April 15, 2002 issue. This file presents an archive copy of the issue of the FYI France ejournal, ISSN 1071-5916, which was distributed via email on April 15, 2002.
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For all of us with new - found, or rediscovered, interests in the Middle East and Islam and the Arab world, the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris has a wonderfully - useful W3 site.
The utility of the site is at least dual: you can read fascinating material about all of this, and you can read about it in French. In addition there is a French approach, to the Middle East and its many possibilities and problems, which is very rarely heard in all the sound and fury emanating from the US news media recently -- la différence française, again, for a geopolitical issue on which they really are very different. For those of us who truly believe that "Everything has Changed", since September 11 last year, as well as for those of us who truly don't, a tour through a foreign take on fundamental aspects of the problem can offer revelatory balance.
The Institut du Monde Arabe site offers several major resources, at,
-- among these,
A photo - tour through the Institute's remarkable Left Bank buildings, with their glass and steel, and sunken patio, and "tour des livres" -- "en marbre blanc. Sa forme hélicoïdale rapelle les minarets des anciennes mosquées" -- and the famous "diaphragmes" -- "La façade sud reprend les thèmes historiques de la géométrie arabe dans la conception des 240 moucharabiehs qui la composent. Ces diaphragmes s'ouvrent et se ferment à chaque changement d'heure."
An outstanding introduction to the history of the Arab world -- first stop, for both anyone unfamiliar with the area and anyone desiring a quick and easy online review "in these troubled times" -- the beautifully - illustrated presentation is divided in two:
Vous avez dit Arabe ?
-- the crucial distinction: what is "Arab" / what is "Islam"?
Les plus anciens témoignages
-- "Saracens (in Greek Sarakênoi, in Latin Saraceni)... people who live in a tent (in Greek, Skênê)..."
La question de la langue
-- expressed in the elegant French of the site,
"Cette langue qu'on 'lit des yeux' comme on reconnaît des signes, des idéogrammes, est une langue de la répétition, de l'intériorité, du souffle de l'évocation : un mot renvoie par sa racine à tout un univers de sens."
-- fans of Milman Parry and Homeric epic take note -- also those of us interested in the "orality" of rap music and MTV... and of the Internet...
Arabia before the 7th Century
De la mer au désert
Nomades, sédentaires, citadins
Organisation sociale et valeurs
Les forces en présence
The Emergence of Islam
Muhammad, homme et prophète
Le message coranique
Les cinq piliers
The Expansion of Islam
La question de la succession
Chiites et sunnites
Les écoles juridiques
Les grandes dynasties
Arabisation et Islamisation
Parlez - vous l'arabe sans le savoir !?
De Bagdad à Cordoue
La littérature et la poésie
Mathématiques et astronomie
Physique et chimie
The Confrontation with Europe
The Ottoman Empire
From Reform to Independance
Réformisme et intégrisme Islamiques
Panarabisme et socialisme
A Changing World
The Arab World in Statistics
[As only one of many examples, which might be gleaned from this W3 site, of la différence française with regard to their view of the current Middle East situation, the Institut du Monde Arabe lists "Palestine" among the various "pays" of the Arab World --
Nom officiel :
Autorité nationale palestinienne
Chef de l'Etat :
Yasser Arafat (Président de l'Autorité nationale palestinienne, chef de l'OLP)
Jéricho (siège provisoire de l'Autorité nationale palestinienne), L'Autorité palestinienne revendique Al - Qods (Jérusalem est) comme capitale du futur Etat Palestinien (1993) 567 100 hab., dont 155 000 Palestiniens
Palestine historique 27 009 Km2
Cisjordanie 5 879 Km2
Gaza 378 Km2, dont 42 Km2 occupés par des implantations israéliennes...
-- in significant contrast to the CIA World Factbook for 2001,
in which no such "Palestine" entry is to be found. The Institut du Monde Arabe is a "fondation de droit français", which leaves its affiliation or lack thereof with official French governmental policy undefined -- perhaps there is none, perhaps there is some -- they are "un lieu de culture fruit d'un partenariat entre la France et vingt - deux pays arabes", they say.]
The bibliothèque of the Institut has mounted extensive and extremely - useful bibliographies online:
"Getting to know Islam better"
"Several Translations of the Koran"
"The Contribution of Islam: contacts and influences"
"The Dialog of Islam with Other Religions"
"Islam in the World"
plus materials on the Arab World for children --
and in Paris, at the Institut, on the rue des Fossés - Saint - Bernard 5eme, a full schedule of events and activities for both adults and children, plus access to library book, photograph, film, music, and Arab television collections, all are offered.
At least two civilizations are bleeding themselves to death in the desert, in the Middle East this month, again. It would be useful if all of us were to look at both, very closely, and from as many angles as possible, before any of us begins to advocate the inevitably - simplistic solutions which will be imposed on that terrible situation.
That was one of the problems in Afghanistan -- nobody could find it on a map. At least, in the Middle East case, the map is well - known. But that sometimes can pose an even worse problem: of mistaken assumptions, and preconceived notions, and partial understandings based on rumor and bias and the darker ghosts of our own histories -- a little knowledge can be a thing as terrible as no knowledge at all.
So the Institut du Monde Arabe W3 site offers correction: if not of the politics involved -- which may not be corrected, by anything, until several generations of both peace and justice have passed in the region -- at least of our own ignorance of the depths and complexities of the people involved, on all sides. There are Monophysite Christian Arabs, and Baptist - Anglican Arabs, and Jews are protesting Israeli policies in the San Francisco streets this week... Hindu Indians live in Beirut...
And the Institut W3 site offers all this in French, in a very attractive online presentation, and using an "aesthetic" approach -- for which the French are justifiably famous -- a view notably absent in the "soundbyte and immediacy" newsmedia reportage currently informing and to some extent forcing decisions being made now on the Middle East region's fate.
One problem, with the ancient "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" explanation for Middle East politics, is that to use it you have to know who your friends are -- didn't work so well in Afghanistan either, recently, for this reason. You also have to know your enemies. Ignorance helps neither judgment, nor the situation as a whole. But one ray of hope, for a situation which currently is pretty bleak, is that the more you get to know people in fact the less they seem so clearly to be divided into simply "friends" and "enemies".
FYI France (sm)(tm) e-journal ISSN 1071 - 5916 * | FYI France (sm)(tm) is a monthly electronic | journal published since 1992 as a small-scale, | personal experiment, in the creation of large- | scale "information overload", by Jack Kessler. / \ Any material written by me which appears in ----- FYI France may be copied and used by anyone for // \\ any good purpose, so long as, a) they give me --------- credit and show my email address, and, b) it // \\ isn't going to make them money: if it is going to make them money, they must get my permission in advance, and share some of the money which they get with me. Use of material written by others requires their permission. FYI France archives may be found at http://infolib.berkeley.edu (search fyifrance), or http://email@example.com/ (BIBLIO-FR archive), or http://listserv.uh.edu/archives/pacs-l.html (PACS-L archive) or http://www.fyifrance.com . Suggestions, reactions, criticisms, praise, and poison-pen letters all will be gratefully received at firstname.lastname@example.org . Copyright 1992- , by Jack Kessler, all rights reserved except as indicated above.
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