalism, secularism...) and its value systems, cultures, and languages on the societies and nations of the earth, it is only because the modern nation-state provided it with a carrier and a lever that carried it to the world and disseminated it there.

Indeed, it was impossible for a reality of this kind to escape anyone in the world, outside of Europe, since the nineteenth century, especially among the political and intellectual elites who exhibited varying degrees of admiration for the European model of civilization. Some sought to emulate and imitate it, achieving success in doing so (like Meiji Japan), while others stumbled in achieving similar success in this arena (like Muhammad Ali's Egypt). In cases where inspiration from this model occurred - in Japan as well as in Arab countries (Egypt, Tunisia under the Bey, Morocco under Sultan Mohammed IV and Hassan I) - what remained a common denominator among them was their consideration of political reform versus other reforms and the most appropriate approach to them. This consideration was based on a deep-seated belief that the secret of the strength of the European model lay in its political system, specifically the nation-state. Undoubtedly, this estimation by those elites of the power of that model and its attractiveness to various peoples and countries is a sound one. It is not unlikely that their favorable assessment stemmed from the fact that they had previously experienced colonization and realized, upon reflection, its true political resources that enabled it to conquer the world and extend its dominion and influence over it.

It may be argued, as a critical objection or clarification, that Europe has witnessed a long history of state experiments, and the system of the nation-state was not its first experience with statehood or politics; this statement is indeed accurate, but it overlooks the essence and foundation of the matter. The significance lies not in Europe's - unlike others - history rich in diverse and successive state models, but rather in the uniqueness of the nation-state and the distinction of its model from previous state patterns, including those with a deep political history such as the Roman Empire. It is, in fact - and like none of its predecessors - the state in essence: the state founded on the principles of reason and rationality, and on the will of its people and citizens; the state in which the authority finds a suitable system of distribution that ensures balance therein is, at the same time, an essential condition for stability, the establishment of civil peace, the guarantee of public and private freedoms, and then the consolidation of the principle of the rule of law. Therefore, the matter revolves around the uniqueness that distinguishes the model of this modern state; and it is this uniqueness that is being discussed here.

Perhaps there is something of an inheritance from the states that preceded it within the model of the nation-state. In such a case, it can be viewed as embodying a form of historical continuity in the societal entity in which it operates. It may carry characteristics and foundations that do not have counterparts in its predecessors of states; and then it may be viewed as a new model that breaks with what came before in terms of state models. Indeed, the nation-state encapsulates both of these dimensions together; it shares the same functions as its predecessors, rising to the same tasks: from exerting influence, organizing society, protecting its internal and external security, to providing conditions for development, and so forth. The depth of this dimension is implicit in it because it is a state. However, the nation-state differs, from another perspective, from other models of states; it results, in its formation, in a new political architecture of the power system and the relationship of the state with its citizens, unprecedented and unknown before, distinguishing its system from that of any other state: previous or contemporary. Let us briefly examine three of the most important features of the nation-state model and highlight them.

The first of these features is that the foundation of the system of this nation-state is based on the law: it is the governing principle therein, and its provisions apply to all its members collectively: individuals, groups, classes, centers of power, institutions, and agencies. The law therein is sacred or inviolable, such that it cannot be violated by anyone or by any political body. It is the supreme authority, and there is no authority above it or capable of using it for anything other than the public interest, which its realization, guarantee, and protection constitute the principle of the state's existence itself. And since the law, in the theory of modern politics, is the material embodiment of the public will, as Jean-Jacques Rousseau says, and since the nation is the source of authority in the modern state, there is no escape from arbitrating what embodies its will (= the law) in its public affairs. Therefore, this modern state is considered a state of law, in a common definition in modern political thought, meaning a state in which everything is surrounded by the guarantees of the law: which protects rights, deters violations, and preserves stability and civil peace.

The second characteristic is that it is founded on the basis of the institutional system, and its authorities and agencies are subject to the institutional spirit imposed by this system. It goes without saying that the institutions within the state entity are the direct material embodiment of its political rationality and action; they express the will to organize the state's work and subject it to relationships of responsibility/accountability. They also represent a political and material eradication of undesirable phenomena in the management of state authorities, such as whims, mood swings, decision monopolies…, and other factors that contribute to the establishment of authoritarianism in power. Only institutions are responsible for cleansing the entity of the state and power from these inhibiting diseases that prevent their proper functioning, and they also ensure the continuity of the authorities' work smoothly and seamlessly, even when those in charge are absent for one reason or another. This also explains why the nation-state is often referred to as a state of institutions in much political literature.

The third characteristic is that this model is based on a new political system, unfamiliar in the history of states, namely the system of citizenship and its relations. The nation-state does not have subjects to be governed by rulers; rather, its citizens manage its affairs through representatives or agents entrusted with the administration of public affairs on their behalf and in their name. These are citizens because they are equal before the law, bound by a higher loyalty to the state and the nation, rather than by familial, tribal, or sectarian affiliations. Consequently, they enjoy civil and political rights commensurate with the duties they owe to the state and society. The most distinctive feature of this nation-state is its system of citizenship, which truly makes it a state of its citizens.

