Features » Magazine Roundup


Magazine Roundup

The New York Review of Books | Outlook India | Al Ahram Weekly | Rue89 | Babelia | Le Monde | New Humanist | L'Espresso | Elet es Irodalom | The Independent

The New York Review of Books 30.09.2010 (USA)

In the US debate about Islam and the mosque near Ground Zero, Scott Appleby and John T. McGreevy derive hope from remembering the centuries of rigid Catholic refusal to assimilate into US society (not speaking English, not going to public school): "The genius of the American experiment in religious liberty is precisely this long-term confidence that equal rights for all religious groups build the loyalty every democratic society needs. Certainly American Catholics learned that lesson long ago."

Further articles: Charles Baxter writes with enormous sympathy for Jonathan Franzen's novel "Freedom", but ultimately he is disappointed by the novel's structural errors and its final retreat into quietism. "This quietism is the book's answer to its own angers, but it seems willed into being under tremendous pressure, as if all the major battles have been lost and the only consolations are to be found in winning the minor ones. Freedom attempts to come to terms with the Bush years and is finally defeated by them."

Paul Krugman and Robin Wells review a series of new books on the fiancial crisis. David Simon's hotly awaited HBO series "Treme", about pre-Catrina New Orleans, gets full points for authenticity from Nicholas Lemann.

Outlook India 20.09.2010 (India)

In a damning indictment of epic length, Arundhati Roy makes one thing very clear: India is anything but a pristine democracy. The government inflicts violence on its own people in the interests of business. Roy condemns the murders of the Maoists but makes no secret about whose side she's on: the side of revolution, in whatever form it takes. "Their decisions of what strategies to employ take into account a whole host of considerations: the history of the struggle, the nature of the repression, the urgency of the situation and the landscape in which their struggle is taking place. The decision of whether to be a Gandhian or a Maoist, militant or peaceful, or a bit of both (like in Nandigram), is not always a moral or ideological one. Quite often, it's a tactical one. Gandhian satyagraha, for example, is a kind of political theatre. In order for it to be effective, it needs a sympathetic audience which villagers deep in the forest do not have. When a posse of 800 policemen lay a cordon around a forest village at night and begin to burn houses and shoot people, will a hunger strike help? (Can starving people go on a hunger strike? And do hunger strikes work when they are not on TV?)"

Further articles: In an article entitled "Brahms in Bengaloruu", Sugata Srinivasaraju portrays Indian virtuosos of classical western music. Salman Khan, the Bollywood bad boy is back. Namrata Joshi describes the humongous hype surrounding his latest film "Dabangg".

Al Ahram Weekly 13.09.2010

Due to a ban on secular live drama during Ramadam, theatres in Egypt shut for a ten day period of observation and then stage religious and folklorist productions and musicals for the rest of the month. Nehad Selaiha applauds the daring of the El-Sawi cultural centre (El-Saqia) which this year broke with tradition and launched a deliberately secular Ramadan theatre festival for independent troupes from 19 to 25 August. "Nowhere was this enlightened policy more apparent than in allowing director Mohamed Abdel-Maqsood and his Funoon (Arts) troupe to stage Jean Genet's disturbingly violent drama of prison life, 'Haute Surveillance' ('Deathwatch' in English), with its inverted morality, apotheosis of criminality, celebration of the underworld where Genet began and spent much of his life, and pronounced element of homoeroticism. Staging such a play outside Ramadan would normally raise many eyebrows; performing it in Ramadan was, before this festival, simply unthinkable."

Rue89 12.09.2010 (France)

Under the heading "Chomsky dares to re-enter the cesspit of Holocaust denial", the online magazine reports on a open letter by the American linguist, philosopher and activist Noam Chomsky, in support of a petition to release the French engineer Vincent Reynouard who is currently in prison for denying the existence of Nazi gas chambers. In 1979 Chomsky defended the French literary academic Robert Faurrison against the same charges, using the same argument: Holocaust deniers also have the right to freedom of opinion. Whereas the U.S. has no law against Holocaust denial, the French 'loi Gayssot', which has been in place since 1990, punishes not only genocide denial but also racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic talk. Chomsky writes: "I have been informed that Vincent Reynouard has been charged and imprisoned for violation of the loi Gayssot and that a petition for his release is in circulation. I know nothing about Monsieur Reynouard but I regard this law as an absolutely illegitimate infringment of the principle of a free society, as it is been understood since the Enlightenment. As a consequence of this law the state has been granted the right to determine historical truth and to punish anyone who opposes its edicts. This is a principle that smacks of the sinister days of Stalinism and Nazism."

Babelia 11.09.2010 (Spain)

The Mexican publicist Fabrizio Mejia Madrid looks into the demise of the word "Hispanic": "When entering the USA, Mexicans, Colombians or Cubans now become 'Latino'. The immigration authorities used to describe us as 'Hispanics', a term rooted in language and not skin colour. It was Richard Nixon who first used it in a speech and Jimmy Carter who officially introduced it in the 1980 census. A year beforehand, Carter, as he himself reported, was attacked by a killer rabbit while out fishing. The beast attempted to board Carter's fishing boat, forcing the president to defend himself by lashing out with an oar. The incident spawned a thousand jokes but no one at the time thought to point out that the etymological meaning of 'Hispania' is land of rabbits – otherwise we might never have made the switch to 'Latins', whose number increased by almost 60 percent between 1990 and 2000. Since Bill Clinton, however, we are no longer dealing with a group of US citizens whose speak Spanish, but with the 'Latins', an ethnic group, in other words, with darker skin, fuller lips, incredible backsides, dancing talent, and close family ties – and the assumption that Jennifer Lopez, Shakira, Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz all come from the same place."

