On the occasion of the proclamation of 2019 as year of Islamic cultural heritage ISESCO Director General holds a press conference

Rabat: 10/01/2019

On the occasion of the proclamation of 2019 as year of Islamic cultural heritage ISESCO Director General holds a press conference

The Director General of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), DrAbdulaziz Othman Altwaijri, today afternoon at ISESCO headquarters in Rabat, held a press conferenceon the occasion of the proclamation of 2019 as year of Islamic cultural heritage. The conference was attended by a number of representatives of local, Arab and international news agencies and print and audiovisual media outlets.

At the outset, DrAltwaijritalked about the general context, reasons and objectives of this initiative explaining that in application of the Resolution of the Tenth Islamic Conference of Culture Ministers, held in Khartoum in November 2017, on the proclamation of 2019 as year of Islamic cultural heritage, ISESCO launched this initiative at the beginning of 2019 and issued a statement wherein the Organization called upon the competent parties in Member States to activate this initiative’s contentsthrough the implementation of the programmes, activities and projects aiming at highlighting the diversity and richness ofthe civilizational, cultural and natural heritage of the Islamic world and the urgent need to safeguard it; raising awareness of its importance; and considering it part and parcel of the identity of peoples and societies, and a commonaltyfor the entire humanity.

Besides, ISESCODirector Generalstated that the Islamic world, covering almost one quarter of the Earth surface, represents a civilizational bloc with a universal missionwhichhas contributed to building the human civilization in various fields of knowledgeas evidenced bythe diversity and richness of its civilizational, cultural (tangible and intangible) and natural heritage. He added that Member States’ rich movable cultural properties such as artistic masterpieces, archives, manuscripts,coins, and ethnographic collections;urban and architectural cultural properties such as historic landmarks and spaces, archeological sites, natural landscapes and spaces;and forms of intangible cultural heritage like oral expressions, practices, skills and know-hows;as well as its brilliant figures in the fields of thought, art and creativityall mirror the authenticity of this civilization, its character as a melting pot of local cultures, and its interaction with other cultures and assimilation of influences and creativitythat are harmonious with it.

Furthermore, ISESCODirector General stressed that through safeguarding and rehabilitating this cultural heritage, the collective memory of the Islamic worldcan be preserved, the identity of its peoples and culturessafeguarded; and its futureforecast,to make this heritage a key factor in achieving comprehensive sustainable development. DrAltwaijrialso highlighted “this heritage, which marks the Islamic world and constitutes a major part of the cultural heritage of humanity at large, now faces several threats, including climate conditions and natural catastrophes, urban expansion, globalization, colonization-caused conflicts, looting, exploration, and illicittrafficking of cultural properties”he added “all of this results in the subversion and destructionof the landmarks of Islamic cultural heritage and distortion of its characteristics and components as is the case in many Islamic world regions, particularly the systematic violations, excesses and judizationby the Israeli occupation authorities in Al-Quds Al-Sharif and Al-Aqsa Mosque,as well as the deliberate destruction and subversion of this heritage as a result of wars, extremism, sectarianism, and terrorism.”

In addition, DrAltwaijri said that ISESCO on an annual and regular basis implemented many heritage programmes, projects and activities for the benefit of Member States; developed a specific programme for supporting educational, cultural, scientific and media institutions in Al-Quds Al-Sharif; set up the Islamic World Heritage Committee, ISESCO Archeology Experts Committee in charge of preparing technical and legal reports on the Israeli aggressions against Al-Aqsa Mosque and Al-Quds Al-Sharif, the Heritage Observatory, the Heritage Projects Support Fund in the Islamic world, and ISESCO Regional Center for Training the Professionals ofMuseums in French-speaking Member States in Burkina Faso; set up a mechanism for inscribing the landmarks and forms of cultural and natural heritage in the Islamic world; launched many initiatives, including “Islamic Declaration on Cultural Diversity” adopted by the Fourth Islamic Conference of Culture Ministers (Algiers, December 2004), the “Islamic Declaration on Cultural Rights” adopted by the Eighth Islamic Conference of Culture Ministers (Al-Madinah Al-Munawwara, January 2014), and the “Islamic Declaration on Preserving the CulturalHeritage in the Islamic World” adopted by the Tenth Islamic Conference of Culture Ministers (Khartoum, November 2017); and signed many cooperation agreements with regional and international organizations and competent parties in Member States in charge of preserving cultural heritage.

