Today the wonderful World SF News blog led me to this report from the Syrian Arab News Agency about the 2nd Science Fiction Literature Seminar in Damascus. According to the report, the seminar was, “organized by the Ministry of Culture in cooperation with the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (ALECSO).” And the Minister of Culture, Dr. Riad Naasan Agha, was on hand to address the delegates.
The Minister concluded by calling for bolstering science fiction literature in Arab culture due to its ability to open up new horizons.
Can you imagine the UK ministry of culture doing anything like that? Do you even know who the UK’s Minister of Culture is? (I didn’t, and it turns out that her portfolio also includes tourism – New Labour isn’t too keen on culture unless it also brings in dollars to Theme Park Britain.)
The USA doesn’t even have a Minister of Culture (though the NYT thinks that perhaps it should), though the US does appear to make it easier for citizens to promote culture as individuals than the UK does.
Worldcon in Damascus, anyone?
No, thought not.
By the way, the conference was named in honor of Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Abd al-Malik ibn Muhammad ibn Tufail al-Qaisi al-Andalusi, known as Ibn Tufail in Arabic countries and Abubacer in the West, a 12th Century Muslim philosopher best known for his allegorical novel, Hayy ibn Yaqzan. Wikipedia describes the book as follows:
[it] tells the story of an autodidactic feral child, raised by a gazelle and living alone on a desert island, who, without contact with other human beings, discovers ultimate truth through a systematic process of reasoned inquiry.
You may also like to check this post on a web site devoted to Muslim philosophers.