Secondly: The Nation-State: Formation and Evolution

It is widely accepted that major events in history, those that shape its course and destinies, do not occur by mere chance or coincidence. Rather, they are often preceded by significant events that serve as catalysts or precursors. This especially applies to the emergence of the modern nation-state system in Europe; a state whose roles would become pivotal in shaping chapters of modern and contemporary history, both on that continent and globally. If the establishment of the nation-state system can be considered a major historical event, it is because its essence encapsulated the essence of previous major transformations. Thus, the achievements of these transformations seemed to converge towards the establishment of that nation-state entity, making them its foundational elements without which the state could not exist. Given the abundance of major transformations Europe has witnessed since the early 16th century, we will focus on four principal ones that paved the way for the emergence of the nation-state.

Europe paid a high price, in the lives of millions of its people and the resources of its countries, for the ordeal of its bitter religious wars that lasted for over a century. The Protestant Reformation led by Martin Luther had made significant strides in garnering support across Europe, ultimately establishing a new sect that rivaled the Catholic Church in both followers and influence. This inevitably led - at the precipice of its expanding influence - to the major confrontation that tore through the continent. However, beyond the tragedies of those wars, the religious reform - regardless of our stance on its content - paved the way for some outcomes that laid the groundwork for modern political terrain. This religious reform managed to curtail the ecclesiastical authority on three levels: doctrinal, economic, and political. A large portion of Christians who became Protestants were liberated from the church’s spiritual dominance and religious control, freeing their relationship with the Bible from any intermediaries or priesthood. It also curtailed the church’s economic influence, which previously made it the largest landowner and holder of wealth in Europe since the collapse of the Roman Empire. Lastly, and most importantly for our discussion, the church’s grip on politics and states, kingdoms, and emirates was loosened, allowing princes (political authority) independence in the political sphere, which had previously been under the sway of papal authority. In this sense, we understand the profound impact and role of the religious reform in weakening the influence of the body that stood in the way of the rise of politics and the state from the ruins: the papal ecclesiastical body.

Just as the authority of the Church - religious, economic, and political - was struck a fatal blow, forcing it into involuntary retreat, so too was its cultural authority. The movement of religious reform did not shatter the cognitive authority that it had long monopolized; rather, it was the scholars and philosophers who spearheaded the intellectual revolution that weakened the cultural influence of the Church. Through investigation, we are aware of numerous instances of religious persecution of scholars and thinkers, with many being executed or beheaded. However, the pursuit of knowledge prevailed - after patience and endurance - over the forces of ignorance, expanding the reach of free thought, intellectual endeavors, and scientific discoveries. By the end of the seventeenth century, the spirit of rationality and empiricism had permeated the realm of knowledge, gradually transitioning from philosophical discourse and scientific experimentation to universities, and subsequently, to broader social spheres, eventually evolving into a widespread culture. It is evident that one of the great achievements of this intellectual revolution for politics is the empowerment of reason; a tool indispensable for the construction of modern politics and modern states. This has been particularly validated with the establishment of the nation-state, both theoretically in its foundational principles and practically in its institutional reality.

Since such a monumental event like the emergence of a new model of the state was to occur in a particular region of the world, namely Europe, this necessarily required the presence of a social force capable of championing the realization and accomplishment of this model. This social force was engendered by the social and economic transformations unleashed by the Industrial Revolution and the expansion of the capitalist system. It is true that this new and ascending social force (the bourgeoisie) preceded the Industrial Revolution - as capitalism gave rise to it - and it is also true that it was the same force that brought about the Industrial Revolution. Simultaneously, it was engaged in laying the foundations of the nation-state. However, the Industrial Revolution marked a decisive turning point in its trajectory, transforming it into a dominant class controlling the process of production. Its dominance became a pathway to its acquisition of political power (with the three revolutions: English, American, and French) and the establishment of the modern political system: the nation-state. Thus, the emergence of this state entity was contingent upon two major events: the rise of the capitalist system and the onset of the Industrial Revolution, from which the bourgeoisie emerged and constituted the social force carrying the project of building the nation-state and overseeing its construction process at that time.

Given that this modern nation-state refrained from existing and coming into being without a prior political engineering (constructed in the mind) before materializing into physical reality, it was imperative to have a political theory on the basis of whose data this state was established and for which the condition of "Possibilisation" was fulfilled. This was precisely what happened in modern European thought when - within modern political philosophy in the 17th and 18th centuries - a theory emerged justifying the establishment of the modern nation-state. It was contributed to and developed by philosophers known as social contract theorists (such as Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Baruch Spinoza, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Immanuel Kant). The premise of this theory was that the state is an entity constructed by people themselves through agreement and consensus among them on a social contract whereby rights transition from their natural original state (natural rights) to a political body (the state) entrusted with protection and care, transforming them into civil rights. Perhaps the most important principles of the modern state and the foundations of the modern political system (such as freedoms, the rule of law, the constitution, republicanism, citizenship, civil and political rights, democracy) find their intellectual groundwork in this philosophy of the social contract. Thus, this philosophy laid the theoretical foundation for a new state project, which sought to achieve inspiration from it and apply its principles in its engineering.

