Today, Arabs and Muslims have a fundamental responsibility to forge cultural, business and economic relationships with the world, H.H. Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of Supreme Council Ruler of Sharjah has said.
He added that this would enable the Arab world and the world at large to move past the stereotypical imageries triggered by actions of radicalised minorities that do not share common values nor religion.
Sheikh Sultan Al Qasimi told the UAE media in an interview at the Sharjah Book Authority’s (SBA) pavilion during the 37th Paris Book Fair, "whenever a tragedy strikes, we tend to isolate ourselves, and run away from the problem. Some want us to disappear and vanish from the entire global scene, and more people are betting on that. But we must use our intelligence to build friendships, establish cooperation and partnerships to benefit from what suits us as Arabs and Muslims, and not to follow a path of separation and seclusion."
Sharjah, Guest of Honour
The Ruler of Sharjah expressed his delight over the emirate’s selection as the Guest of Honour at the Paris Book Fair 2018. He stressed that Sharjah would collaborate closely with the Fair’s organising committee to ensure the largest possible Arab participation, especially the Arab Gulf countries, and specifically the UAE.
Sharing his wise vision about how to communicate and treat others, especially with the West, Sheikh Sultan Al Qasimi said, "Others are important for us, because we are part of this larger world, which holds a variety of scientific and technical knowledge."
"This does not mean we come from a vacuum. We had been once the owners and founders of the sciences and knowledge. Yet we have been dormant. Therefore, when we communicate with others, we should bear in mind that we possess part of this knowledge and culture, and we have our own identity. And that we were once a major contributor to the Golden age at a time when Europe was in the dark ages."
World cultures and communicating with them
Sheikh Sultan Al Qasimi underlined the need to abide by several cautions when building relationships with world cultures, and communicating with them through knowledge, cultural and business. He explained, "There are many factors that we need to bear in mind when we communicate with others, we must be empowered with a strong communication skill, in order to successfully speak to others with respect to their beliefs and lifestyles."
He outlined the overarching trends, which continually determine the changing nature of the relationship between the West and the Arab world, and said, "Our relationship with the European civilisation can be studied through three lenses: the oriental, psychological and social lens."
The Ruler of Sharjah said, "The orientalist approach is good and evil. There are knowledgeable people and travellers who came from the West to the East. There were many things hidden in their journeys: some were part of the colonisation process, and others had some purposes. In fact, some were truthful. The psychological approach is based in the West on the theory of Freud, which moves its concepts to the body and what is associated with it. This prompts us to be careful in dealing with it."
He referred to the social approach by saying, "The West came with its existentialism, which we have taken in the East and in the Arab world on the basis of modernity and postmodernity."
The Ruler of Sharjah warned against the echo of the Western civilisation, which is not compatible with the Arab and Islamic culture, adding, "This reversed echo will harm my language and culture, and therefore, we must be aware of this cultural invasion, which came with colonists to break up our Islamic history. Colonists did not come to our region to explain the Islamic history, but focused on individual acts in different states."
Relations with the West
"The Arab world needs to be sure of their cultural and religious identity – celebrate its uniqueness, and proudly pass it on to the future generations. A firm realisation and understanding of one’s roots will help our people connect better with the cultures of the world, upholding and respecting each other’s differences and cohabiting peacefully in a world so rich and diverse."
Sheikh Sultan Al Qasimi referred to several areas of cooperation with the West, highlighting specifically the aspects of culture, knowledge and heritage.
He cited the "World Heritage in Sharjah" project, and said," Each month Sharjah hosts a country to showcase its heritage. Sharjah also participates in international events held in many other countries. It also hosts art, music and theatre-related events."
The Ruler of Sharjah said, "Sharjah is open to knowledge-based cultural cooperation, as we believe it is the way forward for a peaceful, sustainable future for the world. Science is science, and will benefit all involved patrons equally."
He emphasised the importance of scientific and cultural collaborations with the West. He said that such integrated efforts would herald the dawn of an era of inclusion and diversity, which would allow a free exchange of intellectual, economic and artistic resources – strengthening the collective heritage of the world based on mutual trust and cooperation.
"I put red lines for myself that I never exceed, such as my religion and religious adherence. But there are customs and traditions of world peoples-which we receive and interact with their culture, are not consistent with our traditions and our religion. This is why we focus on science and knowledge when dealing with others whose customs and traditions are not compatible with our religion."
This means the religion has its own red lines, and even customs and traditions also have their red lines. As we do not want to get involved in mazes and shifts that may harm our communities, we hope that all peoples are committed to these values when dealing with each other."