It is 10 years since since the Arab Thought Foundation was established to nurture intellectual interaction between Arabs and the rest of the world.
A decade on and the Foundation is defining new goals for the future, including an ambitious programme of translation to encourage cultural links.
euronews spoke to His Highness Prince Faisal, the President of the Arab Thought Foundation.
euronews: “Your Royal Highness Prince Khaled Al Faisal after 10 years of the Arab Thought Foundation, have you achieved what you expected?”
Prince Khaled Al Faisal: “A decade has passed. It was a decade of basic groundwork for our foundation, and luckily, it was a successful start. Now that the foundations are laid, and the true beginning has started, we noticed that we have achieved most of the objectives that the institution was established to achieve. So we decided that over the next decade, not only shall we accomplish the few remaining goals, but we will also acquire the flexibility to improve and expand what we have already done, and we have already started that. The first thing for the future of our Foundation over the next decade was to organise this conference in Beirut today under the banner: ‘Shaping the Future - the Arab Role?’”
euronews: “What is the story behind the Arab Thought Foundation?”
Prince Khaled Al Faisal: “In the year 2000, I was invited to a cultural conference in Beirut, and I do not know why I included this idea in my speech, but I proposed establishing an Arab Thought Foundation. I imagined the initiative as cooperation between thought and finance. This initiative is based on bringing wealthy Arab businessmen together to create an investment fund and use the returns to finance cultural activities.”
euronews: “In your opinion, what is the secret behind the success of this project?”
Prince Khaled Al Faisal: “The secret lies in the people who run the Foundation. Choosing the right people in any project - be it public or private - is very important. I counted on people who believe in the idea and who are not interested in self-esteem and showing off at the expense of the success of the project; those who serve thought and Arab culture. That is why they are wealthy businessmen and enlightened thinkers at the same time.”
euronews: “How do you see the next decade with a heavy responsibility that might be beyond the capacity of the institution?”
Prince Khaled Al Faisal: “Indeed, during the last century, Arab society has suffered a lot of frustration of all kinds. It was attached to too many slogans in which it saw flashes of hope of resurrection and salvation of all of its problems and its underdevelopment. It finally saw a cultural and intellectual project that succeeded where many bigger institutions, both governmental and private, had failed. So big dreams have been reborn in the mind of Arab society, much bigger than the Foundation can provide and for what it was originally created.”
euronews: “How do you think the Arab Thought Foundation will manifest itself, extending beyond the Arab World?”
Prince Khaled Al Faisal: “We hope to present the true image of the Arab people as they really are over the next decade. We do not want to produce a false image of Arabs. Unfortunately some Western mass-media, like television or cinema, portray Arabs as a new enemy of the West or Western Civilization. After they finished with Nazis and Communists, they are looking for a new ‘Bad Guy’, so they chose Arabs and Muslims. But that is not the true image of Arab or Muslim people.”
euronews: “How do you respond to those who say that the current Arab cultural movement is a response to an emergent Turkish or Persian culture that gets its message across through television or translated books?”
Prince Khaled Al Faisal: “There is no harm in benefiting from other cultures and civilizations. When the Arab civilization itself spread around the world, we created the first “Globalisation” movement. Harun Al Rashid, the fifth Abbasid Caliph, was watching a huge cloud over the balcony of his palace as it passed across Baghdad, expecting rain to come down any moment. When it didn’t rain, he was not disappointed. He just said: ‘Go, rain wherever you want, the rewards will come to me’. In those days, we benefited from other civilizations: Greek, Byzantine and Persian. It gave us more strength: cultural, economic, political and military. Why deprive ourselves of it now? Why refuse other cultures and thought if we can benefit from it, as long as we do not give up our own culture and our heritage?”