Qatar’s milestone achievements in its infrastructure over the past few years was described as an ‘urban revolution’ by French official and former minister, Jack Lang.
Qatar has taken on a pivotal role in spreading the Arabic language in France, the president of the Arab World Institute in Paris declared in an exclusive interview with Qatar News Agency.
Jack Lang said the Arabic language is one of the key cultural ties between Paris and the Arabs, explaining that France has a long history of relations with the Arab world, whether in a positive, cultural, or civilised sense or in a negative, colonial light.
Lang previously served as France’s Minister of Culture and Minister of Education however was appointed as the institute’s president by former French President Francois Holland in 2013.
Since then Lang has made it a priority to protect the Arabic language, adding that he has created an Arabic language certification that is taught there and is recognised by France, Europe, and other countries.
The former academic and law professor has joined forces with Qatar on several occasions to take on this mission, with both parties most recently agreeing to support Arabic language education and dissemination in France around a year ago, especially through the Qatari embassy in Paris.
Through organising events, performances, and exhibitions that highlight Doha’s rich cultural legacy and honour Qatari creators across all disciplines, he said the institute aims to strengthen and expand its cooperative links with Qatar.
Lang described the Arab World Institute as a venue for embracing Arab-Islamic culture in France and Europe, and said it serves as a cultural bridge that promotes dialogue, cooperation, communication, discovery, and solidarity between the West and the East.
While Muslims and immigrants make up at least 13% of France’s total population, per 2019 statistics from the French Institute for Demographic Studies (INED), French authorities have been at the centre of criticism for the lack of action in addressing endemic Islamophobia as well as ongoing anti-Muslim policies.
Most recently, the French football federation has come under fire for banning Muslim footballers from breaking their fast during matches, in contrast to other leagues in Europe that have stood behind the players during the holy fasting month of Ramadan.
Speaking to QNA, Lang said while Arab and/or Muslim-born French people have assimilated into French society and its institutions over the years to make considerable contributions to the nation’s development, they still face ongoing racism.
He pointed to “a racist minority in French society” that works to harm the reputation of immigrants, Arabs, and Muslims alike through the use of hate speech propagated by the far-right National Rally party led by Marine Le Pen.
Lang stressed that such racist discourse is extremely harmful to society and must be resisted and combated. The majority of French people, he added, are at peace with the ideals of tolerance, solidarity, and acceptance of the other, and they support the integration of immigrants into French society.
The former minister said a major exhibition on sports and football in the Arab world assembled by the Arab World Institute featured designs of the Qatari stadiums that hosted the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and highlighted a specific focus on Qatari sports.
With regards to Qatar’s infrastructure, Lang spotlighted his fascination with what he called a “urban revolution.” The FIFA World Cup 2022 was organised by Doha with outstanding success, he said, emphasising that this accomplishment was on all levels of sport, engineering, media, and culture.
Dubbed ‘the best World Cup in history of the tournament’, Qatar 2022 went down as a successful lesson for future sporting events, according to several officials.
Meanwhile, Lang spoke about an upcoming exhibition in May titled ‘What Palestine Offers to the World,’ which will celebrate Palestine, its culture, history and cause.
Organised by the institute, the exhibition’s symbolic name conveys a specific message from the planning committee to uphold Palestinian culture and creativity in all of its forms.
Lang added that the institute will invite artists and cultural leaders from Gaza to highlight how the brutal Israeli blockade on the strip has affected the lives of Palestinians living there.
The exhibition in Paris will be overseen by the well-known Palestinian intellectual, Elias Sanbar.