UAE: Cultural engagement can end hate, bridge gaps, say Sheikh Zayed Book Award winners

The book award has been organised by the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre (ALC), part of the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi


Ashwani Kumar

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Winners of Sheikh Zayed Book Award. KT Photos: Ashwani
Winners of Sheikh Zayed Book Award. KT Photos: Ashwani

Published: Tue 30 Apr 2024, 4:34 PM

Last updated: Tue 30 Apr 2024, 10:28 PM

Cultural discourse can be a tool to end division and hatred, and unite mankind, winners of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award told Khaleej Times while referring to the conflicts happening worldwide, including those in Palestine and Ukraine.

“These are not happy times for receiving prizes like this. But we have the hope that cultural engagement, particularly between the West and the Islamic world can improve the situation, if only slowly,” said Frank Griffel, who won in the ‘Arab culture in other languages’ category for his book ‘The Formation of Post-Classical Philosophy in Islam’.

“We want to improve the discourse. We want to develop the discourse. We want to have closer cooperation in the world. I think books can bring people together; book prizes, like this one, can improve that. And if we managed to do that, slowly, we might lead to a better world.”

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Griffel is a professor of Islamic studies at Yale University, in the US, and noted that the Book Award is an important vehicle to lift the level of discourse in Arabic literature.

“The books that have won are excellent examples of what the Prize wants to achieve, namely, increase the level of engagement with Arabic culture.”

Griffel’s work is a study of the history of philosophy in the Islamic world.

“I tried to show how philosophy continued in Islam after the 12th century, whereas there is an opinion that it ended. I tried to disprove and also analyse how it developed after the 12th century.”

Expulsion of minorities not a solution

Dr Houssem Eddine Chachia, a historian from Tunisia, underscored the need to promote values of tolerance and acceptance among people. He won the ‘Young Author’ category for his work ‘Al Mashhad al-Moriski: Sardiyat al-Tard fi al-Fikr al-Espani’ (The Morisco Landscape Narratives of Expulsion in Modern Spanish Thought).

Dr Chachia’s work highlights the plight of Spain’s Muslim population referred to as Morisco, who were forced to convert to Christianity in the 15th and 16th centuries. After the fall of the Islamic kingdom of Granada in 1492, about 3 million Muslims left or were expelled from Spain till 1610.

“And from the beginning of the 16th century, they were forced to be Christians.”

Dr Chachia, an academic specialising in modern history at Tunis University, noted that the atrocities faced by Morisco are similar to incidents happening across several places in the world, including Palestine.

“There is a lot of similarity between what happened with the Moriscos, and now in Palestine. The Moriscos were different by culture or religion, and the Spanish majority didn’t accept this difference. The story of the Moriscos shows how intolerance and expulsion of minorities are not the solution. It shouldn’t be seen as a solution. We should promote tolerance and speak together,” Dr Chachia said.

He stressed that the message of his book is to show how intolerance and the expulsion of minorities are not a solution.

Dr Houssem Eddine Chachia
Dr Houssem Eddine Chachia

“The expulsion of the ‘other’, the minority, the different, is not the solution. We should accept others. We, as authors, are trying to give examples from history to people today to see what happened. Through such work, things will change slowly. Let’s hope.”

The book award has been organised by the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre (ALC), part of the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi).

Other winners

Literature category: Reem Bassiouney for her novel Al Halwani...Thulathiyat al-Fatimiyeen (Al Halwani: The Fatimid Trilogy)

Editing of Arabic manuscripts category: Dr Mustafa Said from Egypt for his study titled Safinat al-Mulk wa-Nafisat al-Fulk (Shehab al-Din) al-Muwashah wa-Musiqa al-Maqam al-Natiqa bil-Arabiya bayn al-Tantheer wal-Maras (The Ship of Possession and the Precious Ship (Shehab al-Din) - Muwashah and Arabic-speaking Maqam Music between Theory and Practice).

Contribution to the Development of Nations category: Dr Khalifa Alromaithi from the UAE for his book Al-Asmaa’ al-Jughrafiya – Thakirat Ajyal (Geographical Names – Legacy of Generations).

Translation category: Dr Ahmed Somai from Tunisia for his translation from Italian into Arabic of Al-Ilm al-Jadeed (La Scienza Nuova – The New Science).


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