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Yemeni-German Intercultural Dialogue Project:More History and Less Dialogue
  Written By: Moneer Al-Omari (YEMEN POST STAFF)
  Article Date:
January 19, 2009



Aiming to boost dialogue between the western world and Islamic world, the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany and Sana'a University organized the Yemeni-German Intercultural Project. 

The project organized late last week in collaboration with the Free University of Berlin, and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, sought to bridge the dialogue gap through involving eight Yemeni university students and eight German students.

Themed the Re-approaching Reality Perceptions of the Other between the Western and the Islamic World, the Yemeni-German Intercultural Dialogue Project was initiated by a two-day dialogue in what was known to be Winter Schools and involved 14 Yemeni and German university students.

According to several attendees, the conference did not address the core issue of dialogue and hinted that the different discussions and speeches had focused on the theoretical aspect of dialogue which was devoted partly for the Israeli assault targeting Palestinian civilians in Gaza as well as the Yemeni-German bilateral relations.  

The perception of the cultural, linguistic, and religious aspects is a central component in every society as it provides the sources for the construction of images and notions of other nations in literature, arts, the media, and religious affairs.

The perception of the other is also decisive in terms of defining own identity concepts, the inner cohesion of a society, and cultural change. When it comes to the perception of the other in the relations of "the West" and "the Islamic World" crude prejudices and oversimplifications often prevail.

Moreover, the German-Yemeni Dialogue Conference addresses this sensitive, yet important issue by having a number of seminars in which German and Yemeni students and researchers discuss the topic academically by focusing on selected issues. The conference's presentations and discussions aim at a sensitization of the underlying problems and patterns and indicate appropriate methods of resolution.

Israel's constant assaults and massacres in Gaza overwhelmed the conference sessions held after the two-day dialogue.

President Saleh's advisor on Political Affairs and Former Prime Minister Abdul Karim Al-Eryani launched the conference in which he touched upon several topics including a brief history on Yemeni-German bilateral relations.

Al-Eryani also noted that the conference marks the 40th anniversary for the relations dating back to 1969, hinting that this was the first move to open each country before the other. He further mentioned that dialogue, in its human meaning, is politically motivated.

Hailing the stances of Germany towards the different Arab issues, he also denounced the massacres in Gaza and referred to Israelis as new Nazis, stressing that he could not understand the attitudes of foreign countries, particularly America, towards the Israeli assaults targeting Palestinians in Gaza Strip.

"We know one another nowadays better than we did in the past; however, the understanding and communication doors were shut after Britain gave Zionists the right to Palestine (Belfour Promise)," stated Al-Eryani.

For his part, Sana'a University Rector Khalid Tamim emphasized the importance of dialogue between people across cultures, deeming dialogue to be a key element for peace and mutual understanding together with removing the barriers.

Opening the conference, Al-Eryani admitted that Arab and Islamic nations are less responsive and more fanatic because of the injustice they feel against them, and the different political events which are motivated by the Black Tuesday of September 11 events. But he called on people in Arab, Islamic and foreign countries to do away with extremism and fanaticism.

Though he sees that Israel has the right to exist, German Federal Parliament Member Walter Kolbow described Gaza events to be catastrophic and pointed out that Israeli army has no right to kill the citizens in Gaza.

Kolbow called for making and exchanging visits between officials and individuals between Arab world and foreign world so that each party knows a lot about the other.

He also stressed the importance that the Yemeni opposition represented by Joint Meeting Parties to take part in the forthcoming parliamentary elections to strike a balance, maintaining that the Yemeni parliament could be more powerful in the future.

The German Ambassador to Yemen Michael Klor-Berchtold, though he devoted a greater part for speaking about the fall of Berlin Wall and German Unity, assured that ignorance triggers off conflict and called for giving it up.

Sana'a University's History Professor Mahmoud Al-Shu'abi also referred to the Yemeni unity and the deep-rootedness of Yemeni-German relations which dates back, according to him, to the Othmani era (1906). He also cited some contributions of Germany in development projects. Al-Shu'abi reminded the participants of Germany's stance of succession during the civil war of 1994.

Sana'a University Professor Ahmed Al-Dughshi mentioned the different principles for regulating the relations with the other in Islam and cited different Quranic verses and prophetic sayings.