Writing against disappearance ? Sa?a Stani?i?

Sa?a Stani?i?, who grew up in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Germany, writes regional novels of an unusual kind. His novel ?Vor dem Fest? was awarded the Prize of the Leipzig Book Fair. ... more more

GoetheInstitute

07/02/2006

"What next, bearded one?"

Our traditional values have been trampled on and we are offended. A wake-up call. By Sonia Mikich

I feel offended.

Zealots are nailing veils onto the faces of my sisters in Afghanistan and Pakistan and are busy hanging women, homosexuals, adulterers and non-believers.

But human rights, women's rights and the right to liberty are the most exalted in the history of humanity; this is the tradition in which I was raised. Values that make the world better and more peaceful.

I demand that the governments of Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Indonesia and Egypt apologise to me. Otherwise I am unfortunately forced to threaten, beat up, kidnap or behead their citizens. Because I am somewhat sensitive about my cultural identity.

I feel offended.

Fanatics are blowing up the Buddhas of Bamiyan, marvellous cultural monuments.

But art is an expression of universal beauty and innocence to me. It is a value that makes the world better and more peaceful; this is the tradition in which I was raised.

I demand that Hamas, the spokesman of the French Muslims and the Director of the Al-Azhar-University apologise to me. Otherwise I will never spend a holiday at the Taj Mahal, I will call for a boycott of Palestinian fruit and I will set the embassies of Tunisia, Qatar and Bangladesh on fire.

I expect understanding for this at the very least – my feelings are absolute and must be expressed globally.

I feel offended.

Videos show journalists, truck drivers and NGO workers having their throats slit or their heads chopped off. Jews see themselves represented as cannibals and pigs, Western women as decadent sluts. Apolitical engineers have to fear for their lives.

All in the name of God.

I demand that all the editors in chief of newspapers and television broadcasters in the Islamic world apologise to me, because they do nothing to prevent these obscenities.

Many people are concerned that the clash of civilisation is near. Oh please, it has been going on for a while now, not only manifest in the monstrosities mentioned above but part of everyday life. How fragile, how superficial must Muslims' religious values be. How can cartoons in an unknown newspaper in a little European country cause such an upset and allow a handful of organised agitators to be able to drive many thousands onto the streets.

Joking how the prophet Mohammed is running out of virgins because so many suicide bombers are standing at the gates of paradise is dark and mean. And, given the reality of global attacks, lamentably effective (just as a side note). But I did not find it especially funny that the misogynous Taliban availed themselves regularly of prostitutes. Or publicly "executed" video recorders and televisions in order to watch pornos in privacy.

Just a reminder: the earth is not flat. It should go without saying that individuals in a secular democracy have every right to caricature and mock authorities, even religious ones. They should be prepared to meet criticism but not punishment. Freedom of expression has to be understood broadly and there are sufficient laws and rules that can be employed to prevent abuse.

The film "The Life of Brian" annoyed a lot of Christians and provoked letters to editors, calls for boycotts and quarrels within families. But nobody in New Zealand suspected a conspiracy against Christianity, nobody in Malta felt compelled to burn the Union Jack. Nor do political authorities have a natural right to protection. Margaret Thatcher was chopped to bits by British journalists, comedians and screenwriters and then put back together in a ghastly way; it was good for the mental sanity of that era and did not kill anyone.

Everyone had the right to turn it off, look away or toss the newspaper in the bin. Freedom of opinion was the Siamese twin of freedom from fear.

The fact that fundamentalists of all persuasions are completely incapable of self-reflection, self-criticism, and self-irony would not warrant a mention, were it not for their practice of imposing their issues on me and my world. They assume that we will kowtow to them as soon as we recognise who they are: "Look out! Religious feelings! We're leaving the private sphere."

In the self-referential world of God or Allah or Yahweh warriors, feelings are increasingly used as weapons and honoured as the highest authority. Readily summoned, merciless.

In the debate over the cartoons, the prohibition of pictures is being presented as a compulsory principle of belief. To be respected everywhere, even in the state of Denmark.

It gives pause to think that those who claim to be offended are so proficient with the Internet and other modern communication technologies but know little about their own cultural history. In Islam's heydey, pictures were made of the Prophet. Mohammed lightly veiled, for instance, on a horse riding to heaven – a wonderful Persian miniature in the Chester-Beatty-Museum in Dublin. (more)

What next, bearded one? Boycott Irish butter?

I do not have to concern myself with the sales figures of Danish yoghurt. I am not easy to blackmail and I am free to find Immanuel Kant's "sapere aude" more conducive to successful communal living than a Fatwa.

I hereby refuse to feel badly for the chronically insulted. I refuse to argue politely why freedom of expression, reason and humour should be respected. I do not want to continue to have to provide creationists scientific proof that the earth has been around for more than 10,000 years. And I am going to stop waiting for them to say on Al Jazeera, "Did you ever hear the one about the Prophet's beard?"

*

The article originally appeared in German in die tageszeitung on February 6, 2006.


Sonia Mikich, born 1951 in Oxford, is a television and print journalist. She hosts WDR's political magazine "Monitor."

Translation: nb.

Get the signandsight newsletter for regular updates on feature articles.
signandsight.com - let's talk european.

