Features » Magazine Roundup


Magazine Roundup

Al Ahram Weekly | The New York Times | Internationale Politik | HVG | NRC Handelsblad | Gazeta Wyborcza | The Guardian | DU | Folio | Le Nouvel Observateur | The New Yorker

Al Ahram Weekly
07.02.2007 (Egypt)

Amany Abulfadl Farag (more here), a member of the Egyptian Centre for Monitoring Women's Priorities, read the UN instigated Arab Report of Human Development 2005, which focusses on gender inequality in the Arab world and found it laden with feminist propaganda of neo-colonial aliens. "The report dedicates two pages (116- 118) to honour killings, domestic violence and female circumcision, while a single paragraph deals with women under occupation. Darfur doesn't get a mention. Honour killings claimed the lives of 20 women in Arab countries over a period of two years, says the report. Armed conflict has claimed the lives of 100,000 women in Iraq." Women in the west are also abused in the west, the writer says, without this warranting regional reports. "It is the over-concentration on Arab women that makes Arab intellectuals doubtful about the report and not some convoluted conspiracy theory. Arab intellectuals refuse to allow Arab women to become a pretext for outside forces to impose their alien agendas. The fear of having women's issues will become the raison d'etre for foreign interference is well founded -- the report, after all, stresses the importance of 'external reform' (p. 63)."

Further articles: Rania Khallaf and Hadeel Al-Shalchi (blog) outline their impressions of the 39th International Book Fair in Cairo, where there was but a smattering of international literature for the reading (although a reading of the Algerian religious studies academic and Islam critic Mohamed Arkoun was well attended). And in an interview with Ezzat Ibrahim, the American political scientist Ian Shapiro ("Containment: Rebuilding a Strategy against Global Terror") voices his suggestions for US policy in the Middle East: control not confrontation.

The New York Times 04.02.2007 (USA)

Is the Islam scholar, Tariq Ramadan, who advises Tony Blair on integration issues, a progressive universalist or a dangerous religious bigot, as Caroline Fourest suggests in her book "Brother Tariq"? In his portrait of Ramadam in the magazine of the New York Times, Ian Buruma concludes: "Advocating a revolt against Western materialism on the basis of superior spiritual values is an old project, which has had many fathers but has never been particularly friendly to liberal democracy. Ramadan's brand of Islamic socialism, promoted with such media-friendly vitality, in conferences, interviews, books, talks, sermons and lectures, has won him a variety of new friends, especially in Britain and France." ... In "an urban Western environment full of educated but frequently confused young Muslims eager to find attractive models they can identify with" Ramadan "insists that a reasoned but traditionalist approach to Islam offers values that are as universal as those of the European Enlightenment. From what I understand of Ramadan's enterprise, these values are neither secular, nor always liberal, but they are not part of a holy war against Western democracy either. His politics offer an alternative to violence, which, in the end, is reason enough to engage with him, critically, but without fear."

Internationale Politik 01.02.2007 (Germany)

In a sensational and acerbic article Alfred Grossner takes a swipe first at the cowardice of the Western media and then at the State of Israel. "The situation in Gaza is so dramatic because Israel has cut off all trade, banned the fishing industry and the use of airports, and made the borders ever more impenetrable." And Grosser also follows up on an editorial in Ha'aretz, "'The violence is the problem. Not the solution.' 'The violence which throws increasing numbers of non-Jewish Israeli citizens, of Palestinians and Lebanese into the hands of terrorism, abandons so many disenchanted youths to indoctrination and lures them into suicidal murders. For this to be recognised there must be a moral turnaround – in Israel and also outside Israel."

HVG 01.02.2007 (Hungary)

Corruption is a huge problem in the Romanian media, writes Cristian Tudor Popescu, the editor in chief of the Romanian daily Gandul and chairman of the Romanian Press Club: "In the provinces it is not uncommon for someone to walk into the editorial offices, slap cash on the table and demand that a certain article be written. Or the other way round: journalists blackmail a business with evidence and receive payment not to publish it. In the provinces, there is more money to be made, paradoxically, by not publishing articles." At the same time attacks on the media by politicians are the order of the day. "Dan Voiculescu, head of the Conservative Party (PC) in the ruling coalition, recently explained that the entire journalist profession was Romania's new Securitate informers."

