Friday, July 01, 2005

Clash of Cultures

Frits Bolkestein (Universiteit Leiden), Ian Buruma (auteur "Occidentalism"), John Gray (London School of Economics) and Hassan Hanafi (Cairo University) participated in a debate of the Dutch liberal party VVD on the clash of cultures (the term originally comes from Bernard Lewis and NOT from Samuel Huntington).

Most speakers were older, and I guess quite sentimental and fond of (intellectual) history. So the actual topic of the debate was the Enlightenment and its different meanings. In the end I agreed mostly with Bolkestein, and less with Gray and Buruma, and certainly not with Hanafi.
Why?

Buruma was going on about the detrimental effect of the nationstate (later joined by Hanafi). The implicit argument thus was: religion doesnt matter. Hanafi was telling us lies, plain lies. I ll give you two: (1) Islam is secular, (2) in Islam there is a personal relationship between the believer and God.

Detail: a former student of Hanafi, Dr. Nasr Abou Zeid had to flee Egypt because he basically said that the Koran although the word of God should be seen as a document of its time. This is how far the personal relationship goes. No comments were made by Hanafi on the influence of the clerus or e.g. the Al Azhar university which resides also in Cairo.

Too often there is too much respect in these debates. Sometimes it would be better if somebody knocked on the table and said: bullshit! (Harry G. Frankfurt has written a small book on this topic.)

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