In essence, these were critical historical conditions that set the stage for the emergence of the nation-state system. This state, upon its inception, opened up vast horizons for European civilization, unprecedented in any previous stage of human civilizations. Indeed, it is entirely appropriate to assert, without hesitation and with a sense of certainty, that the establishment of this nation-state represented a second birth: following its initial birth as a state within human society. It was with this entity, and only with it, that politics emerged in its modern civil sense.

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Although the theoretical political engineering of the nation-state model was outlined, as well as its intellectual foundation, in the philosophy of the social contract during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, this state continued to acquire new characteristics within the context of historical development and the accumulation of its experiences. Simultaneously, it benefited from emerging objective and self-referential conditions, incorporating their outcomes into a range of resources that solidified its identity and maximized its gains. This implies, initially, that history – particularly the history specific to the state – is the ultimate reference and the fundamental basis from which it has continually drawn its substance, more so than any other source, including the framework of thought established for it within modern political philosophy. What prompts us to say this is that the truth, which imposes itself on every student of the history of this state, is the truth embodied in the convergence of internal and external factors enabling its qualitative progressive development, and in a form where their convergence appears as a rare opportunity that needed to be seized so that this state wouldn't squander a historically and objectively available potential it encountered at its inception.

Here, we're concerned with succinctly addressing three issues that had a significant impact on empowering the evolution of the nation-state system in a manner of cumulative regularity. These issues revolve around leveraging the outcomes of the Thirty Years' War to assert state sovereignties, rectifying the power structure through the establishment of a system for its redistribution, and harnessing the immense energy gained by the nation-state from the outcomes of nationalist unification processes that Europe witnessed.Top of Form

When the Thirty Years' War (1618- 1648) - the last of the hellish episodes of the series of religious wars in Europe - ended with the convening of a peace conference and the consensus on what became known as the “Treaty of Westphalia,” the countries got the most precious thing that most of them were seeking: recognition of each other's national   sovereignty. This was its greatest guarantee to surround itself and its existence with legal protection from imminent dangers and threats, insofar as it signaled - at the same time - the cessation of the ambitions of the major countries to swallow the smallest: in whole or in part. There is no doubt that the nation state has benefited greatly from this principle of national sovereignty, especially at the moment of its inception, where its need for stability is urgent and vital. Thus, the national state, which seemed very keen to achieve civil peace within it, as a condition for its stability, found the precious occasion in which it obtained a goal, which was difficult to reach for the one state, which was the possession of its right to its external security (or national security as we say today). The principle of national  sovereignty - as it should have been in the theory of State itself - has become a founding principle of this state, so that it is quite difficult to realize how a state can truly be a national state without acquiring for itself what it is: the national sovereignty in which its entity is independent, and its security is preserved.

For example, the recognition of the national sovereignty of states was a distribution of the geographies of self-influence among them, allowing one of them a national space to exercise that sovereign influence. There was also a need over time to redistribute power within the national state and between its main centers, and it began to be achieved to varying degrees among countries. Although most of the major European countries had not achieved a complete real separation of powers when Montesquieu considered this chapter in the first half of the eighteenth century, and although they had a long tradition of a pattern of political system in which powers were concentrated in one quorum, they were not ignorant of the principle of separation of powers insofar as the social forces interested in its adoption were unable to impose it. However, the European national states succeeded in going a long way in achieving that chapter, but it seemed to be gradual and cumulative, while a few of them - most importantly France - had to open the door to this goal through violence (= political revolution) after he was forced to gradual or abstained. In all cases, the national state system could only be established and advanced through its reconstruction with the principle of separation of powers. Suffice it to say that it is the principle that allowed the implementation and enforcement of its provisions in the state to open the door to the possibility of the establishment of the democratic system in its modern political form; this is, undisputedly, the most visible and highest achievement of the modern national state.

With the paramount importance of the previous two factors in providing the national state with the reasons for its internal strength and political legitimacy (= the redistribution of power on the basis of discrimination and separation), and with the reasons for preventing it and reassuring it of its security (= the recognition of national sovereignty), the factor of national unification remains the greatest impact on the destiny of the national state entity to steady growth. It was not a condition that only the most populous and geographical state entity, such as Britain, Russia, Germany, France, Italy, and - especially - North America, would benefit from the unification process, but even the smaller countries of the size of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Switzerland should pump the results of their unity into maximizing their power, such as the major countries. The meaning of power, here, is embodied in the great extent of legitimacy that the state gains internally whenever it has the chance to succeed in overcoming its fragmentation, eliminating it completely, and unifying the parts and diasporas of emirates, provinces, and cities into a single national entity. If the modern national state has imposed its political model in the world, then one of the highest types of gains that it has been guided to achieve and, therefore, to maximize its image in it is the process of national unity facilitated by its renaissance and development building program for its society/societies, and it has established in the world its model that has become a reference. Any of us can imagine what small entities could have done at that time, such as the Principality of Florence in Italy, the Kingdom of Prussia in Germany, the Kingdom of England in Britain, the State of New England in North America, or the Grand Duchy of Moscow in Russia... etc., if those countries did not achieve their national unity within the scope of significant and considered national states?!

