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Al-Hewar Center was established by Al-Hewar Magazine in December 1994 in metropolitan Washington, D.C., as an independent forum for dialogue among the various members of the Arab American community with a view to finding common ground within the community as well as bringing about greater mutual understanding between the Arab community and American society at large. The Center is designed to facilitate the participation of a wide and diverse audience, and membership is open to all who are interested. The Center does not take positions, nor is it affiliated with any country, organization, political party or ideology; rather it provides a forum for respectful dialogue that is open to all opinions.

Another goal of the Al-Hewar Center is to help overcome the negative image of Arabs and Muslims that has pervaded American culture. This can be accomplished by Arab and Muslim dialogue with Americans. However, before this dialogue can take place, it is essential that the Arabs reach an understanding and a consensus about their own identity before they can present it to others. The mission of the Center is to provide a secure and open environment in which such a consensus can be achieved.

Al-Hewar Center is located in Vienna, Virginia (in Metropolitan Washington, D.C.). It hosts at least one event per week on a variety of topics. Each presentation is followed by an open discussion among the members of audience.  Most of the events are conducted in Arabic; however the Center hosts frequent English events. 

Why Al-Hewar Center?

Al-Hewar Center Opens Doors for Arab Dialogue

Over a period of two years ending in the summer of 1994, Al-Hewar Magazine invited a diverse group of Arabs and Arab-Americans in the Washington metropolitan area to hold regular discussions at the offices of the International Institute of Islamic Thought. The goal of these meetings was to work toward forging a common intra-Arab perspective that would be conducive to conflict resolution, bridging of differences, and advancement of understanding and cooperative relationships among Arabs of all backgrounds.

The discussions, which included scholars, diplomats, businessmen and members of the media, demonstrated that, notwithstanding a strong sense of common national (Arab) identity, the Arabs lack a common perspective on national life. Furthermore, they are disillusioned by the events of the recent past, present conditions, and ongoing trends in the Arab world, and they expect little meaningful reform in the absence of a shared national perspective.

This sense of a common national identity was instrumental in bringing the group together in the first place; however the disparate perspectives on national life, which the participants variously held and defended, has been a chronic dilemma facing Arab thinkers and reformers. It has frozen in place a status quo of economic, social and political fragmentation of the Arab homeland, and continues to thwart movement toward progressive and democratic governance.

The various participants brought their own diverse perspectives into the discussion - nationalist, secularist, Islamic, and one that supports the status quo as the only available choice. Rigid and contentious at first, the positions eventually softened somewhat over the period of sustained discourse. They also showed a propensity to synthesize. For example, the Islamic and secular perspectives approached common ground by recognizing that they each believe that human intellect is the final arbiter of the good and the bad in human affairs. The nationalist and status quo perspectives, likewise, converged on a symbiotic concept of Arabism in which national identity and individual state citizenship can mutually enhance the quality of Arab life.

The discussants, moreover, showed remarkable agreement about what they perceived to be the major deficiencies of the state of affairs in the Arab world. The concerns they voiced invariably related to increasing subordination to foreign will, political strife, defense vulnerability, economic fragmentation, underdevelopment, autocratic authority, and the lack of democracy and constitutional protection of human and civil rights. They agreed that, for a variety of reasons, the Arab governments could not be counted upon to undertake meaningful national reform and that only an intensive national discourse, generating and directing civic pressure, could move the governments to respond.

Encouraged by the threads of common thought and the positive results of the discussions, Al­Hewar magazine took the initiative to establish the AL­HEWAR CENTER in December 1994 as a forum to encourage further discourse with a view to finding more common ground. The forum is designed to facilitate the participation of a wider and more diverse audience and to expand the scope of the gatherings to include the cultural side of Arabism as well.

The AL-HEWAR CENTER was founded upon the belief that a shared national perspective is essential both to achieve Arab cohesion and to serve as a solid platform for reform; that without it, the Arab national experience will continue to stumble from one debacle to another, putting at risk the very survival of Arabism as both the distinct identity of the Arabs and the repository and guardian of the great legacy of Islam.

Another goal of the AL-HEWAR CENTER is to provide a forum for dialogue in an effort to overcome the negative image of Arabs and Muslims which has pervaded American culture. This can be accomplished by Arab and Muslim dialogue with Americans. However, before this dialogue can take place, the Arabs must reach an understanding and a consensus about their own identity before they can present it to others.

While continuing its open Arab-Arab discussions, the AL-HEWAR CENTER has also begun holding parallel discussions between Arabs and Americans by inviting American speakers to address the Center's audience in the hope that a new mutual understanding, and even cooperation, can gradually be achieved.

For a list of past events hosted at Al-Hewar Center, click here.

Basic annual membership to Al-Center is only $100. Members may attend all regular events at the Center for free (entry is $5 for non­members). In addition, Members receive complimentary subscriptions to Al-Hewar Magazine, including its English supplement,  the Arab-American Dialogue.  Click Here for Membership Coupon.

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