Moreover, ISESCODirector Generalstated that within this framework the initiative of proclaiming 2019 as year of heritage in the Islamic world would promote ISESCO’s achievements in the Islamic world and give new impetus to its relevant programmes and projects amidstthe special regional and international circumstances marked by the growing interest in heritage as a mechanism for preserving the collective memory and safeguarding the civilizational and cultural identity of nations, and as a lever of development; and also by the exacerbation of the threats facing this heritage such as conflicts, globalization, extremism and sectarianism, especially in the vulnerable areas around the globe.

DrAltwaijri also stated that the initiative of proclaiming 2019 as year of heritage in the Islamic world coincides with the 50th anniversary of the arson of Al-Aqsa Mosque which calls upon Islamic governmental and non-governmental bodies in the Islamic world and beyond to exploit this sad occasion to contribute to the process of highlighting, protecting and developing the heritage of Al-Quds.

In addition, ISESCODirector General highlighted that on the occasion of the year of heritage in the Islamic world, ISESCO has launched an integrated programme to promote Islamic and international support to safeguard the cultural heritage of Al-Quds Al-Sharif; proclaimedAl-Quds Al-Sharif as 2019 Islamic Culture Capital for the Arab Region and a permanent capital of Islamic culture; called for twining the other capitals of Islamic culture for 2019 with the Al-Quds Al-Sharif; and called upon each capital to host a week forAl-Quds Al-Sharif as part of the annual celebration programme on this occasion.

Besides, DrAltwaijri called upon the competent authorities in Member States to take part in the activation of this initiative through the implementation of heritage programmes, projects and activities so as to raise awareness of the importance of protecting heritage as part and parcel of our cultural identity everywhere, particularly in conflict areas; develop training programmes for the staff of the heritage field; employ ICT to rehabilitate this heritage in the fields of cultural and environmental tourism, socio-economic and knowledge development, and educational and cultural advancement; set best practices to deal with cultural and natural heritage given its specificity and vulnerability; rely on its collective and participatory management; use various media outlets to raise awareness of its importance and the necessity for its preservation and protection; and dedicate some of these programmes to shed light on the elements of the heritage of Al-Quds Al-Sharif.

Furthermore,ISESCODirector General commended the sustained efforts of Member States in the field of protecting cultural and natural heritage on top of which arethe Kingdom of Morocco, whose King Mohamed VI chairs the Al-Quds Committee,and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan which managesthe Islamic and Christian endowments(Waqf) and sanctities in Al-Quds Al-Sharif.

He further declared that ISESCO will implement a set of relevant programmes and projects such as the 8th Meeting of the Islamic World Heritage Committee; the 10thMeeting of ISESCO Archeology Experts Committee in charge of preparing technical and legal reports on the Israeli violations, namely its excavations in the vicinity of Al-Aqsa Mosque and in Al-Quds Al-Sharif; opening a special account with ISESCO to support heritage projects in the Islamic world; establishment ofthe Heritage Observatory under ISESCO General Directorate, and implementation of 37 activities in various heritage fields as part of the annual programme of ISESCO Directorate of Culture for 2019.

Afterwards, a number of media outlets’ representativesasked many questions and made some remarks with regard to the initiative’s objectives, expected outcomes and the executive programme, particularly regarding Al-Quds Al-Sharif whichDrAltwaijrianswered in details and gave further clarifications thereon.