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Lecture Series: Hidden Cosmopolitanism of the Arab World at Bay Street Theater

April 20, 2023 @ 7:00 pm April 27, 2023 @ 7:00 pm


Sag Harbor resident and Middle East expert, Ken Dorph, will delivers a two-part lecture entitled Hidden Cosmopolitanism of the Arab World, which examines the diversity of Arabs with a focus on their evolving views on religious minorities and gender.

Part I is held Thursday, April 20, at 7 p.m.

Part II is held Thursday, April 27, at 7 p.m.

As Ken Dorph illustrates, the US media present an image of Europe and Israel as beacons of pluralism and democracy with the Arab world narrowly summarized as ISIS. Ken has spent a good deal of his life in the Arab world, from Morocco to Iraq, and has lived the breathtaking diversity of the region. Ken will explore the surprising historical tolerance of the Arabs, which has been deeply and negatively impacted by Western intervention, the rise of the oil economy, and the conflicts with Israel. Ken will first ask the question: What is an Arab? And will then look at the diversity of the people called Arabs, with a focus on the evolving views on religious minorities and gender. Guests are left to ponder the fragility of a cosmopolitan society, how acceptance of diversity is undermined, and how we can help build a more caring and cosmopolitan world.

Thursday April 20, at 7 p.m.:
Hidden Cosmopolitanism of the Arab World: Part 1

The focus will be on the position of religious minorities in the Arab world, the ‘people of the book,’ and the overall greater tolerance in Muslim Arab societies compared with Christian European. Ken is particularly interested in the experience of Jewish Arabs. He celebrated Passover in Morocco in 1972, taught at the Jewish school in Tunis in 1975, swam each Saturday with Jewish friends in Damascus in 1979, and his closest friends in Cairo were a Christian-Jewish couple, the wife among the few remaining Jews in Cairo. Ken was honored to introduce Sag Harbor friend and neighbor Lucette Lagnado, author of The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit, to the extraordinary Jewish community of Tunisia.

Thursday April 27, at 7 p.m.:
Hidden Cosmopolitanism of the Arab World: Part 2

Ken will look at the question of gender and gender minorities in the Arab countries and in the context of Islam. Perhaps no issue raises more hackles with Americans than the treatment of women and the LGBTQ community in Arab countries. Yet Ken knows that the reality is far more complex. Ken has been an observer of gender geography and roles in the Arab world and the Mediterranean for over forty years. Ken published an original treatise examining the contrasting evolution of Islamic divorce in the three Maghreb countries that is still used as a reference. More recently, he was asked by USAID to examine the status of the LGBTQ communities in the region, from Iraq to Algeria, to serve as a basis for programs of support. Much of his current work focuses on financial inclusion for women, from Saudi Arabia to Morocco. Ken has spent time examining gender topics in an array of non-Arab Muslim countries, including Indonesia, Pakistan, and Turkey, and his travels and work in over a hundred nations gives him a broad base of comparison.

1 Bay Street
Sag Harbor, NY 11963 United States
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