Moroccan philosopher says cultural communication prevents war

Moroccan philosopher says cultural communication prevents war

TOKYO, Oct. 16 Kyodo

Visiting Moroccan philosopher Mahdi Elmandjra, a professor at Mohamed V University in Rabat, said Thursday he sees the war on Iraq as the second ”civilizational” war and that the fate of the Iraqi people is not only at stake, but that of all humankind.

Elmandjra speaks of reasons for his beliefs in an interview with Kyodo News during his eight-day visit from last Friday to Japan where he was invited to lecture at a university in Tokyo.

The situation in Iraq cannot be analyzed unless examined as a part of a major mutation of the international system which started with the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the 1991 aggression against Iraq, Elmandjra said.

”I call (the 1991 war) the first civilizational war because what was at stake was not oil (but) a system of values,” Elmandjra said, calling it an attempt to impose Judeo-Christian values led by the United States.

In 1990, he said he predicted the outbreak of the Persian Gulf War earlier than anyone else.

”(I predicted it) because, in August 1990, (then U.S. President George) Bush issued a statement saying, ‘We will not allow anybody to upset our value systems or to upset our style of life’ and when you say words like that, you know that people will go to war for values,” Elmandjra said.

He said such statements encouraged Americans to collapse all Muslims under one label, ”the terrorist,” and to categorize them as one entity existing under their state leaders.

Calling it reductionism, he cautioned that entire countries, cultures and civilization are completely lost, threatening international relations. Such reductionism is done purposefully to justify military aggression, he added.

On the United Nations, where he served in various positions between 1961-1981 including assistant director general of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, he did not hesitate to express his disappointment.

”The U.N. does not exist any more. It has been completely discredited,” as it was not even a factor in the decision to start a war, and once the war was over, the member countries come back to legitimize their actions, he said. ”The United Nation is dead.”

Calling the situation in Iraq a ”total humiliation of the people,” Elmandjra said innocent people including children are killed in bombings while women are raped under the name of the fight against terrorism.

The world sees very little of such destruction or the mistreatment of the Iraqis, and only sees what is happening to the petroleum in the country, he said.

But the crisis is not really about what is happening to the Iraqi people, but to humankind as a whole, he said. ”It means all of our referential civilization and evolution in terms of democracy, in terms of progress, in terms of legitimacy…of the respect of human creativity, all of this is…thrown away.”

”What we have to fear is a kind of anger, a kind of wound that festers,” and such wounds do not easily heal, the Moroccan philosopher said.

The children who see such destruction will grow up and pay the price, he said, adding that is what is happening in the Palestine region, Chechnya and Bosnia, and a future built on such anger will require more militarism.

He is also critical of Japan’s recent decision to grant $1.5 billion in 2004 for the reconstruction of Iraq. ”I’ve been against all kinds of aid. It reduces capacity to react to dangers…like poverty. You have to find the way from within to fight.”

The image of Japan to the people of Iraq has been ”50% damaged already” by Tokyo’s decision to join the coalition with the U.S. and will be more damaged if it sends Self-Defense Forces troops to Iraq, he added.

The only way to prevent cultural conflicts or clashes of value systems — the causes of war — is ”cultural communication,” Elmandjra said. ”We need people to communicate, to respect each other’s systems and cultural diversity…(the international community) has no choice but to survive together.”

Though the U.S. now seems paranoid of different cultures, its tradition of democracy — the source of its history — and the younger generation, which seems to be inclined to support the antiglobalism movement, are weapons to fight such paranoia, said Elmandjra, who studied in the U.S. for 10 years.

Elmandjra himself is making efforts to promote such communications through a fund he set up to honor people working to bring different cultures together, he said.

Although the odds are daunting, Elmandjra said he is optimistic and a believer in the power of will.

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