The Saladin Days 2014
Islam in Europe and the Legacy of el-Andalus
In the spring of 2004 Spain is hit by the worst terrorist attack the country has seen since the civil war, when a series of bombs are detonated on a commuter train in Madrid. Al-Qaeda is believed to be responsible for the attack. In November 2005 two young boys of African origin end up dead after a police chase in the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, causing riots to break out all over France. In July 2011 Norway is struck by an act of right-wing extremist terrorism in Oslo and on the island of Utøya. While the ethnic and religious multiplicity of Europe is ever growing, right-wing extremist political parties are experiencing a simultaneous surge in support.
There is a common denominator that connects Madrid to Paris and Utøya: all of the incidents are allegedly linked to religion and reflect an apparently eternal struggle between Islam and Christianity, “us” and “them”, that is supposedly insurmountable. Some claim that there is no such thing as a mutual history for Christians and Muslims, only struggle and conflict. From the European point of view Europe is “ours” and the Middle East “theirs”. Yet can this be true? For almost eight hundred years, from 711 to 1492, Muslims ruled large parts of Spain and Portugal. Was this a period marked by happy coexistence, or by brutal and intolerant regimes?
The legacy of el-Andalus and the importance of Islam for European culture and history have been controversial themes for many years. We have invited authors, scholars, artists and intellectuals to an informed conversation about how we are to understand ourselves and the modern world in light of the past. We will also look closely at the work of the notable literary historian and theoretician Edward Said. Are his theories about the relationship between Europe and the Orient still valid? And is a conversation built around the opposition between “us” and “them” still relevant?
Dominique Edde is an author and essayist from the Lebanon who has written about themes such as photography, psychoanalysis, war and cultural differences. Through her work as an editor for the French edition of Orientalism, she developed close relationship with Edward Said, and has translated several of his other books. During the Saladin Days, Eddé will talk about her newest novels, Kite and Kamal Jann, in which the action ranges from the Beirut and Cairo of the past to present-day Syria, London and Paris, all the while allowing the dividing line between East and West to remain a central nerve in her stories.
Oliver Roy is a professor at the European University Institute in Florence and the author of several books on minority questions, Islam, and the relationship between religion and secularism, including The Failure of Political Islam (1994) and Secularism Confronts Islam (2005). Roy has acted as an advisor to the UN and the French government, and is a well-known commentator on Islam and minority questions in France.
Anouar Majd is the director of the Centre for Global Humanities at the University of New England and a leading Islamic intellectual in the U.S. He has published several books that challenge prevailing notions of Islam among both Muslims and Christians. In his book We Are All Moors (2009) Majid establishes a connection between Moorish Spain and current views on minorities in the U.S. and Europe.
Karim Miske is an author and documentary filmmaker. Among other ventures, he has made the documentary Jews and Muslims. Intimate Strangers, which was screened by NRK (Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation) in the fall of 2013. He has also written the novel Arab Jazz, which describes the murder of a Jewish woman living in multi-ethnic Paris, and how her Muslim neighbour and good friend is forced to take matters into his own hands when the investigation identifies him as a suspect.
Tariq Ali is a writer, historian and political activist of international standing, as well as a highly sought-after public speaker. He has written over 30 books, including, non-fiction, history and novels. Among his writings is the so-called Islam quintet, a set of five novels that utilise important historical events as their backdrop. At the time he was also one of the organisers of the large demonstrations against the Vietnam War in London and remains a central figure in the magazine The New Left Review.
Nils Økland is a fiddle player with a highly personal and distinctive style. He has several releases on the legendary ECM behind him (Hardanger fiddle, violin, viola d’amore), and works at the colourful point of intersection between Norwegian folk music, improvisation and contemporary music.
Solo Cissokho was born in south Senegal and is a griot – a family and caste of traditional Senegalese musicians. He is one of the foremost practitioners of his instrument in the world, in addition to being a formidable singer. He has won the BBC World Music Award and has performed with Youssou N’Dour and Ali Farka Touré, among others.
Rolf-Erik Nystrøm plays his saxophones like no other and has invented several new ways of playing the instrument. Independently of genre, he moves from being a soloist with the Oslo Philharmonic to playing contemporary music, pop and rock with the ensemble Poing, in addition to working with some of the best folk musicians from around the world.
Raquel Andeuza is one of Europe’s foremost baroque sopranos. She was born in Pamplona, Spain and educated at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. She performs with a number of ensembles, among them L’Arpeggiata, and has produced several recordings.
Jesus Fernandez Baena plays the theorbe with several baroque orchestras in Europe and has recorded with Harmonia Mundi, Deutsche Grammophon and Naïve, to mention a few. He was educated at the Seville Conservatory and the Royal Conservatory of Music at The Hague.
The programme has been developed with support from the Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre (NOREF) and with financial support from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.