However, this enormous political architecture, and the great achievements it has made in the countries in which it was established, has  never come from a process of criticism that re-examined many of the perceived gaps and defects in it. A critical intellectual workshop was opened for him, practically, since the dawn of the nineteenth century: after the success of the French Revolution.

Thirdly: Critique of the Nation-StateTop of Form

Just as many political phenomena in modern Western countries have become part of the political sanctities that are not to be violated, they have also become subject to sharp criticism from philosophical and political thought. This criticism has spared nothing, including their "sanctity," which had been firmly established in the consciousness of a large segment of Western nations and peoples. The nation-state system has undergone the same process of sanctification and critique simultaneously. Its critique has not been limited to addressing its components (constitution, consensus, social contract, representation, freedom, citizenship, etc.) through critical examination, but has extended to examining its flaws as a whole, just as its status had risen, in the first three liberal eras, to the rank of the political sanctuary that is not violated.

Hegel was the first to launch a philosophical criticism of the national state system from an intellectual approach in which he recorded the philosophy of the social contract and refuted it, indicating that the state is not a stand on its members, nor is it based on their partial will, nor is freedom and its stability an entrance to the establishment of the state, not to mention that the state is not a company to be established under a contract on which there is consensus.... Indeed, this criticism of Hegel was not a criticism of the state or a challenge to its legitimacy, inasmuch as it was a criticism of a theoretical (philosophical) geometry for which the state envisioned an artificial entity that individuals fabricated for themselves, and in a way that this state owes its existence to their will. However, it came to represent a philosophical correction to the view of the state, and its elevation to that entity that is dissociated or transcendent from the tendencies and whims of society. As for the deep criticism of this state system, it was directed by Karl Marx when he analyzed the relationship of the state with a social class that owns capital and the means of production, and revealed the insidious defect in it, which came from its sanctification of private property. Thus, by including the socio-economic factor in the analysis of the state crisis, he concluded that its dominant liberal model testifies to a severe impasse from which there is no way out except by changing the system of power in a way that puts the productive - not the owner - forces in a position of control, in a way that achieves the fair distribution of wealth - which eliminates class inequality - and consolidates the construction of the socialist system.

However, the criticism of the nation-state came even from the same liberal intellectual sites. An example of this is what the Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville and the Englishman Jean Stuart Mill wrote about it between the 1930s and 1950s. Tocqueville criticized the French Revolution and the system that generated it, indicating that it inherited many of the disadvantages of the Old Testament and reproduced them without possessing the possibility of overcoming them and building new foundations. In his critique, he notes how the principle of equality remains the basic principle enshrined by the revolution and its system, while the principle of freedom is completely absent from the mental horizon of the revolution's men and the political reality of its system. This book (The Ancient Regime and the Revolution) appeared to be a critical attack on an event that was considered one of the political sanctities, which was the event of the French Revolution and the political system that emerged from its womb. Tocqueville was not anti-liberal, like Karl Marx, to justify this directing this huge amount of violent criticism of the French Revolution, but was one of the accented tongues and its merits, but not based on its French model, but on its American model, which was highly praised and polished, but also the model that was well presented in his reference book on it, which was published in two parts under the title: Democracy in America.

Jean Stuart Mill completed what Tocqueville had started, but the criticism of him came more sharply and violently to this modern nation-state than Tocqueville; he did not limit it to one particular example - as Tocqueville did - but rather meant the whole model. The national state seemed to him an ogre preying on freedom, abusing rights, insulting the individual, and attacking his individuality. He only committed himself to the side of freedom and the individual, criticizing the state and mocking its representative and democratic game to the extent that he did not prevent himself from describing the system of political legitimacy in it, based on the principle of the rule of the majority (= that is, representative democracy) as the system of "tyranny of the majority" aligning with Tocqueville’s description of the system of the French revolution as a system of "democratic tyranny". In his book In Liberty, Mill appealed to Tocqueville's assertion that the nation-state system was subject to critical accountability after the regime began to gradually reveal its contradictions and paradoxes.

The second critical stage will begin in the first half of the twentieth century, with the Frankfurt School (Horkheimer, Adorno, Marquis). But, also, with what Hannah Arendt wrote about the crisis of the nation-state model, which is what we delve into in the next paragraph.


The violent criticism by Hannah Arendt, the German philosopher and political scientist, of the Nazi regime in her country - and of the Stalinist regime by extension - was not a criticism of two regimes that seemed to be political anomalies in Europe and needed a criticism of their policies. Rather, it came in the context of an overall criticism of the model of a political system that led Europe to collide with an unusual incident in political history, namely Nazism, which is insofar as it represented a pounce on the national state in the West, and on the rules on which the political system was based, it was, at the same time, an objective fruit of those rules governing that political system.

It is true that the intensity of violence and repression revealed by the policies of the Nazi regime in Germany - and the Stalinist regime in Soviet Russia - whether towards citizens internally or towards other European peoples invaded by the German army and subjected to occupation, represents an unprecedented intensity in modern Europe and violates the norms that have been used in the exercise of power since the beginning of the nineteenth century. For this reason, it may seem as if it expresses an anomaly that finds no lineage or origin in the European political history of that era, or so - at least - it was envisioned by the overwhelming majority of Europeans who were shocked by the Nazi incident and had a strange political precedent that has no parallels. However, the uniqueness of Hannah Arendt's critical work lies, in particular, in her blasphemy against an intellectual and political current that made it easier to read the Nazi incident by returning it to mere psychopathological tendencies of bloodthirsty leaders, or to mere political deviations from politics, the rules of which have been approved by the modern mind. Instead, she based her reading of this Nazi "descendant" on sober analysis hypotheses such as the relationship of this bad fruit to the national state system itself… that brought her to fruition.

