From the Feuilletons


The Mohammed-caricatures controversy

In September the Danish paper Jyllands-Posten carried a series of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed that aroused protest in Denmark and abroad. The paper's editor in chief Carsten Juste apologised on Tuesday in an open letter to all Muslims, after boycotts of Danish products started up in Muslim countries. Today the paper reprints the letter in English and Arabic.

Die Welt continues its coverage of the Danish Mohammed cartoons. Boris Kalnoky writes: "It is apparant that the demonstrations are the biggest, and the diplomatic reactions are the most vehement in countries where authoritarian regimes are under domestic pressure from Islamicist opposition forces." The boycott measures adopted also show originality. In Egypt, for example, a Danish credit is being blocked. Rainer Gatermann reports on the most recent reactions in Denmark: "Erik Svendsen, Bishop of Copenhagen, said: 'We distance ourselves both from the drawings, and from the burning of the Danish flag, which shows a white cross."

In the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Christian Geyer calls for the Mohammed caricatures to be published in as many European media as possible: "Only Europe-wide solidarity can show: religious fundamentalists who do not respect the difference between satire and blasphemy have a problem not only with Denmark, but with the entire Western world."

In the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Aldo Keel reports both on the escalating controversy over the Danish cartoons, and on an initiative for reconciliation: "Herbert Pundik, former editor in chief of the Danish paper Politiken, suggests a highly visible sign of peace in the construction of a large mosque with a minaret and dome. To this day Copenhagen's Muslims must pray in back rooms and disused factories. The major papers should take it upon themsevles to collect the money for this 'popular donation'."

Frankfurter Rundschau correspondent Hannes Gamillscheg accuses the Danes of xenophobia: "It's no coincidence that this issue came to a head in Denmark: nowhere in Europe has the debate over immigrants been so nasty, or the immigration laws tightened so brutally. (...) In the most influential media, immigrants are consistently represented as a collective problem, never as an asset. Representatives of the Danish People's Party (DPP) have called Islam a 'cancerous abscess" and a 'terror movement'. 'War of civilisations?' asked the party head Pia Kjærsgaard, 'there is only one civilisation and it's ours.'"

Aktham Suliman, Germany's Al Jazeera correspondent, says in an interview with die tageszeitung, "I'm insulted by some things that get said and thought about Muslims here in Europe. The fact that Mohammed is being depicted is not such a problem, even if this is proscribed by the Koran. What bothers me is the lack of respect that this represents."

Also in the taz, Robert Misik regards the whole spat between the Muslims and "liberal militants" as a tempest in a teapot and suggests, "Kids, go and play outside."

Die Zeit, 02.02.2006

Austrian author Peter Handke speaks in an interview with Ulrich Greiner about the joys of wandering through snowstorms in Hokkaido, literature's lost dreamers and the agony of talking to journalists ("Tomorrow I'll write: 'Day without forests, blabbed the whole time.') His view of Serbia and the wars in ex-Yugoslavia remain unchanged (see our "Magazine Roundup" of June 21 for his condemnation of the Hague tribunal and the trial of Slobodan Milosevic): "Has any journalist from a Western paper ever talked about the more than half a million refugees in Serbia? I've never seen a word about how they're vegetating over there. I was the first one to tell their story. Instead of rehashing the story about the Serbian Adolf for the umteenth time, why don't Zeit reporters go visit the Serbian refugees, and see first hand that the Bosnian Muslims and Croats have just as much blood on their hands?"

Katja Nicodemus reports enthusiastically about her trip to Tehran, where she encountered the most lively and schizophrenic film scene in the Islamic world: "A trip to the various production offices is also a journey through the country's classes, strata, religious and social groups. It leads to million-dollar penthouses in north-Tehran where the 'jeunesse doree' show their films on brand new flat screen monitors... But there's also the other world of the poverty-stricken back alleys, where one large family has put its entire savings into the revolutionary workers' drama of their youngest scion. Or a production bureau in the Azerbaijani community where sulky bearded men serve tea amongst plastic flowers, mirrors, golden chandeliers and ornamental daggers."

Jörg Lau comments on a "significant moment in the country of immigration" Germany: a press conference with Asad Suleman und Halime Narin, two student representatives at the Herbert Hoover School in Berlin which recently mandated that only German be spoken in the school yard. "A reporter asked: 'How do you students here feel as victims?' Asad responded, smiling, 'I don't understand the question. Could you please explain?' The whole room – except for the increasingly sour immigration officer and a man from the Turkish embassy – burst out in laughter. The staged excitement collapsed. It was an astonishing experience: a young man from the middle of the much discussed parallel society, who politely but firmly refuses to accept the well-intended insistence by an appalled professional that he finally present himself officially as a victim."

Der Tagesspiegel, 02.02.2006

Julian Hanich learns from film director Atom Egoyan, whose "Where the Truth Lies" opens in German cinemas today, that all his work is informed by his background as an Armenian born in Egypt and raised in Canada. "Gradually I have come to realise that pretty much everything has to do with the fact that I'm Armenian. It's bizarre to have to live with a denied history. I was recently talking to a Turkish artist of my generation, Kutlug Ataman, who I really admire. I had to keep reminding myself that he saw no reason to apologise for Turkish history because he was never taught this history."

Die Welt, 02.02.2006

Lang Lang was in Berlin and Manuel Brug, after poking a little fun at the pianist's cuteness, succumbed to the musical charisma with which he played Mozart's C minor piano concerto: "And then he plays, stupendously, flawlessly, with a fine elegance, light and yet with force. The Deutsche Symphonie-Orchester under Kent Nagano accompanies him, enraptured. Maybe there's a quantum of depth missing, an etherealness, a pause in the gloriously perfect, unbelievably delicate flow of those agile, pearly fingers. But the perfectly placed tempo accents in the cadence, the lyrically internal larghetto, the gently balanced, masterfully equilibrated brightness of the variation's finale – it breathes the ability of a true great." - let's talk european