Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Civilisations don’t have to clash, but they do have to talk

Given that communication is perhaps the most significant common denominator across all cultures and all continents, it is surprising how difficult it can often be to communicate at an intercultural level. Which is why, I suppose, disputes are just as common across most cultures.

The importance of communication at the inter- and intra-cultural level is explored in the book The Dialogue of Civilisations: The Self and the Other by the renowned Emirati author Mana Saeed al Otaiba.
The book’s intention is to point the way to achieving a more harmonious Arab-Muslim-Western dialogue. But before discussing the book, it would be helpful to first examine, briefly, the background of the author.
After all, there is a popular saying that “the fruit does not fall far from the tree”. So learning about the man will provide an idea about his beliefs – and how much weight we, as readers, should place on what he says.
Dr al Otaiba gained his PhD from the University of Cairo with flying colours in 1976. He has written many books in Arabic that discuss language, civil society, gender, education, and migration. He is also a successful entrepreneur – the chairman of Noor Capital – an advisor to both the founder of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed, and the current President, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, and a six-times president of Opec. And if all that weren’t enough, he is a prolific poet and currently the Director of Arabic Studies at Rutgers University in New Jersey, USA. A set of credentials that tell us he is a man we should listen to and take seriously.
Back to the book, the title immediately tells us what to expect: a dialogue rather than the more fashionable “clash” of civilisations”. It is a topic the book extensively explores, dividing the subject into three parts, with an enlightening introduction that clarifies key terms such as “civilisations”, “culture” and “dialogue”.
In Part One, the author expounds on the importance of communication between civilisations. He argues that dialogue can either be a choice or a duty. He brings history into the discussion, explaining the valuable contributions Arab-Islamic civilisations have made over the centuries to inter-cultural dialogue.
The second part, with the title, “Obstacles and Dialogue”, is mainly concerned with the challenges that anyone wanting to participate in a cross-cultural dialogue are likely to encounter. Dr al Otaiba’s argument, essentially, is that meaningful communication between civilisations is not an easy process as both sides continually encounter what is best termed “conflicts of interest”.
Such conflicts are particularly hard to resolve as, once raised, the opposing cultures have to make concerted efforts to continue the process of dialogue before they can find a mutually agreeable solution. This section of the book does more than simply extol the importance of dialogue between civilisations, but emphasises that in the modern world it is essential if the conflicts aren’t to degenerate into something far more serious.

“Spaces and Horizons of Dialogue,” is the title Dr al Otaiba gives to the third section. His argument is that economic progress should be a means for promoting mutual understanding among people and cultures. He advocates different cultures sharing with each other their progress across the whole range of human activity: industry, education, agriculture, tourism, etc.

As a result of the processes of globalisation, different cultures and countries are having more contact with each other anyway. The “global village” that we all talk about means that we are all more likely to interact with one another. If there is to be less conflict, not more, then cultures should make communicating with each other a priority. As the book points out, the progress of one particular culture could be directly affected by the way it communicates with another.

In many ways, Dr al Otaiba is a mouthpiece – and a representative – for the entire region. The Middle East in recent years has become synonymous with cultural disputes. However, as this book so ably demonstrates, it is this region that also supplies the thinkers with solutions to the problem. The Dialogue of Civilisations is required reading.

The Dialogue of Civilisations is translated into English and published by the Red Sea Press and Africa World Press

By Dr Salem Humaid, an Emirati writer and researcher in cultural and anthropological studies based in Dubai.

Harakah Sepatutnya Menjadi Akhbar Harian

Dalam salah satu hasil 'kejayaan' misi muzakarah antara UMNO-PAS ialah Harakah akan kembali muncul dua kali seminggu. Tidak lagi dua minggu sekali seperti selepas Pak Lah menjadi PM.

Akhbar politik milik parti pembangkang lain yang tidak bermuzakarah dengan UMNO akan tetap muncul dua kali sebulan. Begitu manjanya layanan UMNO kepada PAS demi ketuanan dan perpaduan Melayu dengan umpanan kepada hak penerbitan Harakah.

Tidak pasti selepas ini, tertera amaran di muka depan Harakah, "Untuk Ahli PAS dan UMNO sahaja!"

Saya menulis agak aktif untuk Harakah dalam tahun 1998 melalui genre cerpen yang boleh dikatakan agak regular tersiar dengan menggunakan nama pena MFMNor.

