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22/01/2010

From the Feuilletons

From the Feuilletons is a weekly overview of what's been happening in the German-language cultural pages and appears every Friday at 3 pm. CET.. Here a key to the German newspapers.

Islam criticism: the German feuilleton debate

Since the Swiss minaret ban and the attack on Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, newspaper debate on criticism of Islam (more here) has become increasingly aggressive. Over the past fortnight the feuilletons have published a mass of articles attacking outspoken critics of contemporary Islam – in particular Henryk M. Broder (here his article after the attack on Kurt Westergaard, here an excerpt of his book "Hurra, Wir Kapitulieren"), Necla Kelek (here two of her articles), Seyran Ates (articles here, here and here) here and Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Under the headline "Our holy warriors", Claudius Seidl, head of the Sunday feuilleton of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, counters Germany's Islam critics by arguing that western secularisation also took "almost a thousand years." "Not every argument is as easy to refute as Necla Kelek's conjecture that jihad lasted a thousand years, and it was not until 1683, before Vienna, that it was finally stopped, when the imperial army, the Polish, the Badenese and the Bavarian troops forced back the Ottoman army. But if the imperial wars of the Ottomans were holy, when did the western jihad come to an end? With the complete extermination of the Native Americans? Or with the last throes of colonialism, which was legitimised with the aim of converting and civilising the heathens?"

In an article headed "Our hate preachers", Thomas Steinfeld, the head of the Süddeutsche feuilleton accused Henryk M. Broder and Necla Kelec of calling the kettle black: "To wield 'western values' as aggressively as radical Islam does its holy script, is to stoop to the level of your chosen enemy."

Feminism can also be racism if the aim is to liberate Muslim women, according to psychology professor Birgit Rommelspacher in the taz: "People are less likely to use arguments of 'racial' superiority these days, resorting instead to the civilising function of the west. One of the aims of this 'civilising mission' being - as in colonial times - the liberation of 'the oppressed Muslima', which led Leila Ahmed to coin the phrase 'colonial feminism'. But anyone who is reluctant to connect colonial and feminist pretensions to power should remember that under the Nazis, there were women who substantiated their 'racial' superiority with their commitment to the equality of man and woman."

In an indignant riposte to Rommelspacher's article, Regina Mönch writes in the FAZ: "She has obviously neither noticed nor considered the fact that, unlike herself, a political die-hard taz writer, Kelek, Ates and Hirsi Ali are being threatened and persecuted. She has also failed to notice that they are acting in their own interests, that Rommelspacher herself is being discriminatory in denying three Muslim women – because that is what they are – all right to critical reflection."

Also in the FAZ, Necla Kelek asks why criticism of Islam always attracts such vitriol – particularly when it comes from Muslims who "are not content only to be the conversation piece", but who dare "to question the opinion of the top dogs in the media": "Luther and Lessing were not the first ones to make religious criticism one of the cornerstones of civil society, and as a Muslim woman, I am not going to let anyone stop me from criticising my religion. Out of self interest, because I want Muslims to learn to cope with the challenges of modern life. I only wish that more secular and articulate Muslims would finally open their mouths and start voicing their criticism of both archaic traditions and the unreasonable demands of civil society alike."

In Perlentaucher, Thierry Chervel is amazed that people are still calling for "freedom of opinion to be handled responsibly." The democracies are doing it already: "Gunnar Herrmann writes approvingly in a SZ article about the current state of the caricature debate in Denmark, where so many Danes are expressing their respect for religious sentiments: 'Behaviour like this might be described today as self-censorship but it used to be called tact.' The refusal to print the caricatures in a book about the caricature conflict, the refusal to erect Gregor Schneider's black cube in front of the Hamburger Bahnhof museum in Berlin: all these are examples of 'freedom of opinion being handled responsibly.' And our quality newspapers are often the most prominent advocates of pre-emptive religious censorship."


Stories from Haiti


Berliner Zeitung
18.01.2010

Hans Richard Edinger, picture editor of the Berliner Zeitung, writes about the photos he is being sent from Haiti, which are among the worst he has ever seen. "Is this how a Caribbean apocalypse functions in the media? Climaxing in a photo of a man astride a pile of corpses, his right hand clasping the ankle of a small child? Its fragile body hanging lifeless, upside-down just like a doll: a lamb headed for the slaughter in a remorseless media world."


Frankfurter Rundschau 19.01.2010

In a lengthy and informative interview, Arno Widmann talks to the writer Hans Christoph Buch about Haiti's long history of suffering. (Buch has written several novels about the island, where his grandmother moved to work as a chemist in the 19th century.) Under Papa Doc's voodoo dictatorship for example. "The USA occupied Haiti in 1934. During those years Haitian intellectuals started to reflect on their African roots. Papa Doc – although only loosely – was one of them. He published obscure essays on voodoo in an ethnographic magazine. During the elections in the Fifties, he styled himself has a voodoo doctor or voodoo priest in horn-rimmed spectacles, black hat and suit and walking stick. He looked like a reincarnation of Baron Samedi, the voodoo god of the underworld. He, himself was a high priest of Haitian voodoo. Prayers were introduced in schools which began: 'Our Doc, who rules in the palace, may all your enemies be killed."