NRC Handelsblad 02.02.2007 (Netherlands)

Following a media furore (the NRC included), a "Christian" school version of the Dutch Van Dale dictionary is to be cancelled shortly before its launch date. 2,500 strict protestants had demanded a "chaste Van Dale" arguing that their children were too young for words like "sex" or "sperm". Linguist and NRC columnist Ewoud Sanders flicked through the "Christian" edition and avers: "Van Dale has jettisoned its independence. Where for example in the standard edition 'chaste' is defined as 'pure, clean, respectable in a sexual sense', in the Christian edition this is reduced to 'pure, clean, respectable.' Should children of Protestant Reformed schools want to find out why "chastity" is a requisite of certain religious offices, this Van Dale will not tell them what exactly that means. If I was a Muslim, I would immediately go out and collect 2,500 signatures and demand Van Dale print a 'Halal' version of the Van Dale dictionary. And it would not be too difficult to find a few well-known authors to campaign for an animal-friendly dictionary."

Gazeta Wyborcza
3.02.2007 (Poland)

The face of the former textile city Lodz in central Poland is changing. It was recently decided that Luxembourgian architect Rob Krier should build a 90 hectare complex in the centre of city with it population 800,000. The plans include a museum for contemporary art, and a building to house the new cultural centre for World Art which was recently founded by David Lynch. In an interview, Krier outlines his ideas for Lodz: "An urban organism is like a human body: it has to breathe, think and relax. We need to recreate this. The existent buildings will be given cultural functions and will be complemented by new ones. There is too much pompous bourgeois architecture in this city. I can imagine how wonderful it would look if the buildings were cleaned and painted. We will develop a solution which takes up the Lodz traditions and yet is unique in the world." When asked whether a sprinkling of star architects like Frank Gehry and Daniel Libeskind (who was born in Lodz) would be brought in to help, Krier replies: "Their art is imaginative, but it works against the city. But if Libeskind would stay on the margins, why not? Daniel, you must be more disciplined, and then you can participate!"

The Nation 19.02.2007 (USA)

Negar Azimi guides us through the world of the Egyptian bloggers, who are constantly being harassed by the authorities, but every now and then manage pull off a coup of their own, for example a posting a video which shows police torturing suspects which led to the arrest of two officers. "With the simple act of uploading the video to a blog, a web impresario known as Demagh MAK had unleashed a storm of attention both at home and abroad. A link to the video, passed around among activists and journalists and posted on YouTube (until it was removed for graphic content), was finally picked up by the more intrepid Egyptian independent papers as well as Arab satellite channels such as Al Jazeera and Dream TV. Even a handful of jihadi websites chimed in, fuming about the excesses of the infidel Egyptian regime."

The Guardian (UK)

In The Observer, Andrew Anthony reviews "Infidel", the autobiography of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, which has now come out in English. He portrays her - not without admiration - as someone who "is not one to look for the mincer." However Anthony wonders whether such plain talk does not alienate Muslims even more from Western society: "Hirsi Ali is too smooth of skin and composure to bristle, but it is obviously an accusation she finds irritating. 'Tariq Ramadan is filled with contempt for Muslims because he believes they have no faculties of reason,' she replies in a beguilingly friendly tone, as though she had remarked that he had an excellent taste in shirts. 'If I say that terrorism is created in the name of Islam suddenly they take up terrorism? He gives me so much more power than I have. Why don't my remarks make him turn to terrorism? Because he's above that. Like many believers in multiculturalism, he puts himself on a higher plane. The other thing is that it's not about your style, it's about your content. Are my propositions right or wrong?" To the accusation that she addresses herself primarily to white liberals, Hirsi Ali counters that it's important to address them because they need to overcome the self-censoring effects of post-colonial guilt. "'If you want to feel guilty,' snaps Hirsi Ali, 'feel guilty that you didn't bring John Stuart Mill and left us only with the Koran. It doesn't help to say my forefathers oppressed your forefathers, and remain guilty forever.'"

