Last part in four-part history seriesEnd the Colonial Era by interacting with the non-Colonial world [Archives:2004/791/Culture]

November 18 2004

By Prof. Dr. Muhammad Shamsaddin Megalommatis
For the Yemen Times

Promoting the study and the theoretical approaches to multiculturalism by means of a special Academy of Multiculturalism, would not be enough for modern Yemen, if the country wants truly to develop its academic life, to enhance its human resources, and – last but not least – to contribute to the ultimate rejection of the Western colonial fake model of history that has denigrated the Oriental, the African, the Islamic and generally speaking the non-European role in world civilization.
To bring about a drastic, decisive, and irreversible change in the course of cultural, political, academic and intellectual developments of our global world, Yemen must show again to the rest of the world that it is well versed into what has been a diachronic Yemenite specificity, namely knowledge and wisdom.
The quintessence of the knowledge has always been the 'knowledge of the other'; truly speaking, if one wants to reduce colonialism and two-century long anti-Islamic involvement of the west into just a few words, the 'Knowledge of the Other' is what the Western colonial powers deprived Muslims, Asiatic, African, Pacific and American peoples from. They limited them into their 'oysters', every people was left isolated in his introspective idiocy, and closed within his own oyster.
People of all ideologies, faiths, mentalities, and beliefs in Yemen must understand that what would greatly help this country, and the entire world, what would eradicate the debate itself about 'Islamic Terrorism' and/or 'Clash of Civilizations' is a great expansion of inter-east, or inter-south, or inter-Third World Knowledge and understanding, connection and cooperation.
All the Yemenite Universities must cooperate on an Orientalist – Africanist program that would create in Yemen a basis of academic study, research and publications on the following circles of the Humanities:
a) Egyptology (study of Ancient Egypt and Hieroglyphics)
b) Assyriology (study of the Ancient Sumerians, Assyrians, Babylonians, and other civilizations of Mesopotamia)
c) Aramaic Studies (focusing on the pre-Christian, Christian and modern periods of the Aramaeans, on their role in the trade between the Mediterranean and China, on their contribution to the diffusion of many religions throughout Asia, and on their vast Christian literature either Monophysitic or Nestorian)
d) North-Western Semitic studies (encompassing Phoenicians, Ancient Hebrews, Judaism and the Talmud)
e) Kushitic – Berberic – Hausa – Oromo studies (covering the ancient Kush and Meroe great monuments of Sudan, and the most important modern groups of the Khammitic linguistic family)
f) Anatolian and Greek studies (including the various peoples of Anatolia, Hittites, Urartu, Armenians, Cappadocians, Lydians, etc, and the various peoples of the Southern Balkans and the Aegean Sea)
g) Iranian studies (including all the periods of Iranian History, with focus to many religions that emanated from Iran)
h) Turkic studies (comprising not only Seljuk and Ottomans but all the various Turkic peoples of Central Asia)
i) Indian and South Asiatic studies
j) Malay and Pacific studies
k) Sinology, Korean and Japanese studies, Confucianism (to open a gate of communication with the Universe of China)
l) Bantu studies (to establish a bridge with Sub-Saharan Africa)
m)Slavic studies (to understand the great differences between Eastern and Western Europe)
n) The Origins and the formation of Christianity (in an effort to develop for the first time in Dar al Islam the basis of Western historical criticism of the historical origins and the theoretical background of the Official Christianity, and to unveil the many existing parallels between the modern scientific rejection of Christianity and the position of the great philosopher and erudite al Qurdubi towards Christianity)
o) Latin and Medieval Latin studies
p) Pre-Colombian Mexican Civilizations
q) Pre-Colombian Civilizations of the Andes (Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia)
r) Buddhism and Tibetan studies (in an effort to find parallel concepts and approaches with Islam)

This is a program that may look huge but will bring about a colossal change in Yemen, and not only in Education. The formation of Yemenite specialists in the aforementioned eighteen (18) circles of studies will later bring to Yemen students from the four corners of the universe.
The Yemenite diplomats will be able to place their judgments and evaluation on the same academic level advisors like those of France and England. More than that, for the first time in the World History, a Third World country will break the isolation and the ensuing ignorance of the 'other' that have been imposed among all the non European peoples by the Colonial Powers of Europe.
Five centuries of Europeanocentric history will take an end. The consequences of such an act, of such a deed, of such a project will go beyond imagination, as far as the North – South relationship is concerned.
It may perhaps look very ambitious, or farfetched, or eventually heavy for the shoulders of Yemen, a country with $15.22 billion as GDP (2003 est. according to the CIA World Factbook), a country with $800 per capita GDP, a country with $4.13 billion as annual budget expenditures, a country with 3% fixed line, 2% mobile line, 0.5% Internet penetration (all for the year 2002 – according to the aforementioned source).
But carried out by Yemen, this project will be even more appreciated and will bring a lot of respect, interest, involvement, and commitment, placing Yemen at a globally central position. Of course, the cost of such a project cannot be denied; but it is not so colossal that would become unaffordable.
Five – ten scholars covering a combination of these fields should first be invited and come to work in Yemen; the young Yemenite students' wholehearted commitment is what matters most in this case because this project should be placed on their shoulders.
The project implies a first phase of two to three years, when around 50 to 60 (2 to 3 per field) Humanities students will be selected for an additional (to their existing in a university faculty) preparatory program of several hours per week, plus summer courses, that all will be preparatory to some of the aforementioned eighteen (18) fields. Following their graduation and the completion of the additional preparatory program (that few correctly selected foreign scholars will be able to carried out – as already said), these students will move to various foreign countries for a combination of undergraduate and graduate courses that in two or three years will lead them to a Master's Degree.
Then, they will continue for another three to four years for the preparation of their Ph.D., after which they will return to establish in Yemen various departments, according to the field of their specialization (among the aforementioned 18 fields).
By then, they will start giving courses to Yemenite and to foreign students, who will prefer the vicinity and the lower cost of studies in Yemen. The creation of a Yemenite foyer for all these fields, and the ensuing interconnection will bring about an incalculable change in Yemen itself, and in the role and the radiation of Yemen among Africa, Asia, America and Europe.
The salaries of the foreign scholars, the stipendia for the Yemenite students when in Yemen, the scholarships and the tickets for the Yemenite students pursuing the project abroad, the cost of a basic library per field, the continuation of the project after the two – three preparatory years (with the foreign scholars now covering a) the follow up of the Yemenite students' work and progress abroad and b) the preparation of other additional – no more than 50 – students during the subsequent five to seven years), as well stipendia and scholarships for the additional (up to 50 students) could all result in a total cost of less than $ 15 m (for a period of ten years).
Of course, it is to be expected that with such a commitment, and with an advancement of the project, donations and grants, as well as direct financial involvement from the part of targeted (and therefore concerned) countries are to be expected, and some may even take an enthusiastic form of participation in the establishment of the new academic departments, after the first Yemenite Orientalists return home.
Behind any project that ultimately demands success there must always be a great Vision and a great Principle. In this case, the Vision of an extroverted and highly educated Yemen that brings about an end to the disastrous, cultural and political, Colonial Heritage, and the Principle of a Multicultural, Global World in Peace have been enlightened by the radiation of Soqotra's Past, as exemplarily highlighted by the Periplus of the Red Sea, almost 2000 years ago.