Arkib kumpulan cerpen tersebut boleh dibaca di Dotkomania.

Begitupun, saya kira sepatutnya mereka yang berusaha mendapatkan kembali hak Harakah di cetak dua kali seminggu sepatutnya mendapatkan lesen Harakah sebagai akhbar harian bertaraf media perdana.

Barulah hebat makna ketuanan Melayu dan sahlah UMNO jujur untuk bermuzakarah dengan PAS, parti yang dianggap sesat oleh ramai pemimpin UMNO sendiri.

Sememangnya kita memerlukan akhbar harian baru yang jauh lebih hebat dari akhbar serta media kepunyaan UMNO. Harakah pernah memohon untuk berbuat demikian diatas nama akhbar PURNAMA rasanya.

Lagi baik kalau PAS mendapat lesen TV dan radio sekali dibawah Harakah. PAS tentunya telah mampu untuk menubuhkan syarikat media konglomerat seperti Media Prima.

Kita juga akan dapat menyaksikan lebih banyak iklan yang bermutu, tidak seperti iklan-iklan merapu yang menghiasi Harakah, terutama iklan-iklan 'kesihatan untuk lelaki' dsbnya. Syarikat-syarikat sekutu UMNO akan berani untuk mengiklan secara besar-besaran.

Tidak mengejutkan bank-bank Islam yang banyak sekarang akan menawarkan fasiliti perbankan khas pada ahli-ahli PAS termasuk sistem pinjaman Ahlong dan kad kredit.

Cuma barangkali apabila Harakah atau PURNAMA atau apa saja nama lain akhbar (juga media)terbitan syarikat kepunyaan atau bersangkut-paut dengan PAS selepas berpakat dengan UMNO, akan sama sahaja dengan Utusan, Berita, NST, Sun dan Star mahupun Sinar serta lain-lain tabloid yang bersekutu dengan UMNO.

Iaitu, menghentam mereka yang dianggap pembangkang kepada UMNO dan kawan-kawan sekatil.

Walauapapun, masih belum terlambat untuk PAS mendapatkan hak menerbitkan Harakah dalam bentuk akhbar, TV, radio dalam muzakarah berikutnya!

BOHONG itu salah satu sifat WAJIB Menteri

Boleh dikatakan semua menteri kabinet Malaysia mempunyai satu sifat yang dianggap wajib untuk bertaraf menteri dalam Islam Hadhari, iaitu menjadi pembohong.

Lihat sahaja Perdana Menteri yang banyak kali berbohong dan akan terus berbohong bersama kabinet pembohong pimpinannya.

Timbalan PM juga sudah serasi dengan berbohong biarpun akan bersumpah berkali-kali yang dia tidak berbohong.

Menteri-menteri lain juga sama tarafnya kerana sekali berbohong, terpaksa berbohong untuk menutup bohong yang lain. Boleh disenaraikan semua pembohongan untuk dibukukan dalam rekod BOHONG menteri kabinet Malaysia, dulu, kini dan selamanya (termasuk bila Mahathir dan Anwar Ibrahim dalam kabinet)

Dengan muka seposen dan bersahaja, pembohong bercakap 'benar' di depan khalayak termasuk di parlimen. Bohong yang berterusan menjadi lapuran media yang sama-sama berbohong demi pembohongan atas nama kebenaran.

Tetapi secara amnya, semua ahli politik mesti pandai berbohong. Ciri yang menjadikan mereka lebih berjaya kalau dapat berbohong secara neutral. Kalau tidak pandai berbohong, baik jadi ulamak sahaja.

Mereka-mereka yang menjadi pembohong lazim ini jugalah yang berjaya meyakinkan beberapa kerat kepimpinan PAS untuk bermuzakarah atas nama ketuanan baru-baru ini. Segala janji dan tawaran untuk PAS tentunya boleh termasuk kategori bohong sebelum menjadi realiti.

Kemudian, kepimpinan PAS yang terlibat terpaksa pula berbohong untuk menutup kebohongan pemimpin UMNO yang bertaraf menteri.

Maka benarlah......
Siakap Senohong
Gelama Ikan Duri
Bercakap Bohong
Itu kerja para Menteri
dan yang mahu jadi Menteri!