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Saturday 11 - 17 December, 2010

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Colombian writer Hector Abad defends Nobel Prize laureate Mario Vargas Llosa against European Latin-America romantics. Wikileaks dissident Daniel Domscheit-Berg criticises the new publication policy of his former employer. The Sprengel Museum has put on a show of child nudes by die Brücke artists. The SZ takes a walk through the Internet woods with FAZ prophet of doom Frank Schirrmacher. The FAZ is troubled by Christian Thielemann's unstable tempo in the Beethoven cycle. And the FR meets China Free Press publisher, Bao Pu.
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Danish author Frederik Stjernfelt explains how the Left got its culturist ideas. Slavenka Draculic writes about censoring Angelina Jolie who wanted to make a film in Bosnia. Daniel Cohn-Bendit talks   about his friendship, falling out and reconciliation with Jean-Luc Godard. Wikileaks has caused an embarrassed silence in the Arab world, where not even al-Jazeera reported on the what the sheiks really think. Alan Posener calls for the Hannah Arendt Institute in Dresden to be shut down.
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Saturday 20 - Friday 26 November, 2010

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Saturday 13 - Friday 19 November, 2010

Dieter Schlesak levels grave accusations against his former friend and colleague, Oskar Pastior, who spied on him for the Securitate. Banat-Swabian author and vice chairman of the Oskar Pastior Foundation, Ernest Wichner, turns on Schlesak for spreading malicious rumours. Die Zeit portrays the Berlin rapper Harris, and the moment he knew he was German. Dutch author Cees Nooteboom meditates on the near lust for physical torture in the paintings of Francisco de Zurburan. An exhibition in Mannheim displays the dream house photography of Julius Schulman.
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Saturday 6 - Friday 12 November, 2010

The NZZ asks why banks invest in art. The FAZ gawps at the unnatural stack of stomach muscles in Michelangelo's drawings. The taz witnesses a giant step for the "Yugo palaver". Bernard-Henri Levy describes Sakineh Ashtiani's impending execution as a test for Iran and the west. Journalist Michael Anti talks about the healthy relationship between the net and the Chinese media. Literary academic Helmut Lethen describes how Ernst Jünger stripped the worker of all organic substances.
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Saturday 30 October - Friday 5 November, 2010

Now that German TV has just beatified Pope Pius XII, Rolf Hochmuth tells die Welt where he got the idea for his play "The Deputy". The FR celebrates Elfriede Jelinek's "brilliantly malicious" farce about the collapse of the Cologne City Archive. "Carlos" director Olivier Assayas makes it clear that the revolutionary subject is a figment of the imagination. The SZ returns from the Shanghai Expo with a cloying after-taste of sweet 'n' sour. And historian Wang Hui tells the NZZ that China's intellectuals have plenty of freedom to pose critical questions.
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Saturday 23 - Friday 29 October, 2010

Author Doron Rabinovici protests against the concessions of moderate Austrian politicians to the FPÖ: recently in Vienna, children were sent back to Kosovo at gunpoint. Ian McEwan wonders why major German novelists didn't mention the Wall. The NZZ looks through the Priz Goncourt shortlist and finds plenty of writers with more bite than Houellebecq. The FAZ outs two of Germany's leading journalists who fiercely guarded the German Foreign Ministry's Nazi past. Jens-Martin Eriksen and Frederik Stjernfelt analyse the symptoms of culturalism, left and right. Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht demonstratively yawns at German debate.
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Saturday 16 - Friday 22 October, 2010

A new book chronicles the revolt of revolting "third persons" at Suhrkamp publishers in the wild days of 1968. Necla Kelek is appalled by the speech of the very Christian Christian Wulff, the German president, in Turkey. The taz met a new faction of hardcore Palestinians who are fighting for separate sex hairdressing in Gaza. Sinologist Andreas Schlieker reports on the new Chinese willingness to restructure the heart. And the Cologne band Erdmöbel celebrate the famous halo around the frying pan.
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Saturday 9 - Friday 15 October, 2010

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Saturday 2 - Friday 8 October, 2010

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Saturday 25 September - Friday 1 October

Three East German theatre directors talk about the trauma of reunification. In the FAZ, Thilo Sarrazin denies accusations that his book propagates eugenics: "I am interested in the interplay of nature and nurture." Polemics are being drowned out by blaring lullabies, author Thea Dorn despairs. Author Iris Radisch is dismayed by the state of the German novel - too much idle chatter, not enough literary clout. Der Spiegel posts its interview with the German WikiLeaks spokesman, Daniel Schmitt. And Vaclav Havel's appeal to award the Nobel prize to Liu Xiabobo has the Chinese authorities pulling out their hair.
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Saturday 18 - Friday 24 September, 2010

Herta Müller's response to the news that poet Oskar Pastior was a Securitate informant was one of overwhelming grief: "When he returned home from the gulag he was everybody's game." Theatre director Luk Perceval talks about the veiled depression in his theatre. Cartoonist Molly Norris has disappeared after receiving death threats for her "Everybody Draw Mohammed" campaign. The Berliner Zeitung approves of the mellowing in Pierre Boulez' music. And Chinese writer Liao Yiwu, allowed to leave China for the first time, explains why schnapps is his most important writing tool.
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Saturday 10 - Friday 17 September, 2010

The poet Oskar Pastior was a Securitate informant, the historian Stefan Sienerth has discovered. Biologist Veronika Lipphardt dismisses Thilo Sarrazin's incendiary intelligence theories as a load of codswallop. A number of prominent Muslim intellectuals in Germany have written an open letter to President Christian Wulff, calling for him to "make a stand for a democratic culture based on mutual respect." And a Shell study has revealed that Germany's youth aspire to be just like their parents.
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Saturday 4 - Friday 10 September, 2010

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