The starting point of Hannah Arendt's analysis is that the European model of the national state has entered a phase of political and even structural crisis, which Nazism revealed its defects because it is simply one of its bitter fruits. Nazism did not emerge from nothing, in her opinion, but through the institutions of the national state itself, and through means of addressing the public and building public opinion that are not alien to the traditions of politics in the modern state: since the Jacobins during the French Revolution. The most apparent means, to which she attributed the success of Nazism and its party in the rise, were populism and populist mobilizational rhetoric. Thus, populism could also have been a rallying cry for the Nazi political project to reach power, with the means of voting, which is exactly what happened with the rise of Hitler and his party, as well as it can use the same project to install a new closed political system, and impose a stereotyped public social system that it called in the name of the Klein (or totalitarian) system: in which the private sphere does not exist, and in which rights and freedoms are destroyed. Thus, the crisis of the national state model led this state to its opposite, which, at the same time, became its death!

It is clear that much of Hannah Arendt's critique of the national state model was accurate, even in areas she did not care to study or address. For example, the political and ideological authority of Nazism was not limited to Germany; it wielded significant influence even in the cultural, academic, and political spheres in large parts of Europe. The resurgence of neo-Nazi movements in Europe today is nothing more than an extension of the wave of sympathy of European elites towards Nazism, which addressed in their depths a founding idea of modern Western consciousness, which turned into a collective belief represented by the idea of power and a sense of  supremacy.


Fourth: Arabs and the National State

Modern Arab intellectual and political elites have discovered the system of the national state since they collided with it in the early nineteenth century: when the European colonial invasion of the Arab land began. This started in Egypt during the Napoleon Bonaparte campaign, and then in Algeria following its occupation in 1830, after which the hordes of invaders rushed to most of those Arab countries, with some under the rule of the Ottoman authority and others independent, so these colonial powers seized control and established colonial administrations. However, these elites - or some of them to be more precise - discovered this nation-state paradigm within their own territory, inside Europe, as they traveled there for various reasons and motivations (diplomatic, commercial, and later educational). Among them were writers who documented their journeys and observations in Europe, at the time, leaving us with material through which we can discern the type of awareness formed by Arab elites about Europe and its political system.

It is evident among researchers of the Arab elites during that period that the method of discovering and culturally engaging with Europe followed, as a rule, a pattern of representation in itself. Thus, we can perceive the Arab intellectual division in the 19th century, for example, between two views of Europe and two images of it on opposite sides, a reality that emerged from the difference in the way that engagement with the world manifested in the mind. This is evidenced by those whose knowledge of Europe was limited to its soldiers, colonial administrations, and settlers. To them, Europe was synonymous with military power, oppression, harshness in dealings, forced labor, plundering of fertile lands and resources, and the stark distinction between settlers and the indigenous population: the inhabitants of colonized territories, and so forth. However, those who observed Europe from within realized the extent of its resources of power: knowledge, intellect, productivity, administrative and political organization, and so forth. Thus, while it appeared as a threat to the former, necessitating resistance and rejection, to the latter, it appeared as a model worthy of emulation and following, opening horizons for progress.

Away from this sharp polarization that dominated Arab consciousness and caused a division among the elites into two camps - advocates for authenticity and advocates for modernity - awareness of the importance of the nation-state system formed among Arab Renaissanceists. They embraced it extensively and since then have been following Europe's footsteps in laying the foundations of progress and establishing modern civilization. They have been pointing this out to their readers in general and to the state elites in particular, hoping that awareness of it would arise, first, and the tracking of those steps takes place, second, specifically in terms of what the reformers emphasized and stressed as central to any advancement: political reform. The call of the Arab Renaissanceists to adopt the same factors that were at the foundation of Europe's advancement was met with much resistance and denial from the conservative cultural and religious elites due to its rare audacity at that time, as a call, and its contradiction of the familiar and well-known heritage. However, it was received with acceptance, approval, and encouragement from the reformist elites within the state, especially in countries where the state elites showed a sincere desire for reform (such as Muhammad Ali Pasha's Egypt, the Bey’s Tunisia, and the Sultans Muhammad IV and Hassan I’s Morocco). This approval and acceptance, particularly, explained the emerging phenomenon at that time, which was the increasing demand of the state for reformist elites and their roles, as well as the pursuit to expand its base by establishing modern frameworks through the policy of sending educational missions to European countries to receive advanced training in sciences, military sciences, administration, and other fields.

