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Friday, 10 February 2006
?Culture, Civilization & Humanity?
. from the Pen of Tarek Heggy

Tarek Heggy, a renowned International Scholar brings a unique voice on MidEastern Issues.

I recently recieved this email from his office.

"To the recipients of Tarek Heggy’s articles, lectures and speeches.

Tarek Heggy gave, earlier t`is month, two lectures at the 38th Cairo International Book Fair. The first was on 21st January on the impact of the political and economic facets of globalization on Cultures. The second (1st February) was on his writings in English. The attached document is an extract from the second lecture.

N.B.: I shall forward to you soon Mr. Heggy’s article on the Islamic world reaction to the Danish cartoons. It is probably the only piece in Arabic that condemns the reaction with no single sympathy or justification. "

A complete word doc with images
___ The Archives of Tarek Heggy


This year, it was the first time that Egypt’s Minister of Culture to invite me at the 38th Cairo International Book Fair. During my second lecture (in which I covered ten subjects) one of the topics I touched upon was a comment on the title of my book “Culture, Civilization & Humanity”. The following is the English translation of what I improvised in Arabic concerning this particular point (Culture, Civilization & Humanity).


From Tarek Heggy’s lecture
At the Cairo Book Fair on
1st February, 2006.

The core idea of this presentation i.e. the relationship between Cultures, Civilizations & Humanity:

(1) At the bottom I put “Cultures”. And that is exactly where they should be. They are the foundations on which civilizations are built. But what is a culture? A culture is hard to define, but it involves social norms, taboos, literature, religion, expressive arts, folklore and the way people live. In my book that had the same title of this lecture, I explained that the great Muslim Andalusian Civilization was based on the proper interaction between Islamic and Judaic thinking with Aristotelian philosophy. Three different cultures that complemented each other or collided like sub-atomic particles do, not knowing that their quarrels will form atoms and release energy... The result was a great Civilization. But then came the Al Moawahed Dynasty from North Africa. Ibn Rush (Averoess) was (morally) persecuted for his views, and the Jews for being Jews. Two legs of the tripod that produced the glorious Muslim Civilization of the Iberian Peninsula, were knocked out. Civilization soon found itself limping in the once glorious Muslim Spain. Unfortunately, the problem with a limping Civilization is that; for fear of falling it can only look back. Progress is thus seen as dangerous. The result: Civilization arrest.

The same phenomenon was seen with the Copts who built a great culture on which a great Civilization could have been built (they could not build their own civilization since they were a subject Nation). But that cultural ascendance faltered after 451 AD, when the Copts repudiated a Byzantine religious dogma after the Chalcedon council of 451 AD. The tragedy is that they also proceeded to divorce themselves from all forms of secular Greek thinking. Moreover instead of being opened to Judaic culture (I am thinking not only of Philo, but of all the Rabbinic wisdom of Judaic Alexandria), the Copts became anti-Semitic “activists”. As a result the Universalism of the School of Alexandria could not and did not survive, and the School of Alexandria closed its doors, after fanatic Copts murdered Hypathia, the last woman philosopher.

Thus after institutionalization of anti-Semitism, the lynching of Hypathia in415 AD and the tragedy of Chalcedon in 451, Coptic Civilization was deprived of the Judaic and Hellenic limbs of its cultural tripods. Coptic civilization did not limp, it did worse: It closed itself in! The result: Civilization arrest.

(2) Civilization therefore is built on the proper use of superior cultures. But again what in the world is Civilization? The term itself seems to have its root in civics for a city citizen. That is why civilization is essentially urban, and comes to mean today a situation of urban comfort in which people experience refinement of thought and manners. But I prefer to call it an ideal for all citizens to live in a society that offers peace, prosperity, freedom of expression, freedom to worship, freedom to think, equal rights, as well as high cultural and technologic development.

But there is more to civilization than that. For example a society that does not offer good medical care, proper amenities, hygienic rules, cleanliness or discipline; may fall so low on the scale of civilization that it may be called uncivilized.

Kenneth Clark wrote a whole book (which he called “CIVILIZATION”) to answer the question of what is Civilization, but failed to give it a definitive answer. That is why we are free in some degree to define Civilization. That is also why we need to follow Voltaire’s advice, and define what it is before we discuss it. I have defined Civilization by describing its roots, and built a powerful argument that cannot reverse my symbolic pyramid because I crowned it with man (Humanity). And that was a logical way to define the indefinable.

(3) At the top I put HUMANITY i.e. MAN. That makes sense, especially if one espouse the view that man has been made steward of Creation who participate in the ongoing evolution of the world. But even without accepting that view, cultures come from man, and civilizations are built (or destroyed) for men and by men.


Posted by ky/kentuckydan at 7:08 AM CST
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Updated: Friday, 10 February 2006 9:18 AM CST

Saturday, 11 February 2006 - 8:33 PM CST

Name: The City Troll

This guy is going to wind up with a Fatwah calling for his death

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