Zabbal on the Arab World's Development Deficit

In the 26 January issue of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, François Zabbal, the editor of the excellent Qantara magazine, published by the Institut du Monde Arabe (their English website version is here) in Paris, explains, as signandsight sums it up, “that the development deficit in the Arab World is the result of that world’s restricted view of its own culture. Arab culture first broke with the Shiites, then with the Turks after the downfall of the Ottoman Empire, Zabbal writes: ‘So we see a double breach in the Arab World, with Turkish and Persian culture. And this amounts to an amputation of the Arab memory. The result is a widespread inability to understand and make use of the complexities of the past. In this restricted view, all that counts is the imaginary ‘golden age’ of the prophet and his first followers. Certainly, Renaissance Europe, on the threshold to the modern era, harked back to the Greek and Roman cultural heritage which had been partly neglected during the Middle Ages. The Arab renaissance at the end of the 19th century hoped to build in a similar way on values that had been forgotten for centuries. But from its very beginning, this movement barred its own further development with its obsessive fixation on the ‘authentic‘ and ‘original‘ elements in religion, language and culture.'”
Unhappily the complete article is not available on the NZZ online site — it is to be hoped that signandsite will eventually translate it & make it available, or that Qantara will pick it up. Zabbal’s is one of the most interesting voices to weigh in on current debates concerning Arab culture.
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