By Abdelhak Azzouzi
CAIRO, Feb. 4 (see)-Whenever I visited the French city of Toulouse (the city where I discussed my doctorate and pursued part of my graduate studies in strategic, international relations and political science) or any other European city, I go to the city’s libraries and university treasury.
The more I visit these libraries, the more I become convinced that Westerners are writing on daily basis and the international publishing houses do publish books every day. On top of that, the Western man, from the intellectual to the ordinary man, reads, and this is his habit. He does reading at home and at work while having a rest. However, in public transport, If you listen to any noise, you will find it coming from people of Arab origin, and even on the way, this is a fact that no one can ignore.
Due to this reading habit, the West was able to instill the foundations of science, culture and advanced scientific research in the hearts and minds of its citizens. Despite the crisis of global reading, it institutionalized various blocks of knowledge
I was in the Ombres Blanches library in Toulouse and started browsing books about international relations, political science, economics, history, and religions. Suddenly, two women stood in front of me and began searching books on Islam. Because of the color of my black hair and the quality of my suit, they asked me about a book I should recommend to them about Islam as a reference for their young students in primary school. This is because it has been imposed on them, as I learned, to teach a book about Islam, another on Judaism, and another on Christianity. I began to pose to myself a number of questions. First, because the concerned persons are teachers as well as students; whatever lesson they give to the young students in this age will remain firmly in their minds till the last day.
Secondly, all the writings of Westerners about Islam are full of misconceptions. Thirdly, the great catastrophe, is that Muslims who author books on Islam are not perfect in the language of Molière or Shakespeare. Only few Muslim authors do write perfectly.
Thank God, as I was standing in the hallway, I came across a book written by one of my best Maghreb colleagues, Mustapha Chérif, an Algerian philosopher and academic who wrote much about the Alliance of Civilizations and Cultural Diversity and about Islam in French, and another booklet for a French orientalist Jacques Bercque, entitled “Relecture du Coran”.
Although the two books are objective, positive and enlightened, especially the book of Professor Cherif, however it can’t provide much information needed by the two teachers or their young students since the students may need, at this age, a book written by Chateaubriand in the 18th century about “le génie du Christianisme” (The Genius of Christianity) written in a literary style that is very attractive. Therefore, it is placed in the category of accredited literature books that are being taught as well as the religious books on Christianity, but if the French lexicons are scanned, it does not explain French words, but often explain particular sentences quoted in this book which feeds the required meaning,
Then, do not be surprised if you find this book still exists and sold in thousands and read by everyone, ranging from the head of state to students in schools. This is what we are in need of, if we are to display a true and brilliant image of Islam: a book in French and English that explains Islam by its literal meaning. This methodology narrates facts, history and gives examples and describes tolerance, moderation and is in line with the requirements of the “cultural market”.
Today, those who write about Islam in the West, are either Westerners or Muslims living in Western societies, and follow steps of their colleagues. Over time, they turn to people who reject their original communities. This is what we can call the “intellectual complex” or dualism among those intellectuals wavering between faith and disbelief. They will turn into characters that are incompatible with the original societies and face into a personal crisis.
While I visited on Saturday morning the Arsenal ward of the Université des Sciences Sociales in Toulouse, (where researchers and students are few at this time), an African student who will complete his doctorate at the university, and whom I taught at the University of Fez, approached me. He told me he had sticked to what I used to advise all my students at the beginning of each university season: “Alway go frequentlty to libraries”.
I believe that a change is possible, through reading, in our Arab world, and we: teachers, academics and parents, must impact positively on the minds of our young students.