By Nawab Khan
BRUSSELS, Dec 7 (KUNA) -- A highly-respected Ambassador and a renwoned Dutch Orientalist, both based in Brussels, Belgium, have praised and lauded the Dar Al Athar al Islamiyyah of Kuwait for its important role in promoting global peace and understanding.
Ismat Jahan a career diplomat from Bangladesh is presently serving as the Permanent Observer of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to the European Union, and Johannes den Heijer Emeritus Professor of Arabic Studies at the Catholic University of Louvain (Louvain-la-Neuve) in Belgium, were recently invited by the Dar al-Islamiyyah to address its 27th cultural season.
"It was a big honour to be included among the invitees. It is a very important initiative that they are bringing in scholars from all over the world to speak on role of cultural diplomacy and other relevant issues in promoting peaceful coexistence," Den Heijer a former President of the Oriental Institute of Louvain told the Kuwait news agency KUNA, in an interview.
"It is very interesting to see that Dar Al Athar Al Islamiyyah gives an opportunity to scholars like myself to interact with people who have a different background like calligraphers and musicians which is a very interesting experience," said the Dutch scholar who had traveled widely in the Arab and Muslim world but visited Kuwait for the first time.
"Learning about other peoples culture and civilisations is crucial in trying to overcome these boundaries that lead to conflicts. So such initiatives by Dar Al Al Athar are extremely important," said Den Heijer who also has taught Arabic language and culture at various institutions in Europe for over four decades.
"The audience was quite a mix of Kuwaiti people of various ages, very young to quite old and also expatriates. A country like Kuwait has a lot of expatriates including in the cultural sector and in the universities," he noted.
Johannes den Heijer also served as Director of the Netherlands-Flemish Institute in Cairo from 1995 to 2003.
He spoke on the topic "the impact of language and Script in the Arab World and Beyond" at the cultural season organised by the Dar Al Athar end of October.
From the point of view of linguistic, ethnic, religious and cultural diversity and transformation, Arab culture developed into one of the great civilizations this world has known, he noted.
On her part, Ismat Jahan told KUNA that the museum and the protection of the Islamic art and heritage in the Dar Al Athar Al Islamiyyah "is very impressive and for me it was a big learning experience." Ismat, who also served as Bangladesh's ambassador to Belgium and the EU, praised the director general of Dar Al-Athar Al-Islamiyyah, Sheikha Hussa Sabah Al-Salem al-Sabah, for her "untiring devotion, her deep interest and insight" in promoting Islamic culture globally.
"Sheikha Hussa was present in both the lectures and also in other meetings which show her deep interest and insight. It was wonderful," said Ismat Jahan.
She noted that the event was "extremely well organised and very professional." The widely-experienced diplomat made her presentation on the topic "Cultural Diplomacy as a Means to Foster Global Peace and Peaceful Coexistence between Communities." Cultural diplomacy as a major component of a country's broader public diplomacy has been significant since the emergence of modern nation states. Over the years, cultural diplomacy has gained recognition as "soft power," she explained.
Cultural diplomacy also has an important role in the projection of shared heritage and collective identity connected to religion, ethnicity, tradition, as well as in some cases to joint political affiliations or positions held by a group or groupings.
Such an understanding of cultural diplomacy is sustained not only by groups of countries but also promoted by international organisations such as the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
She added that the OIC since its inception in 1969 has consistently voiced its support for interreligious and intercultural dialogue for the promotion of cultural pluralism, mutual understanding between world faiths and respect for diversity.
Finally, both speakers stressed the vast knowledge and high degree of professionalism of Sheikha Hussa and all staff at DAI and other institutions they visited during their visit to Kuwait. (end) nk