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Towards An Arab Cultural Spring!

By Dr Salim Nazzal

30 July, 2013

In the middle of events taking place in Arab countries, the question about the role of Intellectuals are increasing in light of the danger of the advancing religious ideologies, which dominate a good deal of the current Arab view.

Many think that the declining role of Arab intellectuals to influence events is much earlier than the events of the Arab Spring. It has even been said that the Arab Spring is being achieved without intellectual role. In other words, there was no effective role for intellectuals who usually play a leading role in producing thought and clearing the road. According to this point of view, which comes mostly from the left wing, the domination of the religious trend on the uprising started with a call for freedom and democracy support their view about the absence of the enlightening intellectual’s role?

Historically speaking, Arab intellectuals played a major role in the Arab Renaissance in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries towards revival and modernity .This revival did not lead to concrete results at the level of political change, but it played a role that cannot be denied on the level of raising the public awareness about important issues such as the question home country and identity, freedom, justice, and women's rights, etc..

The intellectual debates of that period on the pages of newspapers of Egypt, through the writings of Shipley Chemayel, Rashid Rida and Farah Anton etc., were pluralist in its discourse, aimed to open the horizons of thought after about one thousand years of stagnation.

There is no doubt that the reality of communications has changed today. It has become easier to spread an idea in no time thanks to modern communication. Yet the important issue in this regards is the need of a vision or strategy for intensifying the role of enlightenment intellectuals in the face of political religious thought, which benefited from the frustrations of people under the despotic regimes and presents themselves as the actual Savior.

There is no doubt that it is not that easy. In the war of ideas that we are witnessing the enlighten intellectuals need to stand at the front rows for the defense of culture and Arab countries its integrity has become under threat.

It is hard to imagine the possibility of the fulfillment of the Arab spring without structural changes in the culture, which is the environment of the religious and pre modern thinking ..

This change is an inevitable for the success of the political and social spring. Otherwise we will be witnessing more brutal and senseless violence without any politically rational horizon, which makes of the Arab countries a grand Afghanistan.
This conflict requires considerable effort and painstaking work especially in the field of raising the awareness. It's a long and bitter battle and may require a generation and perhaps more. And a battle must be joined by both the written press and radio TVs, in order to stop the advance of religious extremism thought.

Dr. Salim Nazzal, a Palestinian-Norwegian historian on the Middle East, He has written extensively on social and political issues in the region.





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