From the Feuilletons


From the Feuilletons

The Swiss minaret referendum

Die Welt 30.11.2009

To argue that Muslims do not permit the building of churches in their countries, is no excuse for the outcome of the Swiss minaret vote, writes Clemens Wergin. "The EU rightly sees this issue, in Turkey at least, as a major hurdle to accession. But the West can only make a credible argument for genuine religious freedom in Muslim countries, if it takes the matter seriously at home."

Neue Zürcher Zeitung 01.12.2009

The Swiss media failed in the debate surrounding the minaret initiative, ras comments. The reports on the initiative were "overly saturated in ideology", and the online readers' comments, which might have shed some light on the mood in the country, were ignored by journalists. "In this respect, the surprising outcome of the minaret referendum is not only a slap in the face for the opposition, as various editors put it on Monday, it is also a disgrace for journalism. It was a failure to read the situation."

Die Welt 02.12.2009

For Swiss-born Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan, it is not only populism that is to blame for the ban on minarets. "The failure is greater than that: a lack of courage, a shockingly petty lack of faith in the new Muslim citizens." But he also believes Muslims were too slow to react: "In recent months, Muslims have been laying low, avoiding confrontation. But it would been more sensible if they had actively sought to forge new alliances with the Swiss organisations and parties, who were opposed to the initiative. So Muslims in Switzerland are also partly to blame. I should add, though, that the political parties in Europe and Switzerland have let themselves have be intimidated and have shied away from taking courageous steps to further religious and cultural pluralism."

Neue Zürcher Zeitung 03.12.2009

The German-Egyptian historian Hamed Abdel-Samad, author of the book "Mein Abschied vom Himmel" (My departure from heaven), addresses the issue of Islam's failure to modernise. "Enemy stereotypes have cemented the victim role among Muslims and prevented them from taking responsibility for their own problems. It is time they reshaped their self-image and began looking for answers, leaving histrionics and conspiracy theories behind them. For its part, Europe should break off its unholy alliances with Middle East dictators and look for new allies. Europeans should press ahead with their criticism of Islam, ignoring fundamentalist threats and avoiding the lazy thinking of political correctness. This criticism should be tough, but it should steer clear of polemic and resentment. And if the Muslims can't take criticism from outside, then they should start practising it themselves."

Other stories

Neue Zürcher Zeitung

"The European Union is the only social and political project that is profoundly revolutionary and real. All the others are either over or fictional," says Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa in a conversation about the state of the world, the role of the intellectual and the tradition of the caudillo. As for the much-vaunted new Latin American self-confidence, he doesn't believe it exists. "This is the European vision of a folkloric Latin America. Real emancipation comes with progress and in this respect, Chile is more emancipated than the rest, not because of self-confidence, but because it is prospering. It has less poverty and offers more education at all levels of society. This makes the country more confident and independent. The poverty in Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua means there can be no emancipation, however many times a day their leaders insist otherwise."

Barbara Villiger was highly impressed by Martin Kusej's stage production of Theo van Gogh's film "The Interview": "A gruesome story - and fantastic theatre. Step by step, taking repeated run-ups from one place or other and always landing in a disaster of some sort, Birgit Minichmayr and her stage partner Sebastian Blomberg develop the mating dance as power struggle. A liason dangereuse between two champions of manipulation who - both soon notice - have grown to meet the other, even if they stem from different worlds."

Berliner Zeitung 28.11.2009

Petra Ahne talks to David Marwell, who has spent the past eight years working for the US Justice department hunting down Nazi criminals. He has the following to say about the John Demjanjuk trial: "If you look at his case per se, it is absolutely appropriate that the man should be held accountable for his deeds. But if you look at it in the context of the persecution of Nazi criminals, it is of course peculiar that a man like this should be at the centre of one of the last Nazi trials. He is not German and, let's put it this way, he did not chose his role in the crimes. He did was neither responsible for the creation of Sobibor, nor for its organisation, he was a part of it. Allegedly a willing and active part, but this does still not put him on a par with the people who recruited him, who gave him the choice between starving to death or taking up a weapon and learning by doing."

Die Welt 30.11.2009

The writer Michael Kleeberg calls for more recognition of the German soldiers in Afghanistan and more engagement for traumatised war veterans. "What is unacceptable is this halfhearted to-ing and fro-ing, breaking off the path to international responsibility half way, the fact that we send soldiers into a war zone and at the same time, try to cover up their existence and what they are doing. We have obligations towards the citizens who are risking their lives in the name of democracy in Afghanistan, and perhaps elsewhere in the future."

Der Freitag

In a focus on German public TV, Walter von Rossum launches an attack on the Tagesschau, Germany's oldest news institution from the ARD. "Anyone crazy enough to self-inflict the torture of watching several hundred Tagesschau bulletins, will soon face symptoms of paralysis. We see hundreds of politicians getting out of their cars, posing to shake hands, utterly predictable speeches from mobile chancellors of every kind, and experts deep in thought, flicking through pages of writing against a backdrop of bookshelves. The Tagesschau stops the real in its tracks, freezes it into formal occasions. The Tagesschau and its ilk stage the world as if it continues seamlessly from the point where yesterday's Taggeschau left off, and as if this were the greatest concern in the course of events. When actually the world is wild, contradictory, manic and utterly absorbing." - let's talk european