May 26, 2013
By Hekmat K. Karzai, Director
The phrase intercultural dialogue is a relatively new phrase in the English lexicon that is widely used by politicians, development workers, and sociologists. The phrase itself, however, is complicated because there is no single, widely recognized definition of the term and for the most part, intercultural dialogue is a relatively new phrase derived from other terms, such as multiculturalism, social cohesion, and assimilation. There are two definitions, however, that have been generally accepted:
1. Intercultural dialogue is a process that comprises an open and respectful exchange or interaction between individuals, groups and organisations with different cultural backgrounds or worldviews. Among its aims are: to develop a deeper understanding of diverse perspectives and practices; to increase participation and the freedom and ability to make choices; to foster equality; and to enhance creative processes.
2. An open and respectful exchange of views between individuals and groups belonging to different cultures that leads to a deeper understanding of the other’s world perception”
Though the concept appears to have taken root in the 1980s and 1990s, the concept of intercultural dialogue became particularly prevalent in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Virginia. That attacks claimed the lives of over 3,000 Americans and gave rise to the subsequent “War on Terror” that witnessed large-scale military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. At the same time the United States military and allies waged war on Iraq and Afghanistan, there was some consensus regarding a need for intercultural dialogue as a way to understand both sides of the conflict, culturally and historically. It was hoped that doing so would prevent unnecessary conflict in the future and help both Muslim and non-Muslim nations appropriately interpret and react to the actions of the other. (Cont)