The French President Nicolas Sarkozy has extolled the Arabic language as the "language of the future, of science and of modernity," and called for an increase in Arabic tuition in French schools.
The first conference on the Teaching of Arabic Language and Culture convened at the National Assembly in Paris where the need to greater incorporate Arabic within the French sphere was stressed for “better understanding, dialogue, and a mutually beneficial rapprochement”.
Noting the country’s particularly strong links with the Arab world, and its large Arab and Muslim population, Sarkozy said, "We must invest in the Arabic language [because] to teach it symbolizes a moment of exchange, of openness and of tolerance, [and it] brings with it one of the oldest and most prestigious civilizations of the world. It is in France that we have the greatest number of persons of Arabic and Muslim origin. Islam is the second religion of France".
The move may be an attempt to garner support among Arab leaders on the Mediterranean basin for Sarkozy’s grand idea of a Union of the Mediterranean, which he hopes will give him and France more of a leading role in Europe. The Union would address the Peace Process and increase free trade measures between Europe and the Mediterranean Middle East, although underlying the project is an attempt to curb migration to Europe via North African trafficking and smuggling routes.
The French President went on to espouse the Mediterranean [as a place] “where our common hopes were founded. Our common sea is where the principal challenges come together: durable development, security, education and peace”.
|The Arab World Institute, Paris|
It is illegal to record a population census in France based on ethnic lines, but a recent estimate puts the number of Arabs in France at around 3, 250,000.
The Institut du Monde Arabe (Arab World Institute) was established in Paris in 1980 and is veritable gateway to Arab culture; it houses a museum, conducts research on Arab issues, holds public seminars and educational classes, and disseminates impartial information of the Arab world. Washington, London, New York, Amsterdam and other cities should build their own versions and replicate its success.
The Facade of the Institut du Monde Arabe, (2nd photo) is from Peter Visontay©