SARAJEVO – Nowadays the body of the young man, who, a century ago, ended the lives of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sofia sparking an escalation that was to result in World War I, lies in Ciglane, a suburb in central Sarajevo. The body lies in a small chapel with no markings, and is not even shown in tourist guides. The words on the grave written in Cyrillic read: “blessed is he who lives forever as he was not born in vain.”
Dialogue of Cultures
1. We usually call historical rather than modern societies whose systems of social organization are mainly defined by the resources they use and by their social institutions, which shape these resources in line with key cultural orientations which are first of all social representations and modes of construction of human creation and freedom. Our societies are defined not only by their activities but, even more deeply, by their creations and value-oriented interpretations of their productions, included their own limits. These interpretations are both economically and organizationally situated and universalistic in their meaning: they are cultural constructions of human creativity and of its limits, in materially defined social situations. In the western world - and in other societies – we usually define material situation and the cultural pattern in which we have lived during the two past centuries as the industrial society, in which human creativity and freedom are represented by their capacity to increase the productivity of economic activities.
In her paper entitled The changing face of toleration Susan Mendus critiques the idea of toleration as acknowledgement, which she calls “new toleration”, in opposition to the more classical notion of toleration as not interfering in what we consider an object of disapproval (be these decisions, actions or forms of behaviour). In particular “new toleration” is not, in her opinion, able to answer new questions posed by religious toleration. These are in truth ‘surprisingly’ new issues, when considering that until a decade ago they seemed definitively resolved
The topic of toleration has interested, indeed fascinated, me for nearly 30 years. Twenty-eight years ago, in 1985, I was appointed Morrell Fellow in Toleration at the University of York, and I have continued to work within the Morrell Centre ever since – first as a Research Fellow, then as Director of the Programme, and now as Morrell Professor Emerita. In short, the problem of toleration has occupied much of my working life. However, looking back on the past 30 years, it is interesting to note that the problem of toleration is not at all the same now as it was when I began studying it all those years ago, and my main focus this evening will be on ways in which the problem of toleration has changed and with the new challenges which toleration faces in the modern world. Let me begin, though, by saying something about the way in which the problem of toleration was understood when I first began studying it all those years ago.
Towards to end of his life, Bernard Williams was eager to urge upon his readers the relevance of the historical dimension of philosophical understanding. In particular, if what is at stake is the clarification of a moral or a political concept, he claimed that philosophers need “what is unequivocally some kind of history”. Conceptual analysis on its own is insufficient because “the so called essence of a certain value (…) may be so schematic or indeterminate that it can be understood only by reference to particular historical formations. Nothing that has a history can be defined, as Nietzsche rightly said, and our virtues and our values certainly have a history”. It is difficult to think of a better example than toleration to vindicate Williams’s claim.
Elliot Rodger murdered six students at my university, UC Santa Barbara. Horror sometimes offers us a mirror. Looking at the pathological forces us to examine the normal. In our country, the normal means men’s guns and women’s bodies. The event again reminds us that the United States is great at mass murder, that we live in a freakish land where carrying semi-automatic weapons is a citizen’s right. At the memorial service, Richard Martinez, a victim’s father, asked us to rise and repeatedly shout out: “Not one more!!” The very day of the memorial a 21 year-old UCSB student was arrested for accidentally shooting his 9 mm. Glock pistol through the wall into the adjoining Isla Vista apartment. Police found seven firearms and a thousand rounds of ammunition.
How should cultural or religious factors affect the way in which we work within and across societies? This is too big a question for anyone to be able to provide anything other than models, empirical evidence or pointers that are tailored to time and space. But a stream of recent media headlines raises the issue in ways that expose at least specific cross-cutting tensions between cultural claims and the rights of individuals or entire groups.
The gloomy path the so-called Arab Spring has taken in some countries affected by the revolts has furthered the idea that Morocco is an exception in an oasis of turmoil, insecurity, sectarianism and social disunity. While it is very true to say and also see special features of the country’s especially socio-cultural and political features that a far rich past has ingrained in its population, current Moroccan exceptionalism is, however, a double-edged argument in the sense that it can be a praise or a vilification. To understand this label of exceptionalism, a different question that is more direct can be posed: is Morocco democratizing? Or, how is Moroccan democracy?
The question “can European Islam be inspiring to the Arab world?” may smell of pejorative Orientalism: Europe thinks for the Arab world even when it comes to religion! Yet, the intent (anniya in Arabic) is not that. The question aims at questioning the established dichotomy of “Islam vs. the West.” Comparing two geographies or two versions of religion in two different political entities is the aim here, though the title seems to compare a religious interpretation in a political geography “European Islam” with a another political geography “the Arab world.” By the Arab world here is meant “Arab Islam” – to avoid repeating “Islam” twice. Both Western Europe and the Arab world are heterogeneous and have different histories with religion and politics, and it is not acceptable to put them all in one basket through entities as the title above suggests. However, it is the links between these two geographies, polities, and histories that have encouraged posing the question for further reflections.
This paper is an elaborated version of the contribution that David Zoletto, a Researcher at the Department of Human Sciences, University of Udine, presented on December 12, 2013 in Milan, for the last meeting of the series of conferences "Words and ideas for a plural world. An intercultural lexicon" sponsored by Reset-DoC and Giangiacomo Feltrinelli Foundation. The 2014 edition of our Milan-dialogues, this year dedicated to the theme of "inclusive citizenship", begins April 17 with a lecture by Constitutional Court Judge Giuliano Amato on "A new season for citizenship in Europe."
The subject I am about to address, specifically the relationship between food and religion, between nutrition and the attribution of values to eating rituals carried out by all religions, is a complex one presenting not just a few methodological problems of which it is worth analysing two in particular. The first is linked to the problem of comparison. What should one compare in the infinite landscape of these values? How should one compare the different food customs and ideologies that each tradition is obliged to develop? And, above all, with what objective, posing which questions would allow one to successfully select - within an immense mass of documentation that clearly cannot be checked by an individual specialist – all that will then allow one to observe these practices and feeding customs of specific religious traditions in a productive manner?
By publishing this paper we would like to remember Massimo Rosati, who died on January the 30th, 2013, at the too-young age of 44. A dear friend of Reset-Dialogues, over the years he supported our work and we were discussing a permanent form of cooperation with him involving a series of projects scheduled for the coming months that would have been directed by him. “The Archaic and Us. Ritual, Myth, the Sacred and Modernity" is the paper presented by Massimo Rosati on December 4th, 2013, for the international seminar "Europe, Democracy and Critical Theory. A German-Italian Workshop on Jürgen Habermas’ Theory", organized by Regina Kreide, Walter Privitera and Ilenya Camozzi at the Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften in Bad Homburg. Rosati’s Paper sparked a lively discussion with Prof. Habermas and an intense debate with all the participants in the seminar.