It is not without significance and implication that Arab renaissanceists and reformists, despite their differences, unanimously agreed that the fundamental issue explaining progress and backwardness in any society is, by definition, the political issue: the issue of the state and the political system. The translation of this is that we have only lagged behind because the political system in our societies is traditional and backward, rooted in a world that has existed since the rise of Islamic Arab civilization and the beginning of the wave of decline. In contrast, Europe progressed and established its modern civilization and extended its influence over all corners of the earth only because it embarked on building a strong state through the establishment of a modern political system. The renaissanceists were not mistaken when they attributed Europe's advancements in science, production, and civilization to its national state system. They were, accurately, articulating a profound awareness of the central role of this state in European society and its roles in generating the means of progress. Therefore, they did not hesitate to transform the issue of political reform and the building of the national state into the mother of all renaissanceist issues that continued to occupy the center of their concerns. Therefore, it was not surprising that their thinking turned to matters of reason, freedom, constitution, representative system, and justice, which are the cornerstones upon which the edifice of this modern state is built. Simultaneously, they directed their attention to confronting despotism, exposing its evils, and invoking the ideas of Ibn Khaldun alongside those of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Voltaire, and European encyclopedists.

Indeed, the idea of the modern nation-state has a history in Arab thought, and indeed in Arab consciousness as a whole, dating back approximately two centuries, since Rifaa al-Tahtawi documented his journey to Paris at the head of an Egyptian educational mission to it, and until today. Taking into account the fact that there have constantly been individuals - throughout this period - who were deeply committed to this idea from the statesmen and later politicians, the reasons converge to say that the belief in this idea and its project was not confined to the environments of intellectuals and thinkers alone, but the scope of faith in it expanded within the circles of the state elites themselves. This, also, explains why this project was politically engaged, meaning at the level of the state, from Muhammad Ali Pasha's modernization project to the present day. It clarifies why varying degrees of success have been achieved in the construction of the national state system in a large part of the Arab countries since then.


Just as Arab renaissanceists - and those who followed them in the twentieth century from various ideological currents - were preoccupied with building a modern state, so too were Arab political elites from their position of power. In fact, they succeeded, to some extent, in translating some of what was theoretically desired or mentally aspired to—by reformists, renaissanceists, and the intelligentsia elite—into tangible policies in various fields: economic, educational, and social. The fruits of these policies have benefited Arab societies with abundant benefits and advantages. This fact undermines much of the criticism directed at the experience of power in Arab countries, which often exaggerates in accusing it of falling short in achieving what it was supposed to accomplish in terms of state-building: institution-building, and in terms of economic and social development. Here, we do not necessarily intend to defend or criticize the experience of power itself; that is not our concern. Rather, we mean to emphasize the need for criticism to be historically honest in order to be truly constructive.Top of Form

It may be right to question the process of modernization implemented in Arab countries regarding what it has actually achieved and whether it has significantly shortened the path towards establishing the national state model and solidifying its authority. Indeed, it is entirely appropriate to critically examine whether such modernization has penetrated the social and political foundations and had a profound impact on the collective mindset, or whether it has merely scratched the surface without delving deeper into substantial issues. All of this is legitimate, but what may be of no legitimacy is to deny that such modernization has any tangible impact on the lives and livelihoods of Arab societies and peoples. In doing so, we conflate two contrasting cognitive realities: criticism - with its imperative of historical awareness - and negation! Thus, our consciousness remains captive to the mental model reference of the modern state - as realized in Western countries - without paying any attention to the accumulations of ongoing modernization, in terms of political and social development in the Arab world, as expressions of a gradual historical evolution. As long as it remains captive to that mental model, it inevitably slips - consequently - into misjudging the achievements by an inappropriate criterion: the extent of their conformity to the model and the manifestation of it!

Who today can deny the significant effort exerted, over decades of our contemporary era, to transition Arab countries from nomadism and ruralism to urbanization, and then to expand the scope of urbanization beyond the dynamics and parameters of city environments to rural areas themselves, on one hand, and to the point where urban residents outnumbered rural populations both proportionally and numerically, on the other hand? This phenomenon clearly demonstrates its significant impact; continuous urban encroachment on rural areas, resulting from the influence of urban relationships and values, has brought rural areas out of isolation and integrated them, to some extent, into the urban system. Can we then trivialize the significance of this transition from a harsh and difficult way of life to a less burdensome one, and not consider it among the achievements of the modernization policies pursued by the ruling political elites?

Additionally, who can deny the achievements made in alleviating some of the historical injustices and discrimination against women, by liberating them to some extent from the constraints of tradition that confined them for so long within the domestic sphere and deprived them of their basic rights in education, employment, and assuming public responsibilities on par with men? Moreover, who can overlook that this partial liberation of women from the shackles of traditions - which the policies of authority have contributed to achieving - required from this authority, among other things, to have a certain degree of courage in enforcing its orders in the face of conservative forces opposed to women's freedom? Without its legal authority, no one would have been able to enforce these reforms for women's conditions against those defiant forces, even if their magnitude and scope were trivial. They would have remained closer to symbolism than actual improvement!

