Western media often portray Middle Eastern societies as rigid and resistant to change. However, Dr. Lou Marinoff, CCNY Professor and Chair of Philosophy sees a “great awakening” taking place in that part of the world.
Professor Marinoff’s view is based on observations from a trip last month to Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, where he was a speaker at the Third Biennial Festival of Thinkers held for students at the Higher Colleges of Technology. The event was organized under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nayhan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. It attracted leaders from business, academe, government, the arts and athletics, including 15 Nobel Laureates and basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
“Abu Dhabi is a model for modernization in the Islamic world,” Professor Marinoff said. “They have a conservative culture, with a tolerant outlook. They want to grow, but not to abandon Islam.”
He described the people he met as “friendly, open and curious.” The students, he added, are very inquisitive and “have a lot in common with City College students. They view education as a passport to a meaningful and contributive life.”
Professor Marinoff, who spoke at a panel on Globalization of Language and Culture, participated in the Festival at the invitation of Dr. Tayeb Kamali, Vice Chancellor of the Higher Colleges of Technology. The two met previously as co-panelists at a global India business conference.
He noted that the emirate has invested heavily in education: The event he participated in was produced to create a positive and inspiring educational experience for students at the school. “It made them feel deeply valued.”
In the future, Professor Marinoff says he would like to explore opportunities for collaboration between the Higher Colleges of Technology and CCNY. “Cultural exchange can enrich both these great learning communities,” he said. “Globalization is forcing everyone to change, but people still want to retain their own identities. Cross-fertilization of ideas can further mutual understanding and enhance everyone’s higher education.”
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