Dr. Salem bin Mohammed Al-Malek, General Director of the Islamic World Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (ICESCO), emphasized that Qatar’s contributions to ICESCO programs are quite important and laudable. He added that the collaboration between ICESCO and the Qatar National Commission for Education, Culture and Science has always been fruitful.


Dr. Al-Malek also valued collaboration with Qatar and its success in presenting Doha as a center of culture and civilization during the Doha Capital of Islamic Culture 2021 events.


“ICESCO has launched several initiatives and programs, and every year, it organizes numerous and diverse activities in Qatar or in other countries with support from Qatar and with Qatari expertise. Qatar’s contributions are honorable and quite valuable to the organizations,” Dr. Al-Malek said.


Concerning future cultural collaboration between ICESCO and Qatar, Dr. Al-Malek commented that “The organization is interested in reinforcing collaboration with member states in order to identify their priorities and needs in addition to developing appropriate plans and programs for each country.” He noted that ICESCO is keen on maintaining distinguished collaboration with Qatar.


Dr. Al-Malek added, “During my current visit to Doha, I met with His Excellency Sheikh Abdul Rahman bin Hamad Al Thani, Minister of Culture. We discussed various topics, including studying cultural policies, assessing and adding heritage to the ICESCO list, and training young men and women on preserving and documenting heritage. We also discussed literature and intellectual pursuits.” He explained that these discussions will turn into projects and collaborative efforts between Qatar and ICESCO.


Dr. Al-Malek further commented, “I met with Her Excellency Buthaina bint Ali Al-Jabr Al-Nuaymi, Minister of Education and Higher Education, and we discussed possible collaboration efforts and ways to exchange experience in education and research among Islamic countries. I also met with Mr. Youssef bin Ahmad Al-Kuwwari, Executive Director of Qatar Charity, with which we have significant cooperation in various areas. Qatar will have a major share in ICESCO’s initiatives in 2022.”


Regarding his assessment of the activities held during the Doha Capital of Islamic Culture 2021 events, ICESCO General Director offered, “The Doha Capital of Islamic Culture 2021 events lasted for a whole year with the theme “Our culture is light.” These events involved extensive and diverse cultural activity despite the exceptional circumstances imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. We made sure from the beginning that several virtual meetings with the organizing committee would take place to discuss the plans for the celebrations and events. Throughout this year, we did our best to adapt quickly to the new reality. These efforts helped reduce the negative impact of the pandemic on the cultural sector. These efforts are motivated by the firm belief that culture plays a critical role in economic development.”


He further commented, “The Doha events were quite diverse, as they included cultural, artistic, and literary activities. Some of the events were round-table discussion forums, while others took the format of lectures and workshops. They had a wide participation base that included the local and regional intellectuals and experts. As for the audience, they attracted people from Doha and other cities. The preparations for these events and activities involved many partners, such as government ministries, culture and art clubs, and civil society organizations. What is remarkable about these events is that they addressed such diverse groups within society, including youths, women, and children. Thanks to the efforts of all those who contributed, the events were a resounding success despite the pandemic.”


As for what distinguished the Doha Capital of Islamic Culture 2021 events, Dr. Al-Malek explained that it was a unique celebration because it embodied the new philosophy of the cultural capitals of the Islamic world project. This project moved from the traditional model of cultural capitals to a modernistic approach. This experience will be studied in detail at an up-coming meeting of Islamic countries’ ministers of cultures. He reiterated that the events successfully presented Doha as a cultural landmark that is a unique representation of Islamic culture, embodied the values of cultural collaboration within the Islamic World and the values of openness, and demonstrated the expansion of cultural concepts to include youths, women, children, and those with special needs.


Dr. Al-Malek continued, “Usually, there are three cultural capitals each year, but in 2021 Doha was the only one, as the other cities withdrew due to the challenges imposed by COVID-19. Doha successfully developed an in-person program as well as a virtual one, an approach that ICESCO is adopting for future Islamic cultural capitals programs.” He valued the on-going fruitful collaboration between the organizing committee, the Qatari Ministry of Culture, and the Qatar National Commission for Education, Culture and Science.


He noted that the cultural movement in Qatar is very promising and unique thanks to its cultural and artistic infrastructure. He believes that Doha can be a wide space that enables artists and innovators to achieve their objectives in the best possible ways. He also commented that ICESCO’s view of the cultural movement in Qatar played a critical role in choosing Doha as an Islamic culture capital. The history of Doha and its rich cultural heritage and sites, in his view, makes it a true reflection of what it means to be a capital that reflects the depth of civilization in the Islamic World.


Regarding on-going ICESCO cultural development projects, he explained that the organization has recently drafted several documents to be discussed at the conference for the ministers of culture in the Islamic World, which was held at the closing of the Doha Capital of Islamic Culture 2021 events. Some of these documents have to do with updating the cultural policies of member states with the objectives of achieving sustainable development, establishing cultural targets for member states to keep up with regional and international developments, and addressing the challenges imposed by the pandemic and its aftermath.