From 9 to 11 April 2019, the Center for Research and Intercommunication Knowledge in Al-Riyadh (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) held the first conference on Asian Arabic studies with the participation of 90 researchers from 18 countries of the Asian region, which included Indonesia, Malaysia, China, Central Asia, Maldives and others [CRIC, 2019].
For three days, researchers discussed research papers on a wide range of problems of disseminating, using and teaching Arabic in Asian countries, studying literature and linguistics, communication and civilization, the current state of the Arabic language and its future in Asian countries, modern processes information and communication, dictionaries and codes. In addition to the scientific meetings, the conference included an art exhibition on Arabic calligraphy of artists from Pakistan and China, as well as an exhibition of publications by the Center for Research and Intercommunication Knowledge. A number of materials for the conference were prepared, in particular a collection of abstracts of the reports submitted, catalogs of published books, a special edition of the journal “Isti’rab Asian”. [Arabic Studies Conference, 2019].
It is worth mentioning that this is the first event of such a high level, where experts on Arabic Studies from the Asian region were gathered. As a rule, initiatives of this kind more often come from European countries. In addition, the problems of discussion usually encompass Oriental studies in general, and not just the regional sphere of Arabic studies, which is part of this multi-component complex of sciences.
The landmark on the Asian world is not surprising. Asia is the largest part of the world, the most densely populated, diversified and rich. The economic and political rise of Asian countries and their industrial revolution in the early 1990s made it one of the most influential regions in the world economy and technology. Interestingly, geographical landmarks dominate over religious and ideological ones, and this is obviously, on the one hand, the impact of globalization and, on the other hand, evidence of the opening of the Kingdom’s space to a broader cooperation framework. Because, if, say, the countries of Central Asia view their medieval history as the Golden Age of cultural development within the framework of Islamic civilization and in Arabic, for such countries as China, Japan, South Korea, Islamic values are not so relevant, they have their own, and much more ancient and protected traditions, and ethical systems.
However, as it turned out, the differences of languages, beliefs, civilizational foundation, history, appearance are not so important. Asians have a lot in common – respect and the desire to understand other cultures, the motivation to master their languages, and not only English, which opens up the globalized world, but also Arabic, which once in the past connected East and West as a cultural bridge. It became clear that even today it can unite the states of the modern world through writing and spiritual values expressed in the extremely rich and systematic vocabulary of the Arabic language.
Dr. Yahya bin Junaid, the head of the Center for Research and Intercommunication Knowledge, a writer and scholar of Islamic libraries, and former head librarian of King Fahd Library in Riyadh, in his greeting of the guests of the conference, said that the idea of holding such a conference appeared about ten years ago but became possible only after the opening of the Center for Research and Communication of Knowledge, which was created two and a half years ago. “We are bringing together a group of renowned scholars who have served the Arabic language and have worked to develop its education and teaching in all parts of Asia,” he said. [Arabic Studies Conference, 2019].
Zhu Weilie, director of the Committee of Experts of the China-Arab Research Center on Reform and Development, professor and doctoral tutor of Arabic language and literature, played a big role in the preparation of this event. The Chinese professor talked about the series of attempts undertaken in conjunction with Dr. Ibn Junayd in recent years to revive the idea of an Asian project and provide a platform for Asian researchers to unite their efforts in serving the Arabic language and its heritage, history and modern times.
It is clear that China’s interest, as well as the interests of its Far Eastern neighbors, in the study and dissemination of Arabic is not associated with religious considerations, but with economic or political dimensions, as well as Saudi Arabia’s desire to establish closer ties with these states. Thus, in February 2019, the Center held a discussion entitled “Learning Chinese in Saudi Arabia and “Vision 2030”. The seminar focused on the historical relations between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the People’s Republic of China and the compatibility of the Education Agreement in China with the Saudi “Vision 2030” strategy, which aims to push Saudi Arabia into international space at all levels, as well as strengthen the points of convergence between “Vision 2030 ”and the Chinese “Belt and Road ” initiative.
Openness to the world through strategic partnerships in various areas, the most important of which are education and culture, has become a slogan for both countries. According to representatives of the Foreign Ministry, China considers the Kingdom as the first partner in the Middle East and Africa, and China is proud that the Kingdom decided to include Chinese in educational programs, while Arabic is taught in a similar way in more than 60 universities in China specialized branches of the Arabic language. These facts give confidence in increasing understanding and deepening the level of cultural and scientific cooperation [Academics and Diplomats: The decision to include Chinese in the curriculum reflects the vision of 2030, 2019].
Judging by the series of events held, the Saudi Analytical Center clearly adheres to the stated vision – «To be an international center for the industry of thought and decision-making, to provide information on the issues raised, to analyze and address them at the international level, and to create a community awareness of life issues and events; in order to achieve positive interaction with changes and developments, and give intellectual focus in monitoring them and develop appropriate solutions at the Internal level» [Who are we? 2018].
The papers presented at the conference of experts on Arabic Studies discussed many issues related to languages and history, as well as the advantages of countries in terms of linguistic and cultural strategies, which inevitably should affect the positive development in various areas of their potential cooperation. It should be noted that for Kazakhstani Arabic researchers it was also a good opportunity to meet and discuss the prospects of joint research projects with colleagues from foreign countries.
Topics covered included the distribution of Arabic words in the languages of Indonesian society by Dr. Imam Asarari, the use of the Arabic alphabet for writing Malay and Javanese languages by Dr. Shams al-Hadibder. Dr. Zu Langfang presented a paper entitled “Study of Arabic Literature and Biographies in China”, and Dr. Murtaza Sayed Umarov “Study of Saudi Literature in Central Asia and Russia”. The oldest authoritative Uzbek scientist, Ubaidullah Uvatov, spoke about the translation of historical sources from Arabic into Uzbek, and Dr. Samal Tulibaeva about the situation of the Arabic language in Kazakhstan in the past and present. Dr. Chen Chi (Bashar) presented a report entitled “The Future of Arabic in the People’s Republic of China”. Dr. Farhan Ansari spoke about the cultural communication between India and the Arabs, focusing on Arabic translations. Dr. Heidome Moto addressed a similar topic with regard to Arabic and Japanese.
Researcher Andy Hadianto-Gumino presented a paper entitled “Bilateral cooperation between Indonesia and Saudi Arabia in the field of education and culture”, and Dr. Rees Tokunaga -“Communication between Japan and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the field of archeology and cultural heritage” [First Asian Arabic Studies Conference, 2019].
Thus, the instruments for implementing cooperation in the 21st century are becoming increasingly diverse and encompass ever-broader geopolitical areas in spaces not only in Europe but also in Asia, which gives hope for a more peaceful, conflict-free and fruitful coexistence of states with different political and economic parameters, but with rapidly converging cultural and spiritual principles and approaches.
Academics and Diplomats: The decision to include Chinese in the curriculum reflects the vision of 2030. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.al-madina.com/article/617394. Accessed on 13.04.2019.
Center for Research and Cognitive Communication. (2019). Retrieved from https://crik.sa/. Accessed on 13.04.2019.
Center for Research and Cognitive Communication opens “First Asian Arabic Studies Conference”. (2019). Retrieved from https://crik.sa/index.php/activities/162-10-4-19. Accessed on 13.04.2019.
Who are we? (2018). Retrieved from https://crik.sa/index.php/2018-06-05-20-45-08. Accessed on 13.04.2019.