The Fes Forum gives voice to the issues surrounding the Fes Festival. This year the theme was Giving a Soul to Globalization, and the five days of colloquia were well attended.
While the first day's discussion, titled The poet and the city, highlighted not just the beauty but the power of words in leading a society through the turmoils and crises of life, but also how beauty allows man to become more self-aware and ethical.
"The poet is someone who describes and looks at the world," said Frederic Ferney, a French writer and essayist. "He is someone who introduces a place of beauty in life ... The poet is someone who forces us to say, 'Yes, this is the power of words and literature. Yes to life. And yes to the moment,' because we live in a world where the idea of beauty is possible".
Day two's forum, The future after the Arab Spring, got down to the more political and hard-hitting. Moderated by Abdou Hafidi, the discussion was fast-paced, ranging from Morocco to France, Syria to the United States. It covered raw party politics, religion, social forces, and culture. Panelists, including Bariza Khiari vice president of the French Senate, discussed themes including a new pride in openness - the need to debate fundamental issues with honesty and without fear; looming questions about the role of religion and Islam and the central importance of women in emerging societies and any debate about the future.
The discussion on Day Three, Business and spirituality, centered on the connection between ethics and spirituality.
"Spirituality offers the answer that ethics can be universal," declared panelist Jean François de Lavision. "We must create a sense of spirituality between the stakeholders and the world". Other key issues raised included cultivating a society for youth that successfully bridges the contradiction between these two ideas, as well as the importance of creating a business model that appreciates the spiritual contexts of different cultures and situations around the world.
Day four's Financial crisis or civilizational crisis? focused on the fundamental nature of today's crises (and indeed there are many). The inherently oppositional relationship of capitalism and markets, on the one hand, and spirituality and what is best in humankind on the other, is what the crisis in civilization is about.
Tariq Ramadan, Swiss academic and professor at Oxford University, launched into this debate by urging the crowd to consider the inherent relationship that exists between the two concepts.
"When we talk about the financial and the economical concerns...we are faced with the fact that we must deal with humans and the philosophy of life," said Ramadan.
For Ramadan, to understand the root of a financial crisis, we must first focus on analyzing man's daily practices, as well as his intellectual and social involvements. This will help provide a proper framework for recognizing the different ways and forms from which a crisis is born.
The last day's talk was a wide ranging discussion on Towards a Strategy for Civilisation, with panellists including Younès Ajarraï, Ismaël Alaoui, Touria Bouabid and Henri Joyeux.
Giving everyone a lift at the end of some intense sessions was a talk on the significance of birds in the Islamic world. Michael Barry, Professor in Persian at Princeton University, discussed his new book Visions of the Bird of Wonder, co-authored with French professor, Leili Anvar.
One of the major points that Barry made focused on how the bird represents the soul's aspiration to move to and be closer to God. Additionally, its ability for flight represents the soul's desire to aspire to a higher sense of self.
Grappling with the big issues, debates, spirited exchanges and the occasional laugh all contributed to making the Fes Forum a valuable experience for those who attended.
AN IN-DEPTH REPORT ON EACH SESSION IS COMING SOON - WATCH THIS SPACE!