In January 2014 me and my friend Hani, a Palestinian-American from Tufts University who was also studying at Sciences Po, Paris, decided to set up a website called Infita7. It happened almost by accident – growing out of a desire to do something about the way the East and West (or l’Orient et l’Occident – as the French would have it) perceive each other which, to us, seemed skewed and inaccurate.
Infita7 is a website dedicated to understanding the many nuances and complexities of the Arabic world through an exploration of the history, culture, art and political peaks and troughs across the region. ‘Infita7’ (the 7 is often transliterated as a substitute for the letter ‘ح’ in Arabic pronounced as a guttural ‘h’) is an Arabic word meaning ‘openness’. And that’s what the project seeks to do, open up the Arabic world whilst blurring the idea of dichotomy between it and the Western world.
This project is ‘borderless’, meaning that its delimitations are neither physical nor geopolitical, but rather it is a forum accommodating any and every thing affiliated to the Middle East. Our lives are deeply invested across the supposed ‘civilisation fault line’ between the West and the Arabic world and our existence inherently contradicts the so-called ‘clash of civilisations’. Regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, or any other categorical division of humanity, the cultural and political texture of the Arabic world have been sources of pride and disappointment, inspiration and bitterness, fascination and disgust. Our goal is to explore this richness by drawing on personal experiences, opinions, and observations from a range of contributors in English, French and Arabic.
The website launched 20th May 2014 and got over 1000 hits in the first 12 hours. Honestly I couldn’t have done any of it without Hani whose measured presence keeps me realistic and keeps our goals attainable. We’ve got no end game just seeing where the project goes and remaining open, optimistic and pragmatic without betraying the beliefs that lie at the heart of the project.