Posted by Rafiq A. Tschannen
AMMAN — Countries in West Asia and North Africa (WANA) should build peaceful ties with each other to come up with a political identity for the region and take control of their own destiny, HRH Prince Hassan said on Tuesday.
“We have been conditioned to fighting spontaneously; we are not conditioned to peace building spontaneously,” he said.
“In fact, it has a bad name: normalising with the enemy,” the Prince added at the opening ceremony of the fourth WANA Forum, noting that “the enemy” is benefiting from the fact that no one is willing to make peace.
“It is time we normalised with each other,” Prince Hassan, chairman of the WANA Forum, added on Tuesday, stressing that the future of “our children” is at stake.
The Prince warned of a “vicious circle of retaliation, fear and pain” in the wake of the Arab Spring.
He pointed to parallels between the collapse of the Soviet Union into several states after the Cold War and the divisions in some Arab states, such as Sudan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen.
The Prince said the Arab Spring had revealed a “basic structural deficit in the state system”, challenging the government’s position as the sole source of sovereignty.
The two-day forum groups over 150 participants from the WANA region to discuss the concept of “identity” and ways to utilise diversity and shared values to create better social cohesion instead of dividing the region.
At the forum’s first session, panellists gave examples of changes in identity in “a region in transition”.
Lebanese entrepreneur Omar Christidis applied the theory of Princeton Professor Mark Beissinger on events and identity to examine the aftermath of the Arab Spring.
The panellist defined an event as an instance where there is a “choice between competing forms of authority” that invites the audience to participate and “mark the setback of a previous identity and the rise of a new one”.
By going out to the streets to protest, young Arabs created their own identity, their own labels and their own meaningful spaces, Christidis argued.
Meanwhile, Palestinian panellist Munir Fasheh, founder of the Arab Education Forum, warned of the negative effects of categorising.
“We have slogans about identity, but we have nothing in real life,” he said.
“We see the world as academic categories and not living experiences, and that is the problem facing our world today.”
The academician called the “invention of failing and passing” in major exams, such as the Tawjihi (General Secondary Education Certificate) exam, “a crime against youth”.
“Identity is one of these inventions that is hurting the Palestinians… Our Palestinian identity keeps shrinking and shrinking due to academic thinking and inventions,” Fasheh added.
“Why do we go on following the inventions and superstitions of others and forget about our wisdom?” he asked.
Commenting on Fasheh’s presentation, Prince Hassan said: “I always say we have too many clever people, but not enough wise ones.”
The WANA Forum is a non-governmental initiative that brings together regional stakeholders from different backgrounds to work towards addressing social, environmental and economic issues facing the peoples of the region, according to a statement from the forum.
In the fourth WANA Forum, participants are also scheduled to examine the concept of identity in relation to religion, social cohesion and the environment.