Translators could help to bridge the divide between the Muslim and Western worlds Globalization translation jobs
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Translators could help to bridge the divide between the Muslim and Western worlds

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Sahar H Moussly Do bi-lingual, multi-lingual, multi-cultural educated indivduals have a role to play in bridging the gap between cultures? Asks Sahar Moussly, Executive Director of overseas ATC member, Trans Gulf Management Consultants.

It’s a question that I have repeatedly asked myself; especially after witnessing the controversy and rage caused by publishing the caricatures depicting Prophet Mohammed in Jyllands-Posten Danish newspaper.

The crux of the problem is that the two parties are locked in their own worlds, oblivious of the cultures that exist on the other side of the hemisphere.

In a globalised world, each party is refusing to acknowledge the other or see the other side of the coin. The gap is growing between East and West and there is an inherent failing to take steps to correct this situation.

Press coverage didn’t help create understanding. If anything, it mirrored the gap and served in the end to fuel more. It is about bridging the gap of East and West, which is due to cultural, social and religious differences added to by the language barrier.

Language as a means of communication is the easiest of these tools to use (at the immediate stage) to help bridge this gap hence it is up to translators who by nature of their job must understand and appreciate cultural, religious and social differences which affect the languagesthe tool they work with on a daily basis - therefore they are by default the only key to solving this problem.

We, the educated translators who understand very well the mosaic that makes the world, who master the art of words and cultures; have a duty and a key role to play. Through professional bodies such as ATC, we have to try and convince the political decision makers, multinational companies and international organisations to see that it is time to budget for more translation projects to be commissioned into Middle Eastern and Asian languages. It is through introducing the people of the Middle East to the true flavour of the Western culture and education that he West can win the hearts and minds of the people. On the other hand, only translated books from Middle Eastern languages into English and other western languages can introduce the West to the meaning of Eastern culture and make them understand and see all the colors of the spectrum, and enable the decision makers in the West to understand people of the East and Far East and debate issues with sensitivity.

We can avoid all the negative destructive consequences if only the lay man in the Middle East were to understand the importance of freedom of speech for a Western journalist. Similarly, if the Danish journalist had understood the likely Muslim reaction to the publication of those cartoons, a great deal of anger, rage, violence may have been avoided. Instead their appearance was seen as a Western publishing interest attempting to teach the Muslim world a lesson in bending to Western cultural values.

I wonder if that Danish newspaper understood how easily publication of such material could be used for manipulating the masses in the Moslem world and turning many against anything Western.

It is time for honest people sitting on top of the decision-making pyramid to utilise the art of words, and benefit from the capabilities of translators to avoid hostility, aggravation, hatred and violence and prove Huntington's theory as a wrong one when he spoke of the Clash of Civilisations!

This article was originally published in Communicate - the Association of Translation Companies' newsletter -

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