Hello everyone. Thank you so much. I’m actually a little surprised and puzzled being granted this honor because I don’t consider myself having contributed to the society. Of course, I have the aspiration to do so. Anyway, I’m very humbled and grateful that the School of Oriental and African Studies even considered awarding me this honorary degree. I do hope that this will encourage a lot of others in the future to contribute to the society.
As some of you may have guessed, I am groomed in a very traditional setting. So, coming to this city, the city of London, and especially this school, is a very important chapter of my life. I have to confess I was not the best, ideal, student. But this city, and especially SOAS, has opened my eyes in many, many different ways.
For instance, the very word “Oriental” seems to have a lot of different meanings—among other things, “carpet.” And “Oriental” seems to also have the connotation, or is associated with, being exotic, feminine, weak, and vulnerable—in contrast to the West, that viewed itself as rational, masculine, and also powerful. It may be just my own projection, but I feel that Orientals, like myself, adopted this view so completely that we make every effort to see the world through the Occidental eyes, Occidental head, Occidental heart. To that end, we often forsake our Oriental traditions, both passively and aggressively. They have achieved this quite remarkably, I feel. This is not the case in reverse. I can only hope that Occidentals will try to appreciate Oriental and African studies—not just from the position of power, but with real respect, if not humility. If this happens, the definition of objectivity, which seems to be so important in the Western academia, may carry a different meaning.
I know that this degree comes with a lot of responsibility, so as a newly inducted fellow of SOAS I would like to dedicate myself to fostering this genuine empathy, which I believe is the core value of this institute. Thank you.