From the Feuilletons


From the Feuilletons

The attack on Westergaard

The western media was up in arms about the fatwa against Salman Rushdie. But the world is a different place now. In Spiegel Online, Henryk M. Broder tells the story of creeping capitulation: "Had the Muhammed cartoons been reprinted by the whole German press, then newspaper readers could have seen for themselves how excessively harmless the 12 cartoons were and how bizarre and pointless the whole debate had become. Instead, the assessment was left to 'experts' who had in the past defended every criticism of the pope and the Church as well as every blasphemous piece of art in the name of freedom of opinion, but who, in the case of the Muhammad cartoons, suddenly held the view that one must take other people's religious feelings into consideration. But that argument was clearly just an excuse, a way of excusing the fact they had been silenced by fear."

In an article which asks whether the right to freedom of opinion, or the respect of religious feelings is more important, Andrian Kreye, the head of the feuilleton section of the Süddeutsche Zeitung, compares Salman Rushdie's "Satanic Verses" with Kurt Westergaard's Mohammed cartoons. "One is an intellectual achievement of the highest ranking which must be defended; the other is a conscious provocation which is about as intelligent as trying to train a tiger by offering him a ham sandwich and then snatching it away from under his nose."

In the Tagesspiegel, Peter von Becker describes Andrian Kreye's argument as: "absurd: because the UN rights of freedom of opinion and expression, and their guarantee in democratic constitutions knows no comparisons or differences. They apply to the stupid and the intelligent, to mega-brains and small minds alike."

There is not just "one" Islam, Muslim functionaries or their criticophobic supporters in the western media will tell you, especially in the aftermath of a terrorist attack or kidnapping. Or, at least, it always depends on the context of the discussion, explains Hamed Abdel-Samad, a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood who now teaches at an institute for Jewish History in Munich. "If Muslims discuss Islam in connection, say, with the introduction of Islamic studies in European schools, or when applying to get the official status of public body for a mosque, then they will talk about one Islam. When Muslims talk about the 'religion of peace', they do not say which Islam they mean. But when confronted with any criticism of Islam, they will invariably ask: which Islam do you mean?"

Other stories

Die Welt 02.01.2010

Ulla Unseld-Berkewicz, the head of Suhrkamp publishers, wonders where the advantages lie today in being a quality publisher, when face up against digitalisation and the all-powerful conglomerates. It's time, she believes, for authors, publishers and readers to form a "league of non-conformists". "Profit margins are not increasing and values are being destroyed. Yet the endangered authors and publishers are not disappearing from the book world, but they now find themselves in the company of those who have been sidelined as canon-fodder in the corridor-sweeping campaigns: the readers. But the readers, who know that they are about to lose the last bastions of real literature, where books are not written in response to market research, recognise that now more than ever, determination and solidarity belong together wherever people are reading and writing, and that if you go it alone, they'll get you."

Frankfurter Rundschau 04.01.2010

Arno Widmann opens the official remembrance ceremony for Albert Camus, who died 50 years ago and who always gave the individual precedence over society. "The abolition of slavery and women's rights started over cups of tea in London's polite society. We have the word Holocaust thanks to a Polish Jew, who was interested in the Armenians long before his parents fell victim to the Nazis. It is the individuals whom society has to thank. Not the other way round. This is what you learn from Albert Camus, and another thing you learn from him is that anyone who claims that society has precedence, is only defending his friends. Society is the arena in which a mass of individuals fight for their a place. In the course of this fight it is decided not only whether we are individuals, but also – without turning to cynicism or suicide – whether we are allowed to be individuals."

Der Freitag 07.01.2010

Michael Angele talks to Maxim Biller about his latest book "Der gebrauchte Jude" (the useful Jew). When the interviewer comments with a self-satisfied air that Germany is a cosmopolitan country, Biller replies: "Do you think really so? Just look at America. Take the New Yorker for example, the magazine. Look how full it is with stories from immigrants from China, Russia, Ukraine, wherever. Where do you get this in Germany? We have loads of writers here from all over the world. But immigrants here only get a chance if they mutate into oversleeve writers like Feridun Zaimoglu."

Neue Zürcher Zeitung

On the pop pages, Ueli Bernay pens an excellent and informative history of falsetto in pop music, which is making a huge comeback. But as only as a poor imitation: "Falsetto can be read as a symptom of a dilemma: on the one hand, there is so much pressure in pop culture to produce expressiveness and desire. On the other hand, it's not clear how this desire and strength of expression are meant to motivate people anymore. Sensibility and emotionality seem to be so weak at the moment that they are unable to find expression in new musical styles; and there is also no pioneering music around to trigger artistic zeal. This is why the falsetto is often little more than a gimmick or a fake used over and over to simulate hedonistic intensity.

Get the real thing here from Marvin Gaye, Prince or Curtis Mayfield:

Süddeutsche Zeitung 08.01.2010

The theologian Mohsen Kadivar, one of the five expatriate Iranian intellectuals behind a declaration outling "The demands of the green movement", talks about the document's aims and how it came into being: "The majority of Iranians have no desire for a second revolution, thirty years after the last one. This is why we describe this movement as a reform movement whose aims are revolutionary but absolutely non-violent and peaceful, and which operates within the framework of existing laws. This is why this declaration respects the constitution of the Islamic Republic. We have to address the areas which comply with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the principles of democracy." - let's talk european