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21/02/2006

Magazine Roundup

The New Republic | The Nation | The New Yorker | L'Espresso | Gazeta Wyborcza | The New York Review of Books | Nepszabadsag | Al Ahram Weekly | The Times Literary Supplement | Die Weltwoche


The New Republic, 27.02.2006
(USA)

In an excellent article, economist and Nobel Prize winner Amartya Sen considers what form multiculturalism could take in the future. In many European countries, the view that people are defined by their origins, religion and culture is gaining ground. This inherent – as opposed to freely chosen – identity is considered more relevant than political orientation, language, or class. For Sen, this is not multiculturalism. "The vocal defense of multiculturalism that we frequently hear these days is very often nothing more than a plea for plural monoculturalism. If a young girl in a conservative immigrant family wants to go out on a date with an English boy, that would certainly be a multicultural initiative. In contrast, the attempt by her guardians to stop her from doing this (a common enough occurrence) is hardly a multicultural move, since it seeks to keep the cultures separate. And yet it is the parents' prohibition, which contributes to plural monoculturalism, that seems to garner the loudest and most vocal defense from alleged multiculturalists, on the ground of the importance of honoring traditional cultures - as if the cultural freedom of the young woman were of no relevance whatever, and as if the distinct cultures must somehow remain in secluded boxes. "


The Nation, 06.03.2006 (U.S.A)

The cartoonists Art Spiegelman and Joe Sacco give an interview on the cartoon conflict. Sacco's first reaction was, "'What a bunch of idiots those Danes were for printing those things.'" Spiegelman exercises a little more restraint: "If there's a right to make cartoons, there has to be a right to insult, and if there's no right to make cartoons, well, I'm in big trouble. And I think America might be too."


The New Yorker, 27.02.2006 (USA)

Like the Christian ban, the Islamic ban on images of the Prophet was always the subject of infringement down the ages, writes Jane Kramer in a commentary on the cartoon dispute. Kramer believes the tumultuous protests in the Arab world have less to do with the caricatures than with the 25 million Muslims living in Western Europe. At the heart of the "power struggle in the Gulf Region" is not oil, but "control over the Islamic diaspora, or what you could call international Islam. It was clear to everyone involved that if the diaspora in Europe produced a modern, critical, democratic Islam, the Islamist regimes of the Middle East would begin to fall."


L'Espresso, 23.02.2006 (Italy)

Director Luc Besson explains to Alessandra Mammi why his new film "Angel-A", about a little man and a blond angel nearly two meters tall, is set in Paris. "I needed an fabulous city that Andrew fails to see in his desperation. If I had chosen a banal city, there would have been no contrast. I wanted to show how this person gradually recognizes the wonders surrounding him and thus comes to love himself. That's why I chose Paris, but I could have shot just as well in Rome, Venice or Siena." Apparently not in Berlin.


Gazeta Wyborcza, 18.02.2006 (Poland)


In an article published on February 12, the Stockholm paper Dagens Nyheter wrote that "in the Second World War, ninety percent of Dutch Jews were taken to German and Polish death camps." Shortly thereafter, Katarzyna Tubylewicz reports from Stockholm, Relacje, the magazine of Poles abroad, printed an open letter objecting to the use of the term "Polish death camp." The letter claims "This is an insult to the Polish people. It looks as though the Swedish media wants to respect Muslims but doesn't mind insulting Poles." The editor in chief of Relacje, Krzysztof Mazowski, called for a boycott of the Swedish paper. Tubylewicz reports that the spokesman of Dagens Nyheter has in the meantime admitted that "Polish death camp" was "incorrect and sloppy wording" that would be amended. The author of the article, Bengt Albons, has now apologized.


The New York Review of Books, 09.03.2006 (U.S.A.
)

"How swiftly victory can spoil the best-laid plans," write Hussein Agha and Robert Malley in an analysis of Hamas' election victory in Palestine. "Hamas' leaders had hoped to hide behind Fatah and the PA; they are now on the front lines. The burden that was supposed to be on others is now squarely on them. In the days just after the election, Hamas suddenly sounded more modest, restrained, and dependent on third parties.... Paradoxically, Hamas' electoral sweep has curbed its freedom of action far more than defeat would have."


Nepszabadsag, 15.02.2006 (Hungary)

This year the the Berlin International Film Festival seems to have been used primarily as a platform for German cinema, writes Geza Csakvari somewhat sourly: "The festival takes place before the ultra-modern backdrop that has gone up where until recently the no-man's-land separated the East Bloc from the West. Presumably this year's edition is supposed to demonstrate the triumph of German film. The strict selection committee chose four German films for the competition, while East European filmmakers barely featured in the programme, despite the fact that they have played an increasingly important role at the Berlinale over the past few decades... The only east European film in the competition is 'Grbavica', the debut of Bosnian filmmaker Jasmila Zbanic - and, needless to say, a German co-production." (Still, the film did end up winning the Golden Bear.)


Al Ahram Weekly, 16.02.2006 (Egypt)

Writing from Berlinale, Samir Farid reviews the Danish film "1:1" by Annette K. Olesen about a Muslim immigrant in Denmark: "With this film and the popular demonstrations against the caricatures, the Danes extend their hands to Arabs and Muslims. Why should we turn them away simply because one imbecile drew a caricature and another published it?" Another report by Ayman El-Amir picks up on the subject, demanding that people should try to understand the differences between the Arab-Muslim world and the West, "instead of masking them in an empty 'dialogue of civilisations'."


The Times Literary Supplement, 17.02.2006 (UK)

Christopher Hitchens calls "The Dragons of Expectation", the latest book by historian Robert Conquest, an absolute must for anyone who appreciates "irony and scruple and detachment". The book deals with the failures, blindness and ideological gullibility of intellectuals down the ages. But for all its readability, Hitchens is still somewhat startled: "Is Conquest really recommending that visions of the future be abandoned? The human desire to imagine a better world may be the root of much idiocy and crime, but it does seem to be innate and it might, like religion, be ineradicable."


Die Weltwoche, 17.02.2006 (Switzerland)

Peter Wensierski's book "Schläge im Namen des Herrn" (blows in the name of the Lord) has not yet been reviewed in Germany. Reinhard Mohr is shocked at the book, which investigates violence in Church orphanages in the postwar period. "Most of the sisters were not at all qualified in childcare, and some of their methods were directly taken over from Nazi practices. More than that: in the 'Kalmenhof' orphanage in Idstein, for example, at least one thousand children were murdered between 1941 and 1945 in the context of the institution's forced sterilisation and euthanasia programmes. Many of the 'educators' and staff from this time remained employed until the 1960s. And it was only in the 80s that the mass grave containing children's skeletons was uncovered."
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