These are just two examples among dozens of others that we can cite to illustrate the undeniable benefits of that modernization process. It is true that the processes of urbanization, which have been taking place and continues to do so, have not succeeded in eradicating the remnants of tribalism and nomadism, nor have they succeeded in halting the gradual encroachment of ruralization on cities. Similarly, achieving urbanization has not necessarily led to tangible urban development. It is true that fairness to women through granting them some of their rights - even if it represents a partial restoration of fundamental rights for half of society - has returned to them some of what was taken away. However, this has not reached the level of achieving full gender equality - which is a requirement of citizenship and one of its fundamental principles and components - nor has it fortified women's gains with cultural and social policies that actively seek to change mentalities and confront male-dominated culture (which permeates both genders). Moreover, above all, it is true that modernization is sometimes slow and selective in most of its aspects, with the majority of its actions focusing on material aspects of society (economic, technological, service-oriented, and instrumental), rather than on social and cultural aspects (which are essential to society). Despite this, it is not in the public interest to wholly criticize it and deny its benefits, as many abstract critics devoid of any historical perspective, clanged to abstract mental models, and entrenched in blind negativism do.

What we say about the relative successes of modernization in Arab society has no relation whatsoever - neither directly nor indirectly - to a feeling of psychological optimism based, for example, on a favorable view of the leading political elites or on the belief in their sincere engagement in the processes of reform and modernization and their desire for it. What drives us to this understanding is a keen awareness that this modernization is an inevitable historical destiny that the Arab political society will continue to pursue until the end, namely until it (the modernization) reaches the fields that are still closed to it today, until its effects are felt there, and until it reaches the highest threshold that opens the Arab political arena to the path of the nation-state becoming a reality that equals its actual reality in countries whose nations and peoples preceded us in suggesting its possibility. The gradual nature of modernization is nothing but the positive material translation of another contrary and declining process: the process of traditional regression and decay leading to its demise. Both processes are subject to objective historical judgments. Modernization may falter at a certain stage and may experience slowdowns and hesitations, but it will constantly find expanding spaces vacated by traditions that can no longer sustain themselves for long. This is not because its foundations are shaken within the Arab world, but because they are crumbling under the impact of ongoing scientific and social revolutions worldwide. Nevertheless, we cannot overlook the reality of those entrenched forces, scattered here and there, mobilized against that modernization and the considerable resources and power they possess in their conservative battle against it.


It is well known among scholars of Arab political dynamics that the process of building a modern state in any Arab country is not linear in its progression and ascent, despite the tangible effects of ongoing modernization efforts in some of these countries. This is due to the significant resistance encountered during the state-building process from various social structures and institutions, not to mention the presence of influential political entities that have no interest in allowing the political construction process to lead to the establishment of a modern political sphere. This is related to objective obstacles that stand in the way of realizing the project of the modern state and impose upon it a slow pace, as we currently witness, indeed, for decades past. Any regularity in the path of political construction would be difficult and obstructed if these obstacles are not overcome, and efforts are made to identify the most effective ways to mitigate their negative effects on Arab political society.

The obstacles we refer to mostly belong to the legacies of Arab history: both social and political history, ancient and modern. What can be learned from this indication is that these obstacles are deeply entrenched and require, to thwart their effects, the collective effort of many and considerable time, because they are not a product of today or of a recent era, making it difficult to exert control over them in a manner that reduces costs. We can classify these into two types of obstacles: social and anthropo-cultural, and political. These obstacles, of both types, are traditional and inherited, yet they are simultaneously renewable. They find within the existing social and political system the means to renew themselves, reproduce, and exert their influence. The former relates to the inhibitory role played by the social sectarian system in the face of conditions conducive to modernizing the political sphere, while the latter concerns the restraints of political tradition and its constant fear of any modernization that might threaten its power and influence.Top of Form

There is no doubt about the abundance of the dilemmas posed by the rotation of Arab social interactions on divisive relationships, in which people are distributed among closed structures and groups, united within them by familial and traditional solidarity bonds based on lineage, religion, sect, or neighborhoodness…, namely a set of inherited relationships - coercive, in the words of Emile Durkheim, imposed. Consequently, they operate within the framework of the concept of minor nuclear identity or strive to solidify and differentiate it. They differ from another type of relationships upon which modern social construction is based, namely, the relationships that individuals adopt for themselves or are imposed on them by the conditions of employment, work, and the common interests that arise from them. These relationships lead them to objective integration into transient social strata and categories, horizontally, such as tribes, clans, sects, denominations, and regions, and then to self-integration within civil institutions that safeguard common interests, such as associations, unions, parties, and civil organizations, among others. The tribal and familial society does not facilitate the emergence of a modern political sphere because it lacks the underlying condition for such a field: social integration. This, in particular, is the reason for the struggles faced by the modern national state project in the Arab world against the immense wave of domestic resistance: these resistances which often take the form of elevating subnational loyalties (to tribal affiliations) over the overarching national loyalty to the state and the nation!

A counterpart to this social obstacle is found, this time, dressed in political attire: political traditionalism that opposes any modernization of the political field. This tradition is inherited from the experience of the authoritarian state in the past, but it is renewed within the context of a political engineering conducted by colonial administrations before their departure, resulting in the emergence of a hybrid political system: a blend of authoritarian tradition and civil political modernization! The forces of this tradition have persisted in the contemporary Arab political arena, forming a social resistance movement - sometimes fiercely - against any tendency towards achieving political modernization at its highest levels, considering that any success would hit, at the core, these forces, whose interests are continuously intertwined with the authority of traditionalism within the Arab political society, which places itself in service of this tradition, supporting it and descending from it as its incubator and striking hand!

