Overlap of cultures

March 22, 2012 by J-Wire Staff
Read on for article

Australia’s new Foreign Minister, Senator Bob Carr, has advocated helping “the overlap of cultures” in his maiden speech, citing a 10th century caliph who had a Jewish foreign minister.

Senator Bob Carr

In his speech in parliament yesterday, Senator Carr said: “I want to address another global challenge. One month ago, US soldiers burnt copies of the Koran at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. Days later, young people destroyed 238 war graves in Benghazi, Libya. Whether intentional insult or error of judgment, such acts can look like cultures at war. Senators may recall the sense of cultures being at war that was felt on hearing reports of the terrible dynamiting by the Taliban of the Buddhas of Bamiyan—those statues carved in stone 15 centuries ago. At such times, people might subscribe to the notion that we are being tugged toward the nightmare that the American writer Samuel Huntington predicted in his 1996 book the The Clash of Civilisations and the Remaking of World Order. I remember King Abdullah of Jordan saying at a Davos conference in 2004:

Let us avert the clash of civilisations, and help the overlap of cultures.

I think those were eloquent words. That notion of an overlap of cultures, I think, is inspiring, especially compared to the alternative notion of monochrome monoliths destroying one another’s statuary, smashing one another’s grave sites and burning one another’s books.

There have been in the world’s history some marvellous cultures of tolerance, and we should dwell on them. In southern Spain, in medieval times, Moslems, Christians and Jews lived and worked together in the polity known as al-Andalus. Andalusia, of course, springs from that Arabic noun. One of the caliphs, Abd-a-Rahman III, who ruled between 912 and 961—his name has probably not been spoken in this Senate chamber for many years—appointed a devout Jewish scholar, Hasdai ibn Shaprut, as his foreign minister. Why recall this all these centuries later? Simply because of the symbolism. Here was a Moslem ruler who appointed a Jew as his foreign minister. It is what King Abdullah must have had in mind: an overlap of cultures.

In that civilisation, al-Andalus, while Christian Europe’s libraries were small, the caliph’s library at Cordoba reportedly burst with 400,000 volumes. Jews in this civilisation had their sacred writings translated into Arabic, because they liked the sinuosity of the language. As Maria Rosa Menocal wrote in The Ornament of the World—a beautiful book that I commend to the Senate—this was a society that had the courage to ‘live with its own flagrant contradictions’.


3 Responses to “Overlap of cultures”
  1. Rami says:

    Very well said!

  2. Otto Waldmann says:

    Watch this space. Bob “Blunders” Carr shall trip upon so many self made blunders that he will eother remove himself from Foreign Affairs or be forced to.
    Bob Carr approaches politics with the hyper confidence of a transcendent political intuition, superior understanding and unique mode of operation so distinct from theknown protocols that shall leave observers confused at first followed by dismissal.
    Read again his maiden speach and what becomes at once obvious is that Bob Carr avoids the REAL issues, the actual specific levels of non reconciliation and those of necessary eradication to which Carr suggests a messianic type of ethical utopia completely non-operational at the political praxis stages.
    His “ideological”presentation has NOTHING to do with the hands-on foreign affairs realities. It was aspeach best preserved for a Sunday church sermon or youth friendship convention ( age allowance 9-15 ).
    To put it bluntly, what we need now, 21st century, is addressing the overwhelming Arab/islamic hostility to all things Jewish. Iberian muslim -Jewish co-existence over 500 years ago is incredibly irrelevant to today’s imperatives.

Speak Your Mind

Comments received without a full name will not be considered
Email addresses are NEVER published! All comments are moderated. J-Wire will publish considered comments by people who provide a real name and email address. Comments that are abusive, rude, defamatory or which contain offensive language will not be published

    Rules on posting comments