Le Monde 12.09.2010 (France)

France is also chewing on a multicultural debate. The French fast-food chain Quick is introducing Halal meat into ever more of its outlets. Jean Birnbaum warns in Le Monde against underestimating the implications of such a decision: "Eating Halal is not a dietary or ecologically-driven choice. Whether as an act of faith or in the construction of an identity – an individual who makes this decision is subscribing to a system of dogmas and pledging obedience. This system demands, for example, that an animal be killed in a particular way, with its head facing Mecca, and that it is sacrificed with the words: "In the name of Allah, Allah is great". It involves the practice of a specific notion of good and evil, worldliness and holiness... To be indifferent about whether this decision affects only a few or is imposed onto society as a whole, is to misunderstand the nature of religious belief, its autonomy and its very specific consequences."

New Humanist 05.09.2010 (UK)

Should Britain - like France - ban the burqa? Yes, says the journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: "The burqa is not a battle between anti-racists and racists, or liberty and oppression. It is between open and egalitarian Islam and obscurantism; human rights values and inhumane exceptionalism; integration and apartheid. Wahabis are spreading a singular, joyless version of Islam, wiping out diversity and our various histories. They use choice and freedom as weapons to destroy both. Muslim defenders of the burqa never support a woman's right not to cover up. Instead women like me are branded 'Western whores' who will burn in hell."

The author Kenan Malik disagrees: In countries like Saudi Arabia or Jemen the women have no choice other than to wear the burqa. In Europe, he claims, most of them wear it voluntarily. And he says, the burqa ban is "self-defeating and illiberal": "It has become a symbol of the crisis of identity that besets many Western nations. Unable to define clearly what it means to be British or French, politicians have often taken the easy step of railing against symbols of 'alienness'. The burqa bans are an attempt to define 'Western values' by showing what such values or traditions are not, at a time when politicians find it difficult to express what they are."

British intellectuals line up to welcome the Pope: Richard Dawkins snarls: "Go home to your tinpot Mussolini-concocted principality, and don't come back." Francis Wheen and Johann Hari want to see him locked up. Comedian Nick Doody at least pauses to play out a little scenario in his mind: "Anyway, you're probably wondering what this is. It's a condom - don't panic, my intentions are honourable. Now, just relax as I roll it over your head..."

Elet es Irodalom 10.09.2010 (Hungary)

In the debate about the death of constitutional democracy in Hungary, the journalist Janos Avar is pinning his hopes on pressure from the international community. After all this did do some good with Meciar, Kaczynski, Tudjman and Haider: "Of course the principles of democracy may get a bashing every one in a while, but they can never be wiped out within the EU. The French daily Le Monde made a point of 'reminding' Orban that Hungary belongs to a club, in which a very specific set of rules apply. [...] I imagine that there are people in Moscow who might be toying with the idea of undoing all the changes that have happened since 1990. This this would mean supporting a little Danube Putinism, which would undoubtedly blow all the fuses in Washington and Brussels. Then the Hungarian democracy supporters would certainly get some help."

Victor Orban's planned media law will be even more illiberal that its Russian counterpart. But if they want it blocked, journalists will have to take action themselves, writes sociologist Miklos Haraszti, the former OSCE media freedom representative and visiting professor at New York's Columbia University: "It doesn't seem like a good omen for Hungarian journalists – as in Kazakhstan – to be pinning their hopes on foreign quality controllers, seeing them as a sort of manna which will fall from the OSCE, the Council of Europe, the EU or even the UN. They are forgetting that international norms can only come into effect if journalists make a stand for them first, as happened in Slovakia under the Fico government or recently in Italy, when the journalists protested with their empty front pages in a show of mutual solidarity. Until it senses resistance on the domestic front, the govern will simply ignore warnings from abroad."

The Independent 10.09.2010 (UK)

In the name of honour, women are being burned, beheaded, stoned and stabbed, electrocuted, strangled and buried alive. According to UN estimates 5,000 women are murdered in this way every year. Women's organisations in the affected countries put the numbers at four times this amount. In a series of remarkable articles Robert Fisk examines here, here, here and here the crimes against women in Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, and the Palestinian territories. Frazana Bari, a lecturer at the Qaid al-Azzam University in Islamabad explained the problem to him in the final article: "'Honour' for men is connected with women's behaviour because they are seen as the property of the family – and of the community,' she says. 'They have no independent identities, they are not independent human beings. Men also think of women as an extension of themselves. When women violate these standards, this is a direct blow to the man's sense of identity. So of course, women must inculcate these values to their children. You fail as a mother and a wife if your children don't meet these standards." - let's talk european