Friday 15 June 2012


Tunisian philosopher Mohamed Turki
The uncomparable German Qantara website covering the World of Islam again provides an interesting take on the dramatic changes that have been taking place in the Arabic-speaking parts of the Muslim world over the last year or so, by showcasing the views of thinkers and intellectuals who are often receiving far too little attention in the Western media. In an interview Tunisian philosopher Mohamed Turki offers his insight into the Arab Spring that began in his country with the 'Jasmin Revolution', only to turn into a hot and bloody Summer.

Turki sees a real danger that developments are only foreshadowing a Götterdämmerung or Wagnerian 'twilight of the gods'  as campaigns for democratization, respect for universal human rights standards, and more transparency of murky politics are brutally crushed.

In response to suggestions that what Palestinian-Lebanese historian Hisham Sharabi (1927-2005) has called 'neo-patriarchy' or French-Algerian scholar of Islam Mohamed Arkoun (1928-2010) referred to as 'dogmatically closed systems' remain resilient and resistant to change, Turki noted: 
The neo-patriarchal system – which may look modern from the outside, but is in fact patriarchal – holds fast to certain consolidated structures of rule and resists any change in the balance of political power. This is why these neo-patriarchal structures – which may seem modern, but are in fact nothing more than modernistic – remain a sham. It takes more than this to be modern. Being modern is a project that has many facets and necessitates many changes too. It begins with the rule of law, includes human rights and goes right up to economic, political and social structures, which should all be open. This is not the case with either neo-patriarchates or patriarchates.
Real progress can only be made by transforming the economic, social, and political spheres. Without that the status quo will persist and the political system will continue to remain immune to structural changes. There are also inter-cultural and intellectual dimensions to this process:
The most important thing is that we work together and not against each other. Interculturally and transculturally: these are the elements that bring us forward, not Manichaeism, thinking in terms of black and white or thinking in terms of opposites. Ultimately, the West is a product of historical developments, just as the Arab-Islamic cultural heritage is.
As a philosopher interested in existentialism, Turki has published a book on such interfaces between humanism and inter-cultural dialogue:

In a further elaboration of how to avoid or leave behind the age-old assumed dichotomy between East and West, notwitstanding his own reference to Kant's theory of 'man's emergence of self-incurred immaturity', Turki stresses the need for collapsing such binaries: 
I consider it necessary that we speak here of a process that carries humanity, that brings us forward in the spirit of a society where everyone is equal, is recognised, can voice their demands and can in turn be criticised so that the project can be improved. This project must not be Western or Eastern. It must be universal. And that, basically, is the most important aspect of enlightenment, which, incidentally, did not start in the eighteenth century, but in the Arab-Islamic world avant la lettre, as the saying goes, in other words in the eleventh century with Avicenna and in particular Averroes.
To read the whole interview, click here.

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