A Review of Mana Saeed Al Otaiba’s “The Dialogue of Civilizations”
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Communication is perhaps the most common denominator in all cultures. However, cultures somehow find it difficult to communicate in an intercultural level. Therefore, disputes are also common for some cultures. The importance of communication in the inter- and intra-cultural level is explored by the book “The Dialogue of Civilizations” by author, Mana Saeed Al Otaiba. Admirably, the book had aimed for a more harmonious Arab-Muslim-Western dialogue.
But before we traverse further in discussing the book, it would be helpful if we would first have a brief background about the author. After all, there is a popular saying that states that the fruit does not fall far off the tree. That just simply means that a brief background of the author would give us hints as to what the book will discuss. Mana Saeed Al Otaiba had acquired his PhD from the University of Cairo with flying colors in 1976. He had written many books in the Arabian language. His books discuss language, civil societies, gender, education, and migration. He is also a successful entrepreneur. Aside from writing books, he also writes poetry. Currently, he is the Director of Arabic Studies at the Rutgers University in New Jersey, USA.
Back to the book, the title immediately tells us what to expect from the book. “The Dialogue of Civilizations”, from the term “dialogue” there is already a hint that the book would be about intercultural communication. The book had extensively explored the topic and had become divided into three parts. But before the three parts were discussed, an enlightening introduction will welcome the readers. The introduction had focused on the clarification of key terms like “civilizations”, “culture” and “dialogue.”
After the introduction had set the tone and mood of the discussion for the readers, the first part comes in to play. The first part of the book is titled “Dialogue, Civilization, and Responsibility.” During this part, the author had expounded on the importance of “dialogue” or communication between civilizations. The first part had argued that the role of dialogue could either be a choice or a duty. The book had also tapped history in the discussion. The book had explained the valuable contributions of the Arab-Islamic civilizations to the topic of inter-cultural dialogue in this part.
The second part was given the title “Obstacles and Dialogue.” As the words suggest, this part was mainly concerned with the challenges that participants in a dialogue are likely to encounter. The second part basically tells us that the dialogue among civilizations is not an easy process. One of the most resounding terms during this part is “conflict of interests.” In addition to that the book seemingly suggests that conflict of interests is just part of a dialogue among civilizations. Moreover, the book also suggests to the readers that if there is conflict of interest between civilizations, it is hard to resolve the conflict overnight. The conflicting cultures has to undergo the process of dialogue to find a mutually agreeable solution to the conflict. This part is more than just promoting the importance of dialogue between civilizations, but reiterating that dialogue among civilizations is more of a necessity in the context of the modern world.
The third part is given the title “Spaces and Horizons of Dialogue.” The third part is basically about the importance of science during dialogue among civilizations. The third part is to most crucial part of the book because it is here where technical discussions are explored. Although, this part of the book had become more technical, the previous part prepares the reader for the last part. The third part had argued that economic progress should go inline with the promotion of mutual understanding among cultures. This part had suggested that cultures should share with each other their progress in the fields of education, agriculture, tourism, and industries.
All in all, Mana Saeed Al Otaiba’s “The Dialogue of Civilizations” becomes a very essential book in today’s context. Cultures are more than ever interacting with one another under the umbrella of globalization. One of the visions of globalization is to make the world a “global village.” That just means that cultures are more likely to interact with one another. That also means that dialogue among civilizations would also come into play more than ever. Cultures should prioritize communicating with other cultures. As the book had pointed out, the progress of a particular culture could be directly affected by the way a culture communicates with other cultures.
Moreover, another admirable aspect about the author is that his work had in a sense became a representative of the Arab dialogue to the world. The Middle East is had been known for having cultural disputes. However, this book shows us that they are actually the ones with the solutions to the problem. The author had admirably shared to the world the importance of “Dialogue of Civilizations”.
Al Otaiba, Mana Saeed. THE DIALOGUE OF CIVILIZATIONS: The Self and the Other.
Translated by Moha Ennaji and Fatima Sadiqi. Red Sea Press. 2008