Is 225 thousand euros enough to collect a famous intellectual and show the name he bought as a souvenir? This question arose since the end of last week. This isn’t the first time, but it’s now about it The most important German philosopher Our time, Jürgen Habermas.
With this global thinker, who has championed the project of the Enlightenment and the critical distance of power for more than half a century, it should be possible to answer the question with a resounding rejection.
But it is not.
At the end of this month, Habermas, as he recently became known, will receive the “Sheikh Zayed Book Award,” one of the most prestigious awards for authors to be awarded in the world. The Shepherd Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi And the de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates. The award is named after his father.
“Love, tolerance and dialogue” – really?
In a tweet, His Highness the Crown Prince congratulated the 91-year-old winner, praising the cultural achievements in general as a “common language”, and invoking some of the noble goals: “love, tolerance and dialogue between nations and peoples.”
It is not the meager position of one of the most powerful and richest people in the world that bother us here. Because in the countryWho rules Mohammed bin Zayed with all the tools of the modern monitoring state, many residents miss every day love, tolerance and dialogue.
What is sacred to Habermas and what he represents in the works of his life is hardly said in the Emirates. There is no liberal and critical public, no competition for political ideas with parties and free elections, and certainly no equal public treatment on the basis of the rule of law.
Another world away from splendor
It shines and shines there on the coast of the Persian Gulf, which is undoubtedly impressive, and has some cultural offerings as in Louvre Abu Dhabi It is of great quality. But in all respects this is just a beautiful appearance, decorating the power of the ruler, his family and his favorites with a halo – as it once happened in the courts of the absolute kings of Europe.
Far from the royal splendor that tourists at their five-star resorts and mega-malls can smell a little, it happens A completely different world On. Dissidents are persecuted and imprisoned, something the human rights organization Human Rights Watch has complained about in its reports for years, without much change. Millions of guest workers from Asian countries live largely dependent on their customers and must be content with eight, twelve and sixteen people who live in cramped quarters.
The American think tank Freedom House, which annually records the state of democratization in the world, believes that the UAE is stepping back instead of making progress. With only 17 out of a possible 100 points on the Freedom House scale, the country is clearly not free.
“Of course I was suspicious”
For comparison: Iran received the ayatollah’s regime 16 points in Freedom House, while Russia’s Vladimir Putin got 20 points. What would the reactions be if a prominent representative of German intellectual life accepted a prize under the auspices of Ayatollah Khamenei or President Putin?
What prompted Jürgen Habermas to accept the Emirati award, he explained in an email upon request. He wrote, “Of course I was suspicious and knew about the institution and the award winners before I accepted the award.” Most of his information came from Jürgen Boss, director of the Frankfurt Book Fair.
Bows is a member of the scientific committee of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award and has good links with the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, which begins on May 23. An award ceremony will be held during the exhibition. Habermas received the award in the “Cultural Personality of the Year” category.
In his email, the Honorable One declared that Boos had “dispelled obvious concerns”. In addition, he “made himself aware of the last four winners in my categories” and “did not find a fly in the ointment.”
In 2020, the Palestinian writer Salma Khadra al-Jayyusi was honored as the “Cultural Personality of the Year”, followed by the Arabists Suzan and Yaroslav Stetkevich, who both study in the United States of America. In 2018, the award went to the Parisian Institute for the Arab World, and in 2017 to the Lebanese writer Amin Maalouf.
There is a notable blank space in Habermas’s answer
Certainly, Habermas is in good company with her. However, there is a noticeable blank space in his answer: He did not mention the “cultural personality” of 2015 at all, although SPIEGEL did ask about it. He is Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Emir of Dubai, the second largest emirate in the country north of Abu Dhabi.
Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum loves to write poetry. A few years ago, he succeeded in producing an 88-page portion of his poetry in Hanser Verlag, titled: “In the desert, only intelligent people can find the way.” The prince became known more than his poetry, due to the ruthlessness with which he exercised his parental authority as head of the family.
The case of his daughter Latifa in particular sparked global outrage. In search of a free life, the princess managed to escape from her home three years ago, but her father’s agents dragged her to Dubai. There you will Trapped in a locked villa He is being held, the 35-year-old said a few weeks ago in a video clip that reached the hands of a lawyer and shown by the BBC. “I am a hostage,” Latifa says in the video. According to the lawyer, 30 police officers guard her in the villa.
Does Jürgen Habermas want to line up with a man who is holding his daughter? of course no. Does he have to deal with the sukuk of the Emir of Dubai before receiving the same award of the Emir of Dubai six years ago? It would be better. It is clear that Habermas prefers not to do so.
The philosopher still had the opportunity to find clear words
He should not be deliberately accused of belittling the Emirati system. But the charge of omission can be hard to spare.
The philosopher still has the opportunity to find clear words in his acceptance speech after the award ceremony. It will be a moment of freedom of speech and expression in a country that is not free. Habermas could be justifiably pleased that his works, which have been translated into Arabic, are now gaining greater prominence.
“This awards ceremony can only provide a back wind for handing out books,” he wrote in his e-mail, and added, “How can I not be happy that my books on the tradition of Kantian enlightenment are in the UAE? Stability of the system there. “
With this, Habermas addresses the crucial question posed by the Sheikh Zayed Book Award: Who serves whom? Can Habermas be transformed into an Emirati propaganda tool, trained to hide the brutality of the regime behind a smokescreen of sublime vocabulary and cultural brilliance? Or will the prize winner succeed in bringing his enlightened and profound democratic ideas like a social and political bombing device to Abu Dhabi?
Usually when mind and strength meet, strength predominates.