Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán inaugurated on April 9 at Piliscsaba (Hungary), the new headquarters of the Avicenna Institute of Middle Eastern Studies, led by Prof Miklós Maróth. Here is an excerpt of his address; the whole text is available on the Government’s website.
“Hungarians are known as the most western people of the East. I should talk about how much evidence there is for this: in words of Iranian and Turkish origin in our language; in our cuisine; in our folk motifs; in our literature and our music. I should say that a thousand years ago we Hungarians chose to belong to the West, but without forgetting our Eastern origins. We are proud of this, and so we are researching and nurturing these roots. (…) I should also talk about the importance of Islamic culture. It is a civilisation which is more than a thousand years old, and which has made invaluable cultural and scientific contributions to the world – for example in mathematics and medicine – which are worthy of the highest respect. Its most famous representative was Avicenna. All this commands respect, and we Hungarians look on this culture with respect. It was not by chance, therefore, that during the first civic government – from 1998 to 2002 – we created the Avicenna Foundation for Middle Eastern Studies, to research our eastern roots and the Middle East region. (…)
Europe today is undergoing a grave crisis: a migration crisis that has in fact broadened into a civilizational crisis. We can sum this up by saying that the East has come to the West. A large proportion of the immigrants arriving in Europe come from the East, and most of them are followers of Islam. As a result, Oriental studies has become an even more strategic research field. And this immediately highlights an interesting circumstance, as nowadays the geographical area for your research is not as simply defines as it was a few decades ago, because Islamic culture has occupied new geographical regions. An increasing number of Muslims are settling in the cities of Western Europe, and indeed even in independent enclaves. Therefore, today we must not only focus on events to the east of us, but also on those to the west of us. The first step in understanding the crisis is to gain the most extensive knowledge possible of the culture and politics of migrants’ countries of origin. I think that Western Europe’s modern-day warriors for integration believe that there’s no reason why anyone who wants to go to France or Germany and who wants a French or German standard of living shouldn’t immediately become French or German. Today the Brussels elite lives in this bubble. But in reality migrants are coming because they want French, German or Hungarian standards of living, but also want to live according to their own culture, customs and rules. Europe is politically deluded if it thinks that people arriving from the Islamic world do not bring with them the laws, customs and conflicts that have existed in their culture for centuries. Is Europe prepared for this? Can it solve such a centuries-old antagonism? Can it contain the resulting social problems? Can Europe protect the equality of women? Can it guarantee the peaceful coexistence of Christians, Muslims and Jews? There are many questions for which Western Europe has not yet found answers.
Our starting point is to take help to where it is needed. This is the appropriate approach, and the only one that does not force anyone to renunciate and give up himself. In order to help them, we need to know the culture of the people living there – including their everyday culture. An old truth is that getting to know other cultures strengthens commitment to our own culture. I hope that the Avicenna Institute of Middle Eastern Studies will continue to assist us – the whole of Hungary, including the Hungarian government – in being good partners for the countries of the Arab world, while strengthening our own cultural, Christian and European identity.
|Avicenna Institute headquarters at Piliscsaba, designed by late Hungarian Architect Imre Makovecz|