University President: Our conference is an additional step toward constructing a more effective approach for Humanities and human ascendency
Beirut, 20 November 2018,
On Tuesday, November 20, 2018, the International Conference on "Culturalization Humanities: Perspectives and Experiences” was held in the presence of the Lebanese Minister of National Defense and a member of the Board of Trustees of Al Maaref University, Eng. Yaacoub AlSarraf; the Representative of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants (Minister Jibran Bassil) Ambassador Wissam Kalakash; current and former Deputies; the Spanish Ambassador Jose de Labina; the Representative of the Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Lebanon Mohamed Jalal Firouzina; the Cultural Attaché Mohammad Shariatmadar; Representative of the Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Mar Bishara Boutros Al Ra'i Khoury Salim Makhlouf; the Representative of the Lebanese University (Dr. Fouad) Dean Ahmed Rabah, a number of Representatives of private universities, the Grand Mufti of Jaafari Sheikh Ahmad Qablan, in addition to a large number of Islamic and Christian religious figures from the Arab and Islamic worlds, and a crowd of official figures, diplomats, security and social and Arab and foreign researchers . The conference, organized by the Al Maaref University lasted for two days on Tuesday and Wednesday 20 and 21 November 2018 in the Assaha’s Heritage village in the Lebanese capital, Beirut.
The Opening Ceremony
The opening ceremony of the International Conference involved recitation of the Holy Quran and the Lebanese National Anthem and followed up with a short introductory speech by the Assistant Dean of the Faculty of Religions and Humanities at Al Maaref University, Dr. Kamal Lazeq who welcomed the local, regional and international guests.
For his part, President of Al-Maaref University, Professor Ali Alaeddine, considered that "human sciences have long provided a great deal of theoretical, cognitive and applied literature in all human and social fields." He addressed the question about the extent that the vast amount of literature and theories of Humanities and other associated social sciences have contributed to making human lives better?” He referred that such a question arises at a time when social, economic, psychological, and moral issues are becoming more critical and demanding, and the quality of individual and social life is declining and degrading to the lowest level. As well, he drew the attention toward the problematic of the “extent that there are real anticipated advantages of the outputs of those disciplines in societies that affiliate to a different cultural, intellectual and spiritual framework than the ones in Western societies.”
Prof Alaeddine emphasized that with this ‘problematic,’ Humanities affects the essence of cultures that ought to be discussed in a context of the dialectical relationship between power and culture, especially in the era of the globalization and all of its exercise of exploitative power formations. We believe that the result of such imbalanced power relationship is cultural heteronomy”.
He continued to shed light on having the universities at the forefront of cultural infiltration of the West by stating that “the colonization of countries and people was not just a military occupation but was also the construction of appropriate tools and methods to infiltrate and permeate cultures. Universities were the cradle or the wide territory for this cultural infiltration by a rubric of imported educational programs, curricula, theories, and paradigms. Here, we are now, living under a hegemonized system reigning over many universities in the Arab and Islamic worlds, and other universities around the world. That brings us back to talk about the intellectual and the cultural dominance in the dialectical relationship between power and power relations (authority)”.
The University President, Prof Alaeddine, made it clear that the drivers of the international conference “is developing a new approach to thinking and behavior that considers the significance of having values dealing effectively with different dimensions of life, activating the ‘innate’ human potentials for acquiring knowledge, achieving the human perfection, and constructing the earthly world as God willed.” Such a new approach obligates Al Maaref University, as hinted by the University President, to undertake the “responsibility through its University Mission of educating students on acquiring a unique framework that combines science and values, inspired by religious and eminent human values.”
For Prof Alaeddine, the goal is “to ‘produce’ (and not ‘reproduce’) science and knowledge across the university’s faculties and majors, especially, in the areas of humanities (including social sciences). It is our responsibility to construct and develop the ‘human beings’ in all their scientific and professional dimensions as well as in their spiritual and ethical attributes. Such a goal is attainable by taking into consideration that human thoughts’ dimensions are built upon the intrinsic unity of human species, away from the exclusionary soul of the materialistic methodology that has dominated the curricula and educational programs in the higher education institutions among the majority of countries of the world.”
Based on the above statements, the University President revealed that the “University has strategic priorities in delivering teaching and education. These priorities translate into 1) establishing synchronization between cultural identity and scientific excellence, and 2) creating a synergetic combination of culturalization, and openness to the contemporary scientific horizon, and the experiences of others.” He reminded the audiences about the organized 2017 international conference with the Lebanese Association for the Advancement of Science (LAAS) entitled "Towards a Culture of Interfaith Dialogue" and considered it as a pathway for the current series of conferences under the title of "Culturalization of Humanities: Perspectives and Experiences.” He is convinced that there “is a need for concerted coordination with intellectuals and experts in the area of culturalization and consolidation of dialogue culture. In result of such coordination, we will be on the right path for building generations characterized by thoughts and behavior that are consistent with the spiritual ethos of their civilization. Those generations would be proud of their roots, respectful of the other, free from any form of domination, and away from the defeated spirits that had inflicted the souls and identities of the East widely, and worldwide. We are keen to contribute to building bolstered pillars for the humankind civilization, away from spreading ignorance and dictatorship, and away from the hegemonic culture of dominance and exploitation of the wealth and capabilities of the nations.”
