In the presence of His Excellency Sheikh Abdul Rahman bin Hamad Al Thani, Minister of Culture, Dr. Hamad bin Abdul Aziz Al-Kawwari, State Minister and President of Qatar National Library, stressed that cultural security is a national priority. His comments came at Cultural Security: Future and Responsibility, a seminar held at the main theater of the Doha Exhibition and Convention Center. The seminar was attended by a host of writers and intellectuals, including Dr. Marwan Qiblan and author and journalist Yasser Abu Hilala. The discussion was moderated by writer and media personality Jassim Salman. Dr. Hamad Al-Kawwari emphasized that, for Arabs, Arabic is not just a means of communication, but the defining feature of their culture, history, heritage, science, literature, culture, and existence. Arabic is the vessel of Arab civilization. It is the language of the Qur’an, hadith, and Islamic history. He explained that the term “cultural security” emerged as a response to the perceived threat posed by Western consumer-based capitalistic globalized culture to local cultures. He reminded the audience that Article 1 of Chapter 1 of the Qatari constitution states that the Arabic language is inseparable from the Qatari national identity: “Qatar is an Arab State, sovereign and independent. Its religion is Islam, and the Islamic Law is the main source of its legislations. Its system is democratic, and its official language is the Arabic language. The people of Qatar are part of the Arab Nation.” He noted that the word “Arab” appears three times in this article in reference to Qatar’s national identity, its official language, and its being part of the Arab Nation. This observation reflects how central Arabic is to Qatari society and identity. Al-Kawwari reflected on his excitement when Shoura Council decided to include Arabic in the first article of the constitution. He reiterated the importance of enforcing Law (7) of 2019 that protects the Arabic language.
Dr. Marwan Qiblan reflected on the receding role of traditionally powerful Arab countries as they are embroiled in domestic political problems. He sees Qatar well-positioned to replace those countries and assume leadership. He argues that Qatar’s power in terms of media and cultural influence has become indisputable thanks to its cultural production. Dr. Qiblan added that cultural security, from a practical perspective, entails some contradiction between security and culture. In his view, culture inherently looks outward whereas security typically looks inward. He explained that a society that seeks security is inevitably looking inwardly and isolating itself, especially when it sees others trying to overtake its culture. As for how to achieve cultural security and how to distinguish between culture and civilization, he pointed to three fundamental factors that underly cultural security: globalization, the communication technology revolution, and the end of the Cold War with the collapse of the Soviet Union. He also referenced two theories that can explain the emergence of “cultural security.” These are the end of history theory and the clash of civilizations theory. He concluded by saying that, “In the Arab World, we are always anxious about Western threats to our Arab Islamic culture.” For Dr. Qiblan, cultural security can be achieved by promoting pride in Arab identity, by cultural self-fulfillment through the development of marketable cultural and media products, and by openness toward the other.
Author and journalist Yasser Abu Hilala asserted that Arabs are culturally insecure because their language fortress has collapsed. He added that there are Arab generations that have lost their identity and their connection to their culture because they lost their language. He explained that the problem stems from foreign control over information and entertainment media in the absence of sufficient cultural production in Arabic. For example, the Arabic online content is far from a true representation of the actual size of Arab culture. He warned that the situation is increasingly becoming untenable, and offered that the solution lies in reconstructing a cultural identity founded on language, starting from the level of the family. He asserted that every Arab family needs to have access to cultural material and that Arabs have to realize that today’s world does not recognizes borders. For Abu Hilala, cultural invasion is an undisputable fact, and it can be confronted only by establishing a cultural identity. In his concluding remarks, he said, “We contributed significantly to the world, but our contribution needs to resumed. We have to have a presence in the world because cultural security is realized only when we produce culture, not when we just consume it.”