DU 05.02.2007 (Switzerland)

This edition of DU travels to Asakusa. Here, in Tokyo's oldest neighbourhood, resides the goddess Kannon. Its inhabitants proudly call the quarter a whore because it is so good at selling itself, as Silke Pfersdorf reports: "Jesus drove the buyers and sellers from the temple – in Asakusa they were given the red carpet treatment. In Japan the divinities have always wanted to be entertained. Theatre, colours, lights and laughter, good food for a holy feast – what could be wrong with that? Pleasure danced St. Vitus' dance in Asakusa. In the 19th century the Shoguns banned the Kabuki theatre from Edo, as Tokyo used to be called, to Asakusa. The boldest dances could be seen on the stages there. The Denkikan, Japan's first cinema, opened there in 1903, before either America or England had a movie house. Pairs strolled and flirted through the Hanayashiki flower garden, opened in 1853, which soon boasted the newest carousels in the world. Dwarves and the disfigured could be seen in the Misemono dens, while the merchants outside sold ravishing kimono fabric, ribbons and combs. There were cat and girl catchers, pleasure boats on the Sumida, gaming and honky-tonk dives. Asakusa is one big madhouse, wrote Nobel Prize winner Yasunari Kawabata in his book 'The Scarlet Gangs of Asakusa.'"

Folio 05.02.2007 (Switzerland)

Tehran artist Jinoos Taghizadeh explains why she is not envious of Western freedoms. "For you, public space is the place where law-abiding citizens live out their freedoms, unfettered by ideology or religion. But for us, private life is the most important thing. Your private space is not only your home, it's also a refuge from the impositions of the outside world. Out there we are forced to behave in certain ways, to bend to laws that are not our own, and to coexist with others whose dreams and wishes collide with our own. Inside, we have a refuge from injustice, vice, deceit and unhappiness. But this also explains our desire to emmigrate, our wish to flee social and material coercion. You in the West fuel our desire by maintaining that the freedom we enjoy in private can be had in public life in the West. I dare say this is the real reason why we idealise the Western world. But your external freedom is different from our internal world."

Further articles: Bahman Nirumand takes a wistful look at Tehran from Berlin, where he fled to escape from the Shah. He went back in 1979, only to be exiled once more in 1981. Farsin Banki and Victor Kocher send back impressions of the theocracy's niches of tolerance. Ulrich Tilgner reports how Tehran's students use book fairs to make contacts with the West. And Rudolph Chimelli unveils the many faces of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Luca Turin's belief in Chanel was rekindled when he received six new fragrances: "Every one of them is as good as it gets, but one gave me an emotion I hadn’t felt for years. It was the thrill of feminine beauty, the pang of pain and longing you get in Rear Window when Grace Kelly breezes in, throws her coat on a chair and saunters over to give James Stewart a kiss. It is 31 Rue Cambon, after Chanel’s Paris address, and the best Chypre in thirty years."

Le Nouvel Observateur 01.02.2007 (France)

Marking the publication of his book "Une sorte de diable. Les vies de John M. Keynes" (Grasset, excerpt here), author Alain Minc talks with economist Daniel Cohen about Keynes' legacy. Minc summarises: "For Keynes, the economy is far more integrated into society than for Marx. Yet paradoxically he avoids any consideration of society. His sociological thinking is poor, and his treatment of history is limited. He has no feel for the big political movements of the interwar years. That's why there will never be anything grander than Marx." Cohen, by contrast: "Keynes is a Proustian figure. In his private life an unbearable snob who grovelled before the most absurd characters, in the evening he wove together a body of work infinitely superior to everything he was in real life."

The New Yorker 12.02.2007 (USA)

Jonathan Rosen portrays the natural scientist and philosopher Alfred Russel Wallace, "Darwin's neglected double," the subject of five biographies since 2000. "It was wonder that drew him to nature, and an instinctive disregard for authority that made it easy to challenge an entire civilization’s religious convictions, as he did when, in 1858, he dashed off a paper proposing a theory of evolution by means of natural selection. Unlike Charles Darwin, who spent twenty years keeping a similar conclusion to himself in private dread, Wallace didn’t give a damn what people thought. This utter independence from public opinion is one of several reasons that he has all but vanished from popular consciousness."

And Anthony Lane is delighted at Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's first film: "If there is any justice, this year's Academy Award for best foreign-language film will go to 'The Lives of Others,' a movie about a world in which there is no justice. It marks the debut of the German director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, of whom we have every right to be jealous." - let's talk european