INTERVIEW: Untraditional cultural dialogue

Sayed Mahmoud , Tuesday 29 Aug 2023

Wael Farouk, editor and founder of Jusur, a new cultural magazine, says it is designed to reflect all the elements that make up humanity.

wael farok
Wael Farouk, the editor and founder of Jusur a cultural magazine.


Earlier this month, Wael Farouk launched the first issue of his most recent cultural project: Jusur (Bridges), a bilingual Italian-English magazine that discusses profound and complex issues of culture, religion and identity.

The launch of Jusur’s first issue comes about two months after its 'zero issue' was released in June in New York, during a UN-sponsored conference dedicated to building bridges between East and West. With a wide range of contributions from high-profile Arab and European academicians and writers, Jusur in issues zero and one takes an untraditional approach to examine the possible paths for cultures to connect.

Jusur’s zero issue examined the layered and often forgotten relations between faith and food. Without confining the discussion to Abrahamic religions, Jusur approaches food as a symbol of religious identity but also a function of benevolent connectivity that bypasses faith and all other forms of personal identity.

In his article published in this issue, French Islamologist and political scientist Olivier Roy reflects on the difference between eating halal or kosher food in a predominantly Muslim or Jewish setting as opposed to doing so in a Western secular context. According to Roy, it is in the second context that opting for this halal or kosher food becomes both a religious observation and a cultural statement.

Roy argues that the ability of both concerned individuals and communities or states to manage the issue of halal and kosher food in a way compatible with the faith and regulations of both sides could be seen as a bridge of communication.

Fasting is examined by Jusur as another manifestation of food as a cultural material. Contributions by Christian, Muslim, and Buddhist scholars show that the common thread of the different forms of food deprivation in all religions relates to the desire to control the body and allow for spirituality to override lust – or as specified in the Sokushinbutsu tradition: to allow for one to reach death without corruption in the flesh.

In the same issue, both Stefano Ardini, a professor of linguistics at the Link Campus University in Rome, and Haji Syed Salman Chishty, a member of the Sunni Sufi Chishti order, argue that when spirituality is involved, food passes from being a mere means of sustenance to become a functional unity of communication, a way of expressing love, and to cultivate a sense of gratitude for one’s blessings.

Bridges in identity

With issue one, Jusur examined another central element of cultural dialogue: The face, identity and difference.

In this issue, Egyptian writer and translator Ahmed Abdel-Latif interviews prominent Argentine writer and critic Patricio Burn on the issue of identity, with Burn making his well-known argument that identity is a choice, not an obligation.

Iraqi novelist Inaam Kachachi shares her own experience as a bi-cultural or even trans-cultural citizen who one day explained to a French civil officer that in Iraq, women do not abandon their family names to carry those of their husbands. Adel El-Siwie, an Egyptian artist, approaches the face and the head as two distinct elements in defining identity.

The issue dedicates a dossier to discuss the works of King Charles III of England in promoting dialogue and cultural connectivity.

Jusur is a product of the Muslim World League. In an editorial that was published in the zero issue, Muhammad Bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa, secretary general of the World Muslim League, writes, “We live in a world that practices exclusion”. According to Farouk, Jusur will work to promote inclusion rather than exclusion, and the creation of a shared path to the future which all can share.

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