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21/03/2006

Magazine Roundup

Al Ahram Weekly | Outlook India | Der Spiegel | The New Yorker | Elet es Irodalom | Die Weltwoche | The Guardian | Le Nouvel Observateur | The Economist | Gazeta Wyborcza | The New York Times


Al Ahram Weekly, 16.03.2006 (Egypt)

Gihan Shahine explains why a recent conference in Copenhagen between friendly young Muslims and friendly young Danes wasn't regarded too highly by Islamic officials. "The Danish Muslim community, which was not invited to attend the interfaith conference, slammed the recommendations as impractical piecemeal solutions that do not actually address the issue, and which might bring harm. Raeid Heleihal, the chairman of the European Committee for the Support of Prophet Mohamed, said the conference 'did not get any official response on the Danish part' claiming 'the Danish government used Khaled's presence on its territory for dialogue as a political victory.'"

Amr Hamzawy, researcher at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, reaches the conclusion that in the past, neither leftist nor secular forces in the Arabic world have reacted to the developments that have contributed significantly to Islamic parties' increasing popularity: the domination of Western life style, corruption and epidemic poverty. "Islamist trends have reformulated the issue of justice to become foremost a religious concern. They have gradually developed their discourse to embrace issues of freedom, thus pulling the carpet out from under the feet of secularists. The issue, then, is related not to a total lack of consent within the social order for the establishment of effective secular forces, but rather the inability of those forces to exploit the strategic opportunities available and their failure to formulate a political discourse that draws in wide sectors of the populace."

Further articles: Serene Assir takes a look at the divided criteria of representation of men and women in the media (and not just in the Arab world). Rania Khallaf reports on how the Egyptian government practices cultural authority (by closing a popular outdoor stage in Cairo's Al-Azhar Park). And Nehad Selaiha has a hypnotic encounter with Rudolf Steiner and the devil during a eurythmic staging of Goethe's "Faust" on an Egyptian anthroposophists' farm.


Outlook India, 27.03.2006 (India)

Warning against the increasing political and medial marginalization of Muslim groups and their interests by the Indian establishment, Sunil Menon explains the danger of "the denial of political agency to Muslims as Muslims, of the possibility of them being a sentient people capable of thought or meaningful, purposive action, their reduction to that old Raj category - 'masses', a subhuman blob, inert matter, below the radar of democratic choices.(...) In the possibility of their 'coming out' lies the real scope of them reassessing their social/ moral universe in the clear light of day, of their mainstreaming if you will."


Der Spiegel, 20.03.2006 (Germany)

On Spiegel online, Henryk M. Broder speaks with author Feridun Zaimoglu ("Black Virgins") about Shakespeare, the fathers of his girlfriends, God and honour killings, which "draw everyone's attention. People talk about the Islamicisation of Europe, while missing the fact that a Europisation of Muslims is also taking place among the Muslims who live here. These are good Germans who have been influenced by their surroundings. At the height of the Mohammad cartoon debate, an acquaintance, a devout Muslim, called me and said, 'Is this not disgusting?' I assumed he meant the cartoons but asked to make sure, 'What do you mean?' And he said, 'Turn on your TV and look at those idiots!' He meant the demonstrations against the cartoons!" (see our feature by Feridun Zaimoglu here)


The New Yorker, 27.03.2006 (U.S.A.)

Louis Menand considers the most recent book of the American political scientist Francis Fukuyama ("America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative Legacy") to be a "polemic (a mild-mannered one), not a theoretical treatise on statecraft." Fukuyama, who has always understood himself to be a neocon, presents the thesis that "the war on terror, and, in particular, the invasion of Iraq, is not an application of neoconservative principles as he understood them. George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld are not neoconservative intellectuals; they are right-wing messianists, and their prosecution of the war has been disastrous for American interests. They globalized a conflict that they should have sought to contain." Menand does not think of Fukuyama as a political intellectual; he's "an original and independent mind, and his writings have never seemed to be constructed on a doctrinal foundation."


Elet es Irodalom, 17.03.2006 (Hungary)

In an article about the Stasi (secret police) the philosopher Peter Himmer probes the ethical issues. According to him, the most crucial thing is "the categorical imperative. Since we are never really confronted with true, ethical dilemma in our everyday lives, ethics has found its niche in the world of circumstances which border on the unbearable. And it's often then, when faced with the seriousness or singularity of a situation that we would most like to push all thoughts of ethics to one side. But what sort of morals are these, that we only adhere to when the world is in order, that as soon as we find ourselves in exceptional circumstances, the moral code which we considered valid up unitl that point is tossed to the wind?"


