From the Feuilletons


Die Zeit, 28.09.2006

The situation of Muslims in Germany can only get worse, fears Navid Kermani in a pessimistic article coinciding with a conference on Islam in Germany. Worldwide attacks by fundamentalists will not let up, Kermani writes, while Islam is in an unprecedented crisis. "For example, what a catastrophic state Muslim theology is in! Take Al-Azhar University in Cairo, the major Sunni religious institution... The intellectual level of reflection at the central Sunni religious authority is probably inferior to most village parishes in Switzerland. The intellectual decrepitude of orthodox Islam – whose former vitality is astonishing – the decline of a major religious culture, is what has made fundamentalism possible. Fundamentalism is not the product of orthodoxy, it's an answer to the crisis in orthodoxy. Political Islam developed among the urban middle classes because orthodoxy could no longer provide answers."

Power is investing in art in Kiev, reports Barbara Lehmann. A banker related to President Yuschenko wants to build a Ukranian version of the Hermitage Museum, Lehmann writes, while the son-in-law of ex-president Leonid Kuchma, Victor Pinchuk, has just inaugurated his centre for contemporary art with pomp and ceremony. "We are like you!, is the message to Western visitors. Only hipper, cooler, richer. Installations, videos, paintings and photos of the most fashionable Western artists decorate the stylish rooms: Oliafur Eliasson, Philippe Pareno, Thomas Ruff, Sarah Morris."

Frankfurter Rundschau, 28.09.2006

Christian Thomas sees the cancellation of "Idomeno" in Berlin's Deutsche Oper (more here) hitting at the heart of "the Western bourgeois self-understanding since the European Enlightenment.... It's not just since the 'Idomeneo' affair in Berlin that people recognise Islamism for the terrible leveller that it is. It hangs a world-wide domestic politics of fear over the globe, creating a global spirit of intolerance. Added to this comes the knowledge that the Deutsche Oper Berlin has renounced any belief in its historical mission. Both, the belief as much as the mission, could be considered a duty that was as divine as it was profane. This duty would consist in heroically defending the stage as the birthplace not just of our civil understanding, but of Western civilisation's very understanding of itself."

Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 28.09.2006

Claudia Schwartz reveals further details about the cancellation of "Idomeneo". "The episode carries the whiff of the dilettantism typical of local politics, the order of the day in Berlin. Berlin's Interior Minister Ehrhart Körting inspired fears in the opera director Kirsten Harms following an anonymous tip from the security authorities and a non-specific 'situation of danger' registered by Berlin's Criminal Investigation Office, by saying that he drives by the West Berlin opera on a daily basis and would not want it 'to no longer be there.' Harms explains that Körting suggested two possible solutions: either change or cancel the opera. Incidentally, the minister, responsible for Berlin's security, left the decision of how to deal with the situation up to the opera director."

Süddeutsche Zeitung, 28.09.2006

The paper prints the Berlin Criminal Investigation Office' s very imaginative assessment of the risk represented by "Idomeneo": "According to an evaluation of the Federal Criminal Office, to which Islamic experts contributed, representations of the prophet Muhammed are strictly prohibited in Islam. The Neuenfels production could lead to associations with existent videos of decapitations in Iraq by Islamic militants. This could be understood as a call for the decapitation of Muhammed, on in other words, as a vitiation of Islam."

Der Tagesspiegel, 28.09.2006

In an interview with Christina Tilmann, British art critic Mark Gisbourne explains what makes Berlin so attractive for international artists. "It's too simple just to say Berlin's so attractive just because you can live here cheaply or find inexpensive studio space. You can do that in Sofia and elsewhere. It's much more the idea of the city as an open space, one which is still undefined. Berlin is something special, a city that lives from its reputation.... And this has less to do with history than with the city's spirit. Berlin is rather aggressive, it's a worker's city, quite rough. It doesn't have the pretensions of other cities, and there isn't such a dependence on lifestyle."

Die Welt, 28.09.2006

Jennifer Wilton reports that the British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, better known as Ali G, has irritated the Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbaev with his impersonation of the doltish Kazakhstani reporter Borat Sagdiyev. A 40 million dollar, state subsidised film about the Kazakhstani figher Mansur is supposed to polish up his image. "During Nazarbaev's visit in the USA this week, ads are running in American television for Kazakhstan. The President wants to bring up the 'Borat case' during his meeting with President George W. Bush. The speaker of the Kazakhstani foreign ministry, Yerzhan Ashykbaev, is quick to assure that the ads have nothing to do with the antics of the British comedian. He says it's clear that the Borat character is satirical. 'But why does Mr. Cohen have to choose Kazakhstan as his hero's homeland?'"

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 28.09.2006

Niklas Maak visits an exhibition of Picasso's later work in the Viennese Albertina, and is especially impressed by the sketchy larger paintings. "The paint wages war against the contours. Black lines act as guard rails of the bodies, and are rolled over by dashing colours. The bodies themselves are often inextricable cubist bundles, recalling the legendary characters in Plato's "Banquet". These had two heads and four legs, and were sawed in two by Zeus as punishment. The resulting men and women then went around looking for their missing halves." - let's talk european