The idea of launching this website was suggested by the aftermath of the Arab revolutions which had opened up new spaces and new horizons. It had revealed entire sectors of those societies which had been invisible to us, and particularly the new generation of young people, active, committed, open to the world. And yet our media coverage of that “zone” remains often incomplete and sometimes superficial. It is focused on the conflict between “Islamists” and “secularists”, and offers no other approach. It totally neglects the current upheavals in those societies, the way groups and individuals are changing.
Even in the area of politics, too little attention is paid to what is happening in the Arab world and its margins (Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, etc.), often because the news media lack the means to cover the international scene.
How is it possible to follow events in Egypt, demonstrations in Kuweit, sit-ins by prisoners’ families in Saudi Arabia, the constitutional debate in Tunisia or the clashes between clans in the ruling circles of Algeria? There are so many questions and queries and countless topics to be dealt with, especially if we do not confine ourselves to politics but favour instead a global approach, mixing political and cultural questions, geopolitics and the information revolution, social and economic transformations. And including of course the historical dimension which weighs so heavily on today’s perceptions, or the novels, the movies, the TV series. And also the relations between the two shores of the Mediterranean, the cradle of globalisation so many centuries ago and yet apparently as fragmented as ever today.
We are further convinced of the importance of trying to apply to that huge geographical space, to the political, cultural and social movements that are springing up there, the same rules of analysis we apply to the rest of the world. There is no such thing as a “Muslim” or “Arab” exception.
Orient XXI is neither a daily news website nor an academic organ reserved for specialists. We want it to be ‘in-between’, aimed at a large and varied public interested in the region for many different reasons – at students as much as people with relatives or friends on the other shore, at men and women involved on a daily basis in the countless economic, cultural, and interpersonal networks linking North and South.
We want to open our columns to journalists and scholars, activists and diplomats, jurists and writers. And especially to those who live in that immense space called “Muslim,” help their voices to be heard, voices so often inaudible, we want to make known viewpoints which provide a fresh look at the region.
Many websites already exist, especially in the Arab-World, the English-speaking world but also in Russia, in India, in Brazil and we hope to co-operate with them.
Our ambitions are great but our means are limited. The site is financially independent; it is free and has no advertising. We will only make a success of this with our readers’ help, through their criticisms and the ways in which they relay our work.