However, it is not only the divisive sectarian society that poses a threat to the construction of the nation-state. Indeed, it is one of the most destructive factors internally, undermining the authority of the central state, restricting its political jurisdiction over society and the people, and tearing apart the social and national fabric, especially when tribal loyalties reach a point where each tribe feels capable of asserting its independence or extending its authority over others, resorting to arms and militia institutions to achieve these ends. While it is true that internal factors play a fundamental role in producing and shaping social phenomena and conditions, we should not overlook the crucial effects of external factors in shaping phenomena, conditions, and institutions in today's world, claiming that adopting such an explanation leads to disintegration or evasion of the responsibility to critique the internal social and political landscape and to address its problems and crises, attributing them solely to external factors, as is sometimes asserted in certain critical discourses today. Perhaps this discourse appears bewilderingly inclined, through such rhetoric, to obscure the responsibilities of dominant external forces and their role, instead attributing them to an internal entity whose weakness may be a consequence of its subjugation and the dominance of external powers over it. The truth is that emphasizing the centrality of external factors in shaping conditions and phenomena is justified by the existence of two significant realities/mechanisms in the contemporary world and its interrelations among its societies and states:Top of Form

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The first of these is that the actions of external actors have increasingly impacted the issues of any society since the capitalist system transcended its national boundaries and became globalized on one hand, and since the reshaping of the world - under colonialism - led to the complete integration of the structures of colonized societies and countries with the capitalist metropolitan structures on the other hand. Thus, the internal economic and social realities, within any society, are determined by an external entity (metropolis) that exerts control over the overall socio-economic system of that dependent society. This global moment of capitalism - which gave rise to the system of dependency - ushered in a new relationship between external factors and internal ones, with the latter becoming subservient to the former and subject to its dictates; a relationship that was reinforced by the establishment of an international institutional system (= the United Nations) and a binding legal framework, whereby the social and political dynamics within any country became subject to many provisions of that system and law.

The second of them is that the actions of external factors, with their increasing and continuous frequency, gradually transform into actions that resemble internal ones over time. This is explained by the fact that when the internal conditions are governed by external factors, these factors come under the jurisdiction of the internal realm. This is because they are the ones determining the process of development continuously, making it seem as though the actions of the internal factor are nothing more than a mechanical response to the actions of the external factor. To avoid misunderstanding, let it be clear that we do not disregard the independence of internal factors. Rather, in such cases, the binary of internal/external undergoes a change in form. It no longer remains a binary with distinct boundaries between them; instead, there is an open overlap between its boundaries, rendering the external factor, at that point, internal, and the internal factor external. There is no doubt that globalization and its mechanisms have established this moment of the relationship between them, forcing the world to become an open field for all types of permissibility and counter-permissibility, without retaining the means of protection it once had to preserve independence and sovereignty.

Today, globalization serves as the external factor that poses an obstacle to the establishment of a national state or, let's say, to the fulfillment of its most essential condition: national sovereignty. If we can understand the phenomenon of relative limitation of the complete independence of any state in the world through the enactment and sometimes the attainment of mutual cooperation laws, which sometimes reach the threshold of mutual reliance – a phenomenon praised by the complexities and interconnections of interests in today's world – then the loss of that independence as a whole (in national decision-making), and the loss of sovereignty along with it, leaves a state with nothing but its name. This is especially true for smaller nation-states in the world today. The worst consequence of the seizure of sovereignty and national decision-making independence is that some of these smaller nations find themselves today vulnerable to a new process of entity dismantlement, within a new anthropo-political engineering framework based on detonating the contradictions of divisive social neuroses and reassembling them into the formation of city-states tailored to those neuroses, or the composition of a complex authority from those neurotic forces, each having a share of that power! The Arab world has been vulnerable to both processes since the beginning of this century: its Sudan split into two states, the latter (in the south) founded on religious principles; and its Iraq divided among three groups that shared power based on ethnic (Kurds) and sectarian (Shiites and Sunnis) grounds - as per the Paul Bremer Constitution - and what is concealed is even greater!

Just as external and internal factors increasingly interact in the era of globalization, making it difficult to distinguish between them or discern the dominance of each in current events, so too is the relationship between globalization and internal social and political fragmentation. This link appears aberrant and contradictory to the logic of both extremes; the logic of globalization is unity, while the logic of fragmentation is the division of the whole into smaller parts. This is only apparent because the logic of globalization, by definition, is the unification of the world after its fragmentation in a manner where this "unification" reconstructs what has been divided in a new pattern! This process has been ongoing in various parts of the world for the past few decades, with more than one society and state being its victims, and it will continue to have victims in the future. Only the major powers have managed to escape it, becoming partners with Western countries in shaping the realities of globalization.

The challenges facing the will to build the nation-state are immense: from an internal factor crowded by dealing with various forms of social and cultural resistance, and from an external factor, contending with forces driven to the extreme of domination. The project of nation-building - and those who undertake it - have no choice but to resist the actions of these actors and persist in the project until complete success is achieved.

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