I’m happy to report that my friend and mentor Sadik al Azm has won Germany’s Goethe Medal for intercultural understanding.
The awards ceremony took place in Weimar on Friday (28.08.2015), on the 216th anniversary of Goethe’s birth. This year’s motto was “The Spirit of History.”
The recipients of Germany’s official decoration, Sadik Al-Azm, Neil MacGregor and Eva Sopher, are international figures who have close ties to the country and contribute to intercultural understanding, in the spirit of the Goethe-Institut.
The Syrian philosopher Sadik Al-Azm, one of the most recognized intellectuals in the Arab world, is a strong advocate of freedom of speech and democracy. He aims to strengthen understanding between the Arab-Islamic world and Europe. Due to the conflict in Syria, he obtained political asylum in Germany three years ago.
“For decades, the Syrian philosopher Sadik Al-Azm has actively advocated the right to freedom of speech and for the rule of law and democracy while also championing understanding between the Arab-Islamic world and Western Europe”, the Goethe Institute’s website reads. Most recently, his contribution “The Shari’a from a Secular Perspective” appeared in the volume “Rechtskulturen im Übergang/Legal Cultures in Transition” (ed. by Werner Gephart, Raja Sakrani and Jenny Hellmann) of the Center’s publication series.
Al Azm is the author of a series of newly-released and newly-translated classics of contemporary Arabic philosophy, including Critique of Religious Thought and Self-Criticism After the Defeat. I’ve commissioned a review of the latter for Reason Papers.
Al Azm is essentially the grandfather of the Arab Spring. (Here’s a more recent piece by Al Azm on Syria in the Boston Review. This piece is worth reading as well, on Arab reactions to 9/11. And here’s a translation we did of one of his Arabic-language essays back in 2011 for Reason Papers.) At any rate, he’s certainly been a major source of inspiration for my own intercultural approach to philosophical understanding. Mabrouk!