Sheikh Zayed Book Award, held a seminar on “Indo-Arab Cultural Relations”, as part of the Award’s participation in the London Book Fair. The seminar was chaired by Dr Ali Al-Noaimi, member of Sheikh Zayed Book Award advisory council. The main speakers were Professor Abdallah Al-Madani, the Indo-Arab relations’ expert, and Professor Zikrur Rahman, Director of the Indian Arab Cultural Centre in New Delhi. Also present were a number of ambassadors, diplomats, and intellectuals.
Dr Ali Al-Noaimi stressed the Award’s role in disseminating Arab literature globally and encouraging cultural dialogue. He added that this seminar is a model for cultural dialogue between Indian and Arab cultures, whose roots are historically linked together. Dr. Noaimi emphasized the importance of these event saying: “ Such global cultural events- the most prominent of which is the London Book Fair – allow Sheikh Zayed Award to present itself to the world and open cultural dialogue between its peoples … this is what we aim to achieve in this seminar”
Professor Abdallah Al-Madani stressed the importance of the deeply rooted Indo-Arab socio-cultural relations, which date back to pre Islamic times. These long-lasting ties included trade, culture, and even social mixing among the peoples of the two regions. Professor Al-Madani added: “The Abbasid era of the Islamic civilization represents the golden age of Indo-Arab relations, which witnessed the wide scale translations of Indian literature, philosophy, mathematics, medicine and astronomy.
Professor Al-Madani continued saying: “Indo-Arab relations remained prominent until modern times, where India continued to be one of the most important sources of commercial products for the Arabian Gulf before the discovery of oil. This active trading led to the revival of cultural communication between India and the Arabian Gulf, which in turn resulted in exchange of experiences, Labor and marriage. In the cultural sphere, Professor Al-Madani stressed the role India had in introducing the book and printing industry to the Arab Gulf, as seen in Indian printing presses that printed the first Gulf newspapers in Bahrain.
Professor Zikrur Rahman focused on the literary history between India and the Arab world, especially in the writing and literature fields. He stressed that literary exchange between the two cultures was stronger from the Arab side, as manifested in many Indian translations of the works of Arab writers and scholars, such as Al Razi, Ibn Sina and Jubran Khalil Jubran, and which was well received by the Indian society. This in turn provides an opportunity for the translation and dissemination of many Indian literary works in the Arab world. Professor Rahman added: ” Arab-Indian communication was not confined to literary and creative exchange, but surpassed it to spreading religious thought and enlightenment in India, which resulted primarily from the translated works of Arab scholars and thinkers such as Jamal Edeen Al-Afghani, Muhammad Abduh,” Professor Rahman concluded with a comment on the continuing Indian role in Arab society, by mentioning the impact of the Indian cinema industry on Arab imagination and creativity, and how it was able to overcome the language barrier and reach a wide Arab and Gulf viewership, and touch similar social issues in the Arab community contrary to what is being offered by the world’s largest film industry in Hollywood.
Commenting on the seminar, Mr. Rashed Saleh Al Oraimi, Secretary General of Sheikh Zayed Book Award, said “through its participation in the London Book Fair, the Award aims at reviewing its noble goals, activities and what it offered during the past years through its role as a mediator between the Arab and literature of other societies.”
The London International Book Fair was held from 20 to 22 April, 2009. It hosted India as guest of honor for this year.
About the Speakers:
Professor Abdallah Al-Madani
Holds a Bachelor degree in economics from Beirut, and Master degree in international relations and strategies from Boston University in USA, as well s two diplomas specialized in the affairs of the Indian subcontinent and southeast Asian affairs from the same university. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from Exeter University in the UK. He participated in dozens of conferences, seminars and workshops on dialogue between civilizations and development issues, security and peace, Asian affairs, Gulf relations with Asia, inside and outside the Gulf area. He is a visiting lecturer in a number of universities of the Gulf States, and has published many studies and research in English, which discuss the Asian impact on Arab civilization and the role of India in the Arab- Indian cultural communication.
Professor Zikrur Rahman
Presently he is the Director of the Indian Arab Cultural Centre in New Delhi. He has held many high ranking positions and represented India as and ambassador in several Arab countries. He has many writings in Indian literature and is currently working on a huge project to translate the most important literary works of Indian writers into Arabic. He holds a Bachelor degree in political science and English literature and a Master degree in Arabic language and literature from the University of Delhi