Finally, Prof Alaeddine thanked “all who helped in preparing for Al Maaref University’s conference, specifically the scientific committee, the administration committee, and all the support committees. Again, I thank you for attending and being part of this conference, and I wish our guests who came from abroad to have a pleasant stay in our beautiful Lebanon. Today, Lebanon is celebrating, along with the rest of the Islamic world, the birth of the Holy Prophet, the Messenger of Mercy and Guidance, Mohammad (SaW). As well, Lebanon is celebrating Independence day in the coming two days, asking Almighty God to protect the Lebanese people, as well as the people of the region and the whole world; and to end up the injustices caused by all arrogant and oppressive regimes so that life can be mastered with knowledge, wisdom, and love.”
Conference Coordinator: “Humanities between Past Experiences and Future Visions.”
In turn, the Conference Coordinator, Professor Talal Atrissi, spoke about the proposed idea of the “Culturalization,” shaping the conference’s aims and outcomes, by addressing concisely six problematics.
Prof. Atrissi pointed out that the first ‘problematic’ is that " the Humanities that we studied in our Arab universities and returned later ourselves to teach them in these universities are all Western-based sciences, whether it was sociology, psychology, education sciences, business administration, economics, politics, or anthropology.” He reminded the audiences that “ We all know that the basis of the statement about the Western influences does not require any special effort to prove it or indicate it.”
Regarding the second ‘problematic’, Prof. Atrissi noted that " given that these disciplines of humanities have originated mostly in the West and have continued in their development over a century, the theoretical legacy of these disciplines, labeled as sciences, has been a group of contradictory and contrasting approaches that have had different contributions in understanding the human and society. These contributions were exposed later, or even in their time of development, to criticism, questioning, and rejection, contrary to what they had of a claim of certainty and authoritative referentiality.” He added that “ with such criticism, it has become clear that we are not facing one exceptional and truthful theory in each of these disciplines, but there is a set of theories in each one of them. Despite having doubts about their status, we kept on counting them as sciences, and on that basis, we dealt with them in our universities.” For Professor Atrissi, facing such difficulties has to do in having the challenge of “shortening one's understanding of the human in a human-made theory. Accordingly, the human case persists within the framework of probabilities and not certainties. At the methodological level, such probability in our understanding of humans means that the doors must be kept open to other theories that in turn can provide their contributions to the understanding of the human and society.”
As for the third ‘problematic’, Prof Atrissi pondered further about the drivers for having a kind of bewilderment, and which the current conference would be facing as well, “is that our and other universities in the world have considered each discipline of these sciences as certainties, if not sacred absolutes that are not determined by time and space.” He provided an example of such case by saying ‘teaching sociology adopts the same certainty approach known in the West in the introduction of theories, anthologies and schools in any Arab university whether in Egypt, Algeria, Lebanon or even in Morocco or Tunisia. The issue is that those universities have not only associated themselves with these theories produced in the context of Western epistemology and social world but also resorted to them to understand the social transformations taking place in the Arab societies!” For him, the outcome of teaching humanities and social sciences in the Arab universities “was limited to the transfer and not the production of sciences. In light of such a context, the so-called crisis of human and social sciences in Arab universities emerged”, and this for him, as well, ended up in having a “crisis expressing the alienation that those sciences have created and have become a case for endless discussions in dozens of seminars and conferences held in Arabic universities in the last decades.”
On the fourth problematic, Prof Atrissi raised a set of critical questions, few of these were “whether the domination of the theories and approaches of the Western Humanities over the university education is because the experience has shown that they are the best in the understanding of human and society? Such as what is happening in medical treatment for some diseases? Are these disciplines or sciences chosen, as logic assumes, or even as the scientific method wants, after comparing and weighing between what the West produced in these fields of studies and their theories and what has been produced by local people and other experiences in the rest of the world?” For Prof Atrissi, the answer for these questions embedded in “that the political, military and linguistic hegemony of the West, and its direct occupation of the lands of the peoples of the world, have made Western theories of humanities and their disciplines dominant. As the West has become the center of the world, its theories, therefore, have become the center of science.”
Prof Atrissi in the fifth ‘problematic’ wondered about the benefits of having the Arab universities taking shelter blindly in those western traditions when there would be clear evidence of having the Western literature in the humanities published decades ago doubting the sacredness of the outcomes of Humanities. “This conclusion is read clearly in a range of books, researches, and studies as well as in those conferences held in Western countries and universities in Europe and America. To name few of these titles: “Crisis of sociology,” “Dilemmas of psychology,” “Problems of Scientificity of Humanities,” “Loss of University’s Identity,” “Soulless University,” “The Coming Crisis of Science,” “The Liberation of the University.” So for him, it would be unfortunate to realize that our university professors in their curricula of humanities have ignored these “trends of critiques taking place in psychology, sociology, pedagogy, etc., and chosen the methodology of “comfort zone” in research and teaching and subsequently continued in being captivated by the Western hegemony in Humanities.” He emphasized that “the problem is not in learning from the experiences of others at all, but rather in transferring their knowledge and blindly follow them, without any critiquing effort that motivates the mind to innovate.”
Minister Al Sarraf: Knowledge Complementarity without Discarding our Identity and Territorial Roots
At the end of the opening ceremony, the Lebanese Minister of Defense, and a member of the Board of Trustees of Al Maaref University, Eng. Yaacoub Al Sarraf delivered a speech in which he stressed the importance of belonging to the land and being rooted in it without falling into the trap of becoming insulated. He endorsed the idea that “ we must open up toward the Humanities produced by the Others and take the best dimensions in them without discarding our identity. What others have provided of Western sciences can be employed in the context of developing our sciences as part of knowledge complementarity.”
After the opening ceremony, the conference was launched, paving the way for its two-day plenary research sessions to embark with the participation of dozens of Arab and international lecturers and researchers and hundreds of interested audience