The Global Dialogue Prize for Khatami and Shayegan

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Active ImageThe first prize of "Global Dialogue", awarded by a Danish institute with the same title, has been given to two well-known Iranian figures promoting the dialogue of cultures and civilizations, the philosopher Dariush Shayegan and politician Mohammad Khatami.

The news was first given to Iranian Diplomacy by Dariush Shayegan. The organization has been established in 2009 and its first series of biennial conferences will be held in January 2010. The winners of the award have been invited to attend the ceremony hosted by Aarhus University.

Shayegan says that he and Mohammad Khatami had been selected as the winners of the award two weeks ago. He adds: "since his presidency, Khatami has played a significant role in promoting dialogue of the civilizations, especially after his UN speech in 2001. He has tirelessly followed the cause and established an institute for his ideal". Shayegan praises Khatami’s efforts while before the revolution; he pioneered dialogue between cultures, and structured intercultural research and was eager to know the culture of different nations himself.

Naming Iran’s pre-revolution national TV, Farabi University and some other institutions as the advocators of dialogue between cultures, Shayegan says: "during those years, many contracts were signed and all intellectuals of the day were invited to cooperate; Dariush Ashuri, Bagher Parham, Jamshid Arjomand and Shahrokh Meskub were some of those thinkers. Our goal was only to step in the path we had defined and we had no personal interest in the issue. I have always deeply believed in group work, and during the time we were active on promotion of dialogue of cultures, we enjoyed the help of all Iranian intellectuals."

On the key objectives of those cultural studies, Shayegan says: "we believed that non-Western civilizations such as China, Japan, Egypt and Iran have had a same fate when encountering global developments. Our aim was to talk to intellectuals, study major global developments and see what means should we follow."

Many of the planned projects were actualized according to Shayegan, though the political turmoil of 1979 revolution halted everything. Shayegan adds: "for example, Professor Izutsu and Uthman Yahya were going to heads of the Japan and Egypt branch of the institute and seminars were to be held. At those years, there were many intellectual institutes and organizations inside Iran with figures such as Farah-vashi, Shirvanlu, Ehsan Naraghi and Majid Tehranian collaborating with them. We were trying to cooperate with such institutes. For example, we were defining a collaborative project with then newly-established Azad University to compile Iran’s cultural history. Then, there was a lot of work to do, but inadequate human forces. So our warm relations with intellectuals and institutes help the projects to move on accurately and fast."

Shayegan stresses that: "those activities had no political agenda and their progress depended on a strong bond between the intellectuals. I remember that for the library that today belongs to Humanities Research Center, we bought thirty-five thousand books in one year". Shayegan states that Seyyed Hossein Nasr had no part in the project. Reza Qotbi, Hasan Ziayi, Asad Behruzn and Naser Assar were the most active individuals.

He explains the projects for study of Latin American, Indian and Japanese cultures, which had to be stopped due to their concurrence with the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Shayegan adds: "I cannot say we received a substantial budget. It was low, and all our progress was due to the bond between Iranian and foreign intellectuals and cultural institutes. Of course we had a large budget for book purchase."

He states:" we had a clear agenda and we knew what we were following. Asian civilizations dialogue, and assessing their position vis-à-vis other civilizations was our key target. Our approach was based on intercultural ties; and that Iran had been the central empire, the connection bridge between East and West (for example the role of Iran in Mithraism penetrated into the Roman Empire or how Manicheism was introduced to China). We wanted to revive this role for Iran, to turn into a bridge and make it a leader."

Shayegan believes that: "Khatami’s focus was majorly on the political aspect of dialogue so we should trace the impact of his campaign in the political domain. I do not know clearly what his plan for the dialogue of civilizations was."

Shayegan adds: "of course before the revolution, the regime also supported the dialogue of cultures project, but what really was important was Iran’s influence. All countries welcomed cooperation with Iranian intellectuals and cultural institutes. For example, they agreed to open the doors of their museums for us and hand us the works."

The Iranian philosopher and intellectual adds that they Global Dialogue Prize will be awarded to him and Khatami in January 2010. In the official website of Global Dialogue Prize we read that:

"The Global Dialogue Prize is to mark the relevance of intercultural research on values for our current tasks in global communication and cooperation.

Cultural and existential values represent a community’s insights into the conditions of human flourishing, conceptions of social and personal well-being, and foundations of morality. Thus the encounter of cross-cultural diversity in values is, in principle, an opportunity for cultural growth and reflected existential orientation.

The Global Dialogue Prize is to signal that intercultural understanding is a primary social good of our present age and that researchers in intercultural value studies, journalists, and other public communicators around the world today carry special responsibilities."

Source: Iranian Diplomacy

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