Italy celebrates Historical Corpus of Arabic Language at International Festival of Arabic Language and Culture
The unparalleled efforts of H.H. Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, to preserve and promote the Arabic language crossed a milestone at the 5th edition of the prestigious International Festival of Arabic Language and Culture in Milan, whose main focus this year was the Historical Corpus of the Arabic Language – an unprecedented project to chronicle 17 centuries of development in the Arabic language spanning five distinct time periods.
The Sharjah Ruler’s cultural message for the world was conveyed by Sheikh Fahim Al Qasimi, Chairman of the Department of Government Relations (DGR) in Sharjah, during a keynote address at the opening ceremony of the festival, organised by the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan in partnership with Sharjah Book Authority (SBA).
The opening was attended by Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri, Chairman, SBA; Dr. Mohammed Safi Al Mosteghanemi, Secretary-General of the Arabic Language Academy (ALA); Ahmed Naser Al Khaja, Head of Media Affairs and Public Diplomacy, UAE Embassy in Italy; Franco Anelli, President, Catholic University of the Sacred Heart; Giovanni Gobber, Dean of the Faculty of Linguistic Sciences and Foreign Literatures, Catholic University of the Sacred Heart; and Dr. Wael Farouq, Professor of Language, Arabic Literature and Islamic Studies, Catholic University.
Also in attendance were Dr. Abdelfattah Al-Hajmari, Director of Arabisation Coordination Bureau in Rabat, Morocco; Dr. Mamoun Wajeeh, Scientific Manager of the ‘Historical Corpus of the Arabic Language’; Dr. Bakri Mohammed Al-Haj, Head of Al Khartoum International Institute of Arabic Language, Sudan; and Dr. Khalil Al-Nahwi, Head of Mauritania’s Council of the Arabic Tongue; in addition to diplomats, senior representatives of cultural institutions in Europe and around the world.
In his keynote address delivered on behalf of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah, Sheikh Fahim Al Qasimi, said, “Our pride in language and national identity are not to be kept isolated from the world. We must wield them to forge dialogue and meaningful cultural and linguistic connections with the world based on mutual respect, understanding and equality.”
The DGR Chairman added, “Respecting one’s own identity and understanding its importance in building the future is equally about being respectful of the identities of others. Language, as everyone agrees, is a key component of our identity as it is a tool for self-expression, and a carrier of culture and heritage.”
Speaking about the Sharjah Ruler’s efforts in supporting the Arabic language, Sheikh Fahim noted, “Through the Historical Corpus of the Arabic Language, His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah has emphasised that our language is not only for us; it belongs to all humanity as it has influenced other languages while being nurtured by them too. These influences of our language on the world are evident in global art and literature, and even in spoken languages and dialects.”
For his part, Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri, said in his keynote speech, “We are proud to sponsor this important festival again, which is the biggest of its kind in Europe. In Sharjah, our work is guided by the vision of H.H. Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, which recognises the importance of language in impacting the current reality and future of nations. The vision also calls for constructive communication based on equality and awareness of one’s unique individuality, and highlights the significance of celebrating the commonalities between cultures and countries.”
The SBA Chairman added, “A nations beauty is truly revealed when a non-native is able to understand its language, because a language is not merely a tool for communication – it is a way of life. This is why we are happy to open a wide window to the Arab culture from the heart of Milan, and we are happy that Sharjah is an ambassador of the Arabic language and culture to the world.”
Al Ameri continued, “Throughout its history, the Arabic language has made immense contributions to humanity, presenting to the world vast knowledge and awareness, laying the foundations of science, physics, astronomy, navigation, mathematics and even music. The Arabic language was the gateway through which the world entered the era of contemporary civilisation, and the path taken towards the most prominent renaissance throughout the ages.”
Franco Anelli said, “We thank Sharjah for its ongoing efforts in supporting intercultural dialogue, and we also thank the Sharjah Book Authority for its continuous support in taking forward the festival’s vision and message. We are pleased that this year’s edition of the festival is dedicated to celebrating the Historical Corpus of the Arabic Language, which Sharjah worked on under the supervision of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah, and which today represents a significant achievement not only for Arabs but for the whole world, due to the monumental effort in documenting of one of the oldest and richest languages of the world.”
He added, “In this edition of the festival, we are reviewing the impact of the ‘Historical Corpus of the Arabic Language’ in promoting common values between the Arab and European cultures and supporting communication between civilisations. We see Sharjah as the gateway to strengthen our relations not only with Emirati culture but also with the Arab culture.”
For his part, Giovanni Gobber said, “For academics, the Arabic language is viewed upon as one of the most important languages and we are constantly looking for ways to increase our knowledge of it. We believe that all languages are connected in one way or another. There are existing relationships between them, some of which are known, and some are waiting to be discovered.”
Gobber added, “As Italians, we feel a sense of belonging with the Arab civilisation, and we are proud of what connects us with it and our strong ties with this magnificent culture and language.”
In turn, Dr. Wael Farouk expressed his pride in working at the Catholic University and emphasised that no other university outside the Arab world provides as much time and resources for academics.
A video screened at the opening ceremony documented the different phases of development of the Historical Corpus of the Arabic Language, and the ceremony concluded with a musical performance by the Arabic language students at the university.
Led by the university’s Arabic language Research Institute (CARA) and the Language Service Centre (SeLdA), the festival also featured an exhibition of Arabic books, where SBA showcased a curated selection of works of Emirati and Arab authors.
The three-day festival hosted a series of cultural events and activities, and witnessed several expert-led panel sessions that highlighted the Corpus’ key offerings and its journey of development.