UAE author Yasser Hareb: I don’t believe in the idea of the ‘Arab world’

Dubai-based prominent writer, Yasser Hareb, talks about his Philosophical ideas and writing with Paulo Coelho

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Prominent Emirati author, columnist, and TV presenter Yasser Hareb is known for his best-selling books and vastly read columns and has been dubbed as one of the strongest voices among the young Gulf Arab youth.

Hareb is the co-founder of the internationally recognized Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies and was awarded for his work in tolerance and positivity at the Arab Social Media Influencers Summit last month.

As a writer, he has a close working relationship with internationally-accaliamed author Paulo Coelho, who he is working with to publish a collection of 30 short stories on the Arabian Gulf.

Al Arabiya's Maryam al-Jaber met with Hareb to discuss his thoughts on politics, social issues and what it was like working with Coelho, who he considers his mentor.

"We make our own reputation," Do you think our reputation as Arabs is good or does it need improvement and polishing? How can Arabs overcome their plight?

My opinion may infuriate some, but I will say it anyway. I do not believe in the idea of "the Arab world" because in fact it is not one. Forget about the past, man is a creature of the present, doomed to live by the terms and concepts of the present. We May share the language, and an emotional bound, but the geography is different, and the values of the people are different, and the circumstances of life and the requirements of development in each Arab country vary significantly.

That is why when someone speaks in a foreign channel about Arabs as one entity, putting them all in one pot; it is actually an act of injustice towards many people. Just like when we say "the West" and put, at least, three continents, into one entity and judge them as such.

For this, we need to talk about individual nations, or even about regions, unless an Arab Union or Gulf country Union see the light one day.

Because the dreams and hopes of a Libyan citizen differ from Saudi’s ambitions, the challenges of the Emiratis are quite different from the challenges of the Iraqis. How can we prescribe the same medicine to two completely different illnesses? It is nice to celebrate our Arabism and look at the commonalities between us, but we need to be realistic in dealing with the requirements of civilization in each country separately, since it might one day contribute to the creation of an intellectual and humanitarian Renaissance at the level of Arab countries. But we will completely fail if we link the success of the eastern Arab world to its west, since each has its own circumstances.

When do you give priority to the mind?

Always, even in religion. Without the mind we would never know God, and that is the greatest knowledge of all, we need to trust the mind to know its own creator, that’s the epiphany that Averroes had, his books were burned in consequence.

One who is afraid to use his mind, thinking that it could ruin him, is actually living naively, and missing on life as we know it.

You co-wrote a book with Paulo Coelho; tell us more about this experience.

Paulo is a harsh teacher; he doesn’t like false compliments and pleasantries. At the beginning of training, after reading one of my texts, he told me: “You wrote this text for yourself, not for the reader, you were showing off your culture and knowledge in front of your audience.”

His words were a shock to me, but he taught me how to be honest when I write, how to shorten the text, and how to choose the easiest words. For example, instead of writing “he draggled to the house” I replaced it with “he entered the house." How many readers in the twentieth century know the meaning of the word draggle? Paulo says: "Simplicity is the hardest thing in writing.”

It is said that Gulf writers have not yet reached the Arab world, why is that?

I completely agree, perhaps because the Gulf has become too self-sufficient by itself in the recent years. By this I mean that in the past, a writer needed to be present in Egyptian and Lebanese press and media to be considered influential. Today, the balance of power has altered, knowledge and media influence shifted to the Gulf countries. Most cultural events take place in the Gulf, most channels and newspapers broadcast from the Gulf, and social media celebrities are also from the Gulf. Consequently, a writer only ought to be present at these platforms to enjoy his literary status.