Monday, December 20, 2010

Casa Árabe = البيت العربي

Casa Árabe = البيت العربي

The Arab and Muslim world occupies a central place in international relations at the start of this 21st century, and it is widely agreed that its future will be vital for global stability. This extensive region represents a very important section of humanity, in terms of both quantity and quality, and embodies important values that are symbolic as well as geopolitical and economic.

The world’s main energy sources are concentrated here; the region occupies a decisive position between three continents; and its territory contains great holy places that are a religious reference point for millions of people. Furthermore, Arab and Muslim countries possess a rich and diverse historical, cultural and artistic heritage, patrimony of humanity.

The region has accumulated many problems, through various events and long historical experience, which affect its overall development. It also suffers conflicts that not only impact upon its immediate surroundings but extend to the entire international community. This requires us to take particular interest in this part of the world, in political, economic, social and cultural terms, to contribute to the region’s stable development and resolution of those conflicts.

Europe, specifically Spain, has a particular interest in this cause because of historic links and geographical proximity with the Arab and Muslim world, and because of the urgent need to strengthen mutual relations, to make their respective societies better known, and consolidate respect for their faiths, and cultural esteem amongst all parties.  Unfortunately, insufficient progress has been made in this field. Stereotypes, prejudices, fears and suspicions have advanced in recent years in the heat of theories like the clash of civilisations, causing fractures and misunderstandings.

It undoubtedly falls to Spain to play a vanguard role in Europe to prepare and apply a balanced policy in close proximity with the Arab and Muslim world, to provide elements of stability and peace, and contribute decisively to socio-political, cultural and religious rapprochement. Spain is viewed in the Arab and Muslim world as the most credible and sympathetic European country, because we share the common heritage of Al-Andalus, and because we did not participate in the colonial adventure of great empires. The Arab world is a priority for Spain in its international activities. Spain’s foreign policy therefore acts energetically to pursue through various initiatives and proposals, and in bilateral and multilateral frameworks, the aims of stability, peace and mutual cultural understanding.

The Arab region’s diversity and breadth is still today largely unknown in our country. A change in social awareness is needed to correct this undesirable situation, so that strengthening our relations with the Arab and Muslim world becomes a challenge demanding specific actions and programmes to ensure deeper, more genuine social knowledge of each country and of the whole.  Spanish society must therefore recognise the crucial importance of the region, and to this end engage the participation of public powers, businesses, the academic world, the media and NGOs.

Casa Árabe and its International Institute of Arab and Muslim World Studies has two headquarters, in Madrid and Cordoba. It is a consortium formed on 6 July 2006 by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Spanish Agency for International Development, the autonomous communities of Madrid and Andalusia and the town councils of Madrid and Cordoba. It seeks to be an active instrument that contributes through political institutions and economic, cultural and intellectual means to strengthen and consolidate the multifaceted relationship with Arab and Muslim countries, and to become a reference point for study and knowledge of the reality and history of those countries. It seeks to fulfil a two-way role:  to spread knowledge of Arab and Muslim realities in the European and western context, and vice versa. All this in a framework of cooperation and institutional interaction aimed at forming a bridge of communication and relationships between the respective societies. It aims to create an arena of mutual knowledge and shared opinions, a meeting point.

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