The Middle East Monitor (MEMO) has held a function to honour and celebrate the life achievements of the distinguished Iraqi-born scholar Dr Jafar Hadi Hassan. Well known for his pioneering studies of Jewish sects, Dr Hasan is also an accomplished linguist, specialising in Semitic languages. The event was held at the P21 Gallery, London and attended by a number of Iraqi academics and British dignitaries.
During his academic career, Dr Hassan lectured at King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah, Manchester University and McGill University, Montreal.
MEMO's director, Dr Daud Abdullah, told the audience in his opening remarks that the event was organised to recognise and honour the scholastic contribution that Dr Hassan has made. He noted that his achievements stand ready to inspire others to pursue research in academic areas still untouched.
In a written statement read on his behalf, Mr Abbas Shiblock, director of the Palestinian Refugee and Diaspora Centre (Ramallah) said, "Dr Hassan has advanced our knowledge of how religious thought evolved. He has brought a fresh air of tolerance in the way we understand and judge various religions – a feature that reflects not only his academic work, but also tells us more about the man himself."
Also speaking on the panel was the Palestinian academic and writer, Mr Ibrahim Darwish. He said Dr Hassan's work was extremely important; "given its huge implications on the Arab world, and the relationship with the "Other Side". He added, "Because of the political environment, any writing about Israel and the Israelis is often coloured with politics and Israel's policies toward the Palestinian in the Diaspora and in the Occupied Territories."
In a lively exchange with the audience, Dr Hassan spoke at length about the similarities, variations and idiosyncrasies of the Semitic languages. He also spoke about his work on the Donmeh sect in Turkey, its origins and impact on Turkish society and Palestine; his book Al Donmeh: between Judaism and Islam has gone to five editions. Dr Hassan's most recent book, written in Arabic, is titled Jewish issues and Jewish personalities.