Nowadays, our world has become more connected than ever before, which has facilitated communication among people in general and the exchange of cultures in particular.
Since the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is part of this world that uses technology and enjoys great cultural diversity, the idea of cultural exchange, development and reformulation may result in fear of the loss of the identity in the original cultures.
The adoption and use of different cultures does not constitute a prison that curbs development. Taking advantage of the culture of another people does not necessarily mean taking on their character. For example, when ancient Westerners came to the Islamic World to exchange knowledge and study medicine, philosophy, mathematics and other sciences, they developed those sciences, which benefitted their nations. The exchange and reformulation of cultures and knowledge is an ancient tradition, not a novelty.
Moreover, the Islamic culture encourages Muslims to develop and improve. God ِAlmighty says, "It is He Who hath produced you from the earth and settled you therein" and the Prophet (PBUH) says, "You have better knowledge of the affairs of this world", referring to palm tree pollination.
Citing Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's response to the obsession with the fear of openness that may obliterate identity: "If you can't withstand the great diversity of the world, it means that your identity is weak, and you must dispense with it. If your identity is strong and authentic, you can develop it, adjust the negatives that are in it, and stimulate the positives through which you can maintain your identity and develop it." The Saudi Crown Prince continued by saying: "I believe that our identity is very strong and we are proud of it, which is a key part of us, and a key part of the current movement in KSA. Our Saudi identity is based on the Islamic and Arab identity and our cultural and historical heritage".
What are the benefits of harnessing different cultures?
A lot, in fact. The Quran mentions: "O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another". Interculturalism promotes dialogue and knowledge exchange among different societies.
We may, for instance, benefit from a certain art in a specific culture, by investing it to enhance the country's economy. For example, Arabic calligraphy was created in the Arab culture, so this art and other arts can be invested in as an aesthetic addition that takes the form of decorations and inscriptions on buildings and utensils, among others, thus increasing people's demand for them.
Other cultures can contribute to complementing our authentic culture. For example, when a people adopts a culture of love of teamwork or respect for appointments, it is a win-win for everybody.
The harnessing and development of culture may extend the lifetime of a culture. When you gaze upon many monuments, you feel like you're taking a journey through a time machine to witness the story of the suffering or achievement of a civilization. Certain cultures that have always contributed to saving other nations from crises and calamities, which paints a picture of how the exchange of an idea can be a key to welfare and success. Cultures are not just inherited behaviors and beliefs, but rather a mirror that reflects the thoughts of a human being.
The question now is: Who activates, adopts and employs culture? Is it institutions or individuals?
There is no doubt that institutions and individuals are integrally connected, as institutions are composed of individuals who perform certain jobs. Harnessing culture can start from the individual and work its way up to the institution. For example, harnessing a certain science that is developed in a particular culture in the form of an invention. The idea of the invention itself may have started from an individual, while the institution supported that individual. Harnessing culture can start from the institution and trickle down to individuals, such as the culture of volunteering, where organizations create applications and programs that support this culture and benefit individuals.
How can we tell the negative from the positive aspects of adopting cultures so that benefit without exposing our identity to dissolution?
Openness to other cultures has become a necessity and an inescapable reality in today's world. Distinguishing between good and bad is an exciting dilemma. In my opinion, we can be discerning by learning about the culture itself through reading, exploring, and learning about the outcomes and results that culture created. Each culture, for instance, has aspects that can be considered immoral by other cultures, but with research and examination, you can get clear on these issues.