Christina/ April 11, 2011/ Culture

Sunday evening. My inner voice reels between the beautiful spring weather outside and the lecture given inside on a vastly discussed topic. The mere drive (by bicycle) would have been worth the effort. So far, I considered my current city as boring if not narrow-minded. Suddenly I discovered „Little Neukölln“ just some metres off the city centre. At the venue the scientific community, which likes to pipe up when explosive topics are being discussed, was already dawdling there. It is about integration – once again. It is – of course – about Islam. This time however from the „oriental“ perspective, as bloomy described in the lecture’s subtitle: “Arabic-Islamic cultural roots and the integration dilemma (from the oriental perspective)”.

And what is it exactly all about this „Orient“? Does that not sound already a little bit like a sulty-western neologism (compare to Said “Orientalism”)? (Maybe it is better to conceal at this point, that the third hit when entering the keyword „Morgenland=Orient“ that Google shows is the nude sauna club Morgenland. On’y soit qui mal y pense?) According to Wikipedia the term has been introduced to Germany by Martin Luther.

Grouplets of “scientists” are standing together, exchanging knowledge, when I entre the room. The hall is half-full. The lecture is supposed to start at 6 o’clock (p.m.). Around five minutes past six the preparations for the technical support of the lecture gets started: the interaction of the laptop and the beamer is being tested. A picture is to be a long time coming. Instantly there is a grouplet of six men standing around the desk with the laptop. They seem to be intrigued with the screen, there is a discussion, there is trial and error. Thereby, the elderly are standing in front line, the youngsters acting as their advisers.

The average age of the audience is approximately around 45-60 years. Some people seem to know each other for some extent. Around 6:15 the laptop is being replaced. Finally there is a picture on the wall. The lecturer will be Prof. Wael Adi from the Institute of data systems technology and communications network of the TU Brunswick. More guests are arriving. Five minutes later another handful of young students (?) enter the room. The Der presenter plucks up courage and starts with the lecture’s introduction with the word “finally everybody made it here …”.

The presenter introduces the lecturer. Born in Syria Adi came in the 1970ies to Germany, where he made his PHD, qualified as a professor, worked for the industry around ten years and taught as a visiting professor at the university of Sharjah.

Adi thanks for the introduction and points out that he does not consider himself to be an expert on the topic displayed. He is rather a data engineer than an expert for Islamic history and culture. The lecture is meant to demonstrate the Arabic point of view of the topic. It does not claim scientificness but directs to the “concerned citizen”.

Adi starts his lecture with some facts: The Arabic World consists of 22 countries popularised by approximately 350 million people. Three world religions are domiciled in this region. 60 % of the population is younger than 25 years, which could be a threat or a promise according to Adi’s words. The region shows a high increase in population almost three times as high as in Germany. In another lecture cited by Prof. Adi named the „The Broader Middle East“ the former ambassador Edward P. Djerejian talked about 7000 years of cultural roots in the region and merely existing structures of democracy according to western understanding at any rate

The Arabs, Adi continued, do not form one nation but dispose of an arabic linguistic cultural area. Subsequently Adi provided in his lecture consisting of more than 150 charts (!) a, according to his words, short introduction to Arabic history. While we are being told that the first Arabic Alphabet was discovered in Ugerit between 1600-1500 B.C., more visitors are entering the room. Meanwhile it is 6:40 Uhr. The „academic quarter“(the extent of acceptable lateness in Germany is 15 minutes) should be over by now.

In the meantime Prof. Adi started his search for the roots of the Arab nation and finds himself on the way to the Old Testament. It is about Abraham and his two wives, Sara and the Egyptian villain Hagar. As Sara could not become pregnant for years Hagar was supposed to give birth to a son and heir for Abraham. We all know the outcome – firstly Hagar bears a baby boy called Ismael. Unexpectedly Sara becomes pregnant as well and gives birth to Isaak. Hagar and her son were given their walking papers – that is when the historiography of the three world religions separates.

A cell phone rings – it’s owner answers the phone. Polychronic concept of time at its best?

Prof. Adi continues that are meanwhile 1,560 millions of Muslims in the world. 300-400 millions are Arabs. According to estimations this number will double within 25 years and then there will be 3,2 billions of Muslims, which will account for around 40 % of the world population. Some countries’ population will double before that, such as Palestine in around 20 years and Yemen in around 21 years.

There is another intercultural „contribution“: At chart 90 somehow or other the lecture is designed for an audio file. However, there are no loudspeaker connected to the laptop. Again technical help comes from within the audience. Wires are being installed. The lecturer seems not to be irritated at all. He shakes his head, in fact the play of the file is not necessary. Therefore the wire from the loudspeaker is not being plugged into the laptop. Still Prof. Adi presses again the play-button. Nothing happens, certainly.

After more than 1, 5 hours Prof. Adi draws his first conclusions: The three world religions are a challenge from god, disputes are to be postponed to the afterlife. Plurality of religions is a gift of god and shall be kept. Only details and the historical course of action are different, despite that the religions are alike.

Is it possible to measure tolerance or to express a grad of tolerance in numbers? Prof. Adi displays two examples:

    Istanbul 12,8 million inhabitants

  • 2.562 mosques = 1 mosque for 5.000 muslims
  • 40 churches = 1 church for 2.000 christians
  • 16 Synagogues = 1 Synagogue for 1.560 jews

    Damascus, 4,1 million inhabitants

  • 75 % muslims = appr.. 200 mosques
  • 15 % christians, 6 % Alawiten, Drusen, jews
  • 240 000 christians = 37 churches

Finally, with chart 119 we arrive at the initially mentioned cultural dilemma. After almost two hours my concentration is stressed to that extent that the explanation of topics such as „social dilemma: no marriage on trial, system-clash and Arabs/muslims refuse (moral) liberality (the family model of the society is not being regarded as outdated) and the „Euro-Model cannot be transferred (lack of founding and infrastructure) makes me weary and has been heard of too often.

It is getting more interesting again when Adi talks about fears of the majority of the population, such as Islamization, loss of social comforts and of a massiv demographic imbalance. Nothing new so far. However until the objection from the audience, aired by one woman, gets heard. She claims that „Xenophobia is all existing everywhere.“ I wonder, whether this statement makes it more acceptable or appropriate?

A final statement of Prof. Adi paves its way to my head. „Eurocentrism meets Arabo-Islamo-Centrism“. After that my intake capacity is finally exhausted.

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