 
More articles

This kiss for the whole world

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Who actually owns "intellectual property"?  The German media that defend the concept of intellectual property as "real" property are the first to appropriate such rights, and they are using this idea as a defensive weapon. With lawmakers extending copyright laws and new structures emerging on the internet, intellectual property poses a serious challenge to the public domain. A survey of the German media landscape by Thierry Chervel
read more

Suddenly we know we are many

Wednesday 4th January, 2012

Why the Russian youth have tolerated the political situation in their country for so long and why they are no longer tolerant. The poet Natalia Klyuchareva explains the background to the protests on Bolotnaya Square in Moscow on December 10th. Image: Leonid Faerberg
read more

The Republic of Europe

Tuesday 20 December, 2011

Thanks to Radoslaw Sikorski's speech in Berlin, Poland has at last joined the big European debate about restructuring the EU in connection with the euro crisis. The "European Reformation" advocated by Germany does not mean that the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation will be established in Europe, but instead – let us hope – the Republic of Europe. By Adam Krzeminski
read more

Brown is not red

Tuesday 13 December, 2011

TeaserPicFilmmaker and theatre director Andres Veiel disagrees with the parallels currently being drawn between left-wing and right-wing violence in Germany. The RAF is the wrong model for the Zwickau neo-Nazi group, the so-called "Brown Army Faction" responsible for a series of murders of Turkish small business owners. Unlike the RAF, this group never publicly claimed responsibility for their crimes. Veiel is emphatic - you have to look at the biographies of the perpetrators. An interview with Heike Karen Runge.
read more

Legacy of denial

Tuesday 29 November, 2011

TeaserPicGermany has been rocked by the disclosures surrounding the series of neo-Nazi murders of Turkish citizens. In the wake of these events, Former GDR dissident Freya Klier calls for an honest look at the xenophobia cultivated by the policies of the former East Germany, where the core of the so-called "Brown Army Faction" was based. And demands that East Germans finally confront a long-denied past. (Photo: © Nadja Klier)
read more

Nausea in Paris

Monday 14 November, 2011

TeaserPicIn response to the arson attack on the offices of the Parisian satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on November 2, Danish critic and semiotician Frederik Stjernfelt is nauseated by the opinions voiced against the publication, especially in the British and American media. Why don't they see that Islamism is right-wing extremism?
read more

Just one pyramid

Monday 10 October, 2011

Activist and author, Andri Snaer Magnason is among the Icelandic guests of honor at this year's Frankfurt Book Fair. His book and film "Dreamland" is both an ecological call to action and a polemic. "The politicians took one of the most beautiful parts of Iceland and offered it to unscrupulous companies," says the author in a critique of his native country. By Daniela Zinser
read more

Dark side of the light

Monday 3 October 2011

In their book "Lügendes Licht" (lying light) Thomas Worm and Claudia Karstedt explore the darker side of the EU ban on incandescent bulbs. From disposal issues to energy efficiency, the low-energy bulb is not necessarily a beacon of a greener future. By Brigitte Werneburg
read more

Lubricious puritanism

Tuesday 30 August, 2011

The malice of the American media in the case of Dominique Strauss-Kahn is a symptom of sexual uptightness that borders on the sinister, and the feminists have joined forces with the religious Right to see it through. We can learn much from America, but not when it comes to the art of love. By Pascal Bruckner
read more

Much ado about Sarrazin

Monday 22 August 2011

Published a year ago, the controversial book "Deutschland schafft sich ab" (Germany is doing away with itself) by former banker and Berlin Finance Senator Thilo Sarrazin sparked intense discussion. Hamed Abdel-Samad asks: what has the Sarrazin debate achieved beyond polarisation and insult? And how can Germany avoid cultivating its own classes of "future foreigners"?
read more

Economic giant, political dwarf

Wednesday 3 August, 2011

Germany's growing imbalance between economic and political competence is worsening the European crisis and indeed the crisis of Nato. The country has ceased to make any political signals at all and demonstrates a conspicuous lack of responsibility for what takes place beyond its own borders. This smug isolationism is linked to strains of old anti-Western and anti-political, anti-parliamentarian sentiment that is pure provincialism. By Karl Heinz Bohrer
read more

Sound and fury

Monday 11 April 2011

Budapest is shimmering with culture but Hungary's nationalist government is throwing its weight about in cultural life, effecting censorship through budget cuts and putting its own people in the top-level cultural positions. Government tolerance of hate campaigns against Jews and gays has provoked the likes of Andras Schiff, Agnes Heller, Bela Tarr and Andre Fischer to raise their voices in defence of basic human rights. But a lot of people are simply scared. By Volker Hagedorn
read more

The self-determination delusion

Monday 28 March, 2011

TeaserPicA Dutch action group for free will wants to give all people the right to assisted suicide. But can this be achieved without us ending up somewhere we never wanted to go? Gerbert van Loenen has grave doubts.
read more

Revolution without guarantee

Monday 21 February, 2011

Saying revolution and freedom is not the same as saying democracy, respect for minorities, equal rights and good relations with neighbouring nations. All this has yet to be achieved. We welcome the Arab revolution and will continue to watch with our eyes open to the potential dangers. By Andre Glucksmann
read more

Pascal Bruckner and the reality disconnect

Friday 14 January, 2011

The French writer Pascal Bruckner wants to forbid a word. Which sounds more like a typically German obsession. But for Bruckner, "Islamophobia" is one of "those expressions which we dearly need to banish from our vocabulary". One asks oneself with some trepidation which other words we "dearly need" to get rid of: Right-wing populism? Racism? Relativism? By Alan Posener
read more