French honour for Sharjah Ruler, Paris |WAM | 23-07-2003

The French government yesterday conferred on His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, the Republican Order in Art and Humanity, of the class of a knight.

The honour was in recognition of his significant contributions in the academic, scientific, cultural and arts fields. It is also for his unstinting support to programmes on dialogue, intellect, civilisational interactions and the exchange of art among the peoples of the east and west.

In a colourful ceremony, the French Minister of Culture and Communications, Jean-Jacques Aillagon, decorated Sheikh Sultan on behalf of President Jacques Chirac amidst great applause and admiration.

Sheikh Sultan, who expressed profound gratitude for the honour, said in his statement of appreciation, that France had played a pioneering role in civilisational interactions among the civilisations of the world.

He pointed out that France’s contributions in the areas of culture, translation, art and the spreading of the true meaning of freedom and justice, cannot be overemphasised, citing numerous examples on the contributions made by France in the Arab world’s culture and art from 1715 to 1905.

Earlier in his keynote address, the French minister, who conveyed to Sheikh Sultan the greetings and appreciation of the French government and people, said that Sheikh Sultan’s hard and selfless work was the secret behind the development of his emirate intellectually and technically, adding that by his relentless efforts, Sharjah had become the hub of art creativity and the abode of art due to the emirate’s extraordinary cultural structures, as it boasts about 20 museums, in addition to a big cultural centre, which regularly hosts various cultural activities, including French cultural activities.

“Your high sense of feeling, quality taste and intellectual nature, coupled with your personal commitment, have made you a real protector of art, highly committed to the protection of heritage and a big booster for modern art creativity,” he said.

He said: “For Unesco to choose Sharjah as the 1998 Cultural Capital of the Arab World, is greatly justified,” adding “you have made Sharjah a minaret of culture, which sheds light on the whole of the Gulf region.”

The French minister said France acknowledged the value and importance of Islamic art. “That is why we strive hard to support it,” he said.

He concluded his address by paying tribute to Sheikh Sultan and his wife, Shaikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi for their great contributions in support of handicapped persons and in boosting the role of women in the Arab societies.