Die Weltwoche, 16.03.2006 (Switzerland)

Daniel Binswanger draws an engaging portrait of the sharp-witted but controversial figure, Alain Finkielkraut, a thinker who often carries the desperate complexities of his arguments to extremes. In his famous book, "Der eingebildete Jude" (The imaginary Jew) Finkielkraut describes how he freed himself from the relative comfort of his victim status, being of the generation born after the war. This is a process he also advises children of immigrants to pursue and says they shouldn't continue to perceive themselves as victims of colonialism or slavery. "What he doesn't concede to the survivors of holocaust should by no means be legitimate for African minority groups either, i.e. basing political identity on crimes committed in the past. Finkielkraut is continually at loggerheads with the minority status. (...) Finkielkraut was welcomed with open arms by the republic. He was socialised at the ecole republicaine and believes from the depths of his soul in the civilising powers of education, scholarship and of the book. For the philosopher, burning primary schools is a simple sign of barbarism."


The Guardian, 18.03.2006 (U.K.)

The Irish poet and nobel prize winner Seamus Heaney defends his predecessor W.B Yeats against his critics. "Nobody doubts his fundamental importance as the creator of a cultural idea in and for Ireland, but that is only the beginning of his greatness ... Naturally, some political aspects of his work have been particularly assailed - and justly defended, as when Elizabeth Cullingford concluded her study of Yeats as a political poet with the proposition that his fascist sympathies are best regarded as part of his 'fantasies' rather than part of his 'convictions' ".

Other articles: The British playwright Tom Stoppard ponders the right to freedom of speech and doubts whether it is an inalienable human right such as the right to life and freedom. The writer Adam Thorpe applauds "The Sweet Enemy" as book of the week, a story about Franco-British relations written by the bi-national duo Robert and Isabelle Tombs: "The British have always surprised the French with two characteristics: individual wealth and drunkenness." There's also an excerpt from Elaine Dundy's new book "The Dud Avocado" where she describes how she is slowly succumbing to blindness.


Le Nouvel Observateur, 16.03.2006 (France)


In his new book "Poste restante: Alger. Lettres de colere et d'espoir a mes compatriotes," the Algiers-based writer Boualem Sansal explains his dreams of a truly "authentic" Algeria. In an interesting passage on the use language, he writes under the heading "Arabic is our language", "Nothing is more self-explanatory than that. While classic Arabic is the official language, it's nobody's mother tongue. At home and in the family, in the clan, the tribe and the neighbourhood, we all speak Berber languages (kabyl, chaoui, tamashek), Arabic dialect or a bit of colonial French." This leads Sansal to conclude that, "Classic Arabic may be the language of the Algeria but the Algerians speak other languages. Does this not recall Europe of the middle ages? For me, it does. The lords rambled in Latin, the serfs managed as best they could. If the government were to listen to us, it would suggest that it constitutionalise the Arabic dialects and French. It's never crazy to pass laws that conform to reality and one can never have too many languages in which to communicate."


The Economist, 18.03.2006 (U.K.)

The Economist observes that large media companies are pushing aggressively into the internet. "Nevertheless, there is no doubt that News Corporation has moved most vigorously among large media firms. Viacom, on the other hand, has missed some opportunities, perhaps partly because it has spent the last year or so concentrating on splitting from its sister company, CBS Corporation. As well as missing MySpace.com, it has still to launch the music download service it has talked of for years (it is planning a music service called URGE with Microsoft for later in 2006) and in the meantime Apple has seized the online music market. Each of the firms has a different strategy for the internet. Viacom and News Corporation want to build or acquire brand new online businesses as well as to expand their existing brands onto the internet. Disney and Time Warner, on the other hand, are mostly putting their own programming online."


Gazeta Wyborcza, 19.03.2006 (Poland)

Adam Michnik takes up the pen to praise the latest novel by Janusz Anderman, which is the story of a writer who was active in the democratic opposition only to be forgotten after 1989. "This book tells of my times, my milieu and my generation. It is an anti-heroic novel about heroic times." It also describes how the former heroes among the proponents of radical change are gradually marginalised. For Michnik, this is reason enough to read the book and to think about what is going on in Poland today.

Adam Leszczynski is fascinated by the book "Postwar" by British historian Tony Judt. "Judt shows that Europe's story of success in the last sixty years has its roots in the experience of World War Two. European politics were entirely revamped, the demons that had driven the continent into the ground, were driven out. The welfare state to which the western European democracies have given rise is experiencing a crisis at the moment. But that's a price that was worth paying, just like the occupation of the eastern half of Europe by the Soviet Union and the neglected settling of accounts with war criminals and collaborators."


The New York Times Magazine, 19.03.2006 (USA)

Zev Chafets visits the christian Liberty University in Lynchburg where students are subjected to a proper schooling in debating and the name of the game is speed. "Varsity debaters talk at 350 to 400 words a minute - about the speed of a fast auctioneer ... Arguments - even nonsensical or irrelevant arguments - must be rebutted. Those left unanswered count against you. The faster you talk, the more arguments you can make." During the training, it sounds something like this: "They pull the genocide card. We come back with Heidegger. Then blam, Erich Fromm."
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