x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

English should not replace Arabic

"Great Britain was once described as the empire on which the sun never sets given its large colonies scattered across the globe. But Britain's strength dwindled a long time ago after the independence of its colonies," wrote Abdel Qader al Fantoukh in an opinion piece for the Saudi paper Al Riyadh.

"Great Britain was once described as the empire on which the sun never sets given its large colonies scattered across the globe. But Britain's strength dwindled a long time ago after the independence of its colonies. Some of them have grown to become economically and strategically more important. The US, for example, became the strongest nation on earth, and India enjoys a large territory and population as well as a significant economic growth," wrote Abdel Qader al Fantoukh in an opinion piece for the Saudi paper Al Riyadh.

If the physical force is doomed to demise, culture is likely to endure. This is the case with the English language, which expanded with the British Empire. But when the latter shrunk, its language continued to grow worldwide thanks to former colonies and the advent of modern communication technologies. The English language should not be seen as a sediment of colonial authority as it used to be, but as a global lingua franca. "The technology brought about by globalisation is not optional; it is a reality as well as a necessity. English stands as the vehicle of this unprecedented process. Thus, as Arabs, we have to set limits on how to deal with English, being imposed by the need to communicate internationally. It should not by any means be taken as a linguistic and cultural alternative to our mother tongue and its system of thought. Those who do so are wrong."

"A shell of calls and letters was received by Mahmouod Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, urging him to run anew in the upcoming elections. I have always defended Mr Abbas as a president, and I did not changed my attitude even when Arabs were divided into two blocs: one ignoring him and the other condemning him after Hamas abandoned him," wrote Abdul Rahman al Rashed in a comment piece for the London-based newspaper Al Sharq Al Awsat.

Yet, it is time for him to quit as long as the political situation remains unchanged. Everybody, then, should not influence his own decision as well as the election of the new Palestinian president. "Palestinians should be given freedom to elect whom they want." Although there is fear that Palestinian political life may be plunged into a political vacuum, leading to a conflict among Fatah leaders over power, the president should quit for two main reasons: first, he should live up to his promise and give the chance to another Palestinian leader and second, the Arab passive attitude and less financial support should prompt him to pack up. It is not in Mr Abbas's interest at all, as he is weakened by the attitude of some Arabs and Hamas, to stay in power as tough missions of final settlements and the establishment of Palestinian state await the next president.

"Many thinkers attributed the Arab world crises to the absence of an open dialogue in various life aspects, a situation that led to an adverse culture, depriving Arab communities of the capacity to produce goods and arts and aesthetic values," opined Mohammed al Rusaei in a comment article for the Jordanian daily Al Rai.

To promote a dialogue culture, it is therefore necessary to introduce structural reforms at various levels within the community, and especially at universities. The latter are supposedly to enjoy wider administrative and financial independence, and they need to be led by academics who believe in dialogue as a means to appease feelings and encourage both positive thinking and creative production. For this, universities need to hire faculty members who advocate freedom of expression and create opportunities for a cultural dynamism based on constructive and civil debates. Among its role, the academia is to disseminate positive ideas about the importance of difference in attitudes and diversity as a means to counter an extremist culture. Indeed, universities in Arab countries can shape an ideal environment if they correct the stereotype of the a three-element educational process: instructor, textbooks, and students. Universities should be an engine of change that develop communication skills and foster critical thinking and tolerance.

"With the announcement of the new Lebanese government, the phase of fear, anxiety, doubt and frustration is over. It ushers in a new period of consensus, unity, confidence and future building," opined the UAE newspaper Akhbar Al Arab in its editorial.

Lebanon is indeed in dire need of national reconciliation. Now more than ever, it is possible for the Lebanese to vigorously build the nation as long as they stay confident and united. Now that the government was born after lengthy and painstakingly consultations as well as heated debates for over than four months, it is time for all parties to engage in calm and fruitful dialogue to plan for the future. The government has a noble mission of diligently serving the nation and the citizen, which is dependent on the extent of consensus among its population.

There is great hope, however, that the present team will put at the centre of its interests building the nation, as was indicated by the prime minister, Saad al Hariri. This is a good start for the government and it is likely to boost Lebanon's position internationally. It needs at present to focus first and foremost on urgent matters that touch the daily lives of Lebanese, such as health services, education, employment, security, and economic development.

* Digest compiled by Mostapha Elmouloudi melmouloudi@thenational.ae