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14/02/2006

Magazine Roundup

Magazine Roundup, which appears every Tuesday at 12 p.m., is originally published by Perlentaucher.

The Spectator | Die Weltwoche | Il Foglio | Le point | Al Ahram Weekly | Le Nouvel Observateur | Outlook India | Gazeta Wyborcza | Elet es Irodalom | The Nation | Folio | The New York Times Book Review


The Spectator, 11.02.2006 (UK)

The Spectator takes on both sides of the cartoon debate. The leader defends the magazine's decision not to print the drawings, preferring to criticise the continental European press. "It would be nice if the German and French newspapers which have reprinted the cartoons — in many cases several times over, supposedly in a high-minded mission to defend the right to free speech — would assert that right a little more strongly against their own governments and against the EU. Where were these great defenders of free speech in the French press when it came to revealing that François Mitterrand, far from having been the Resistance hero he claimed to have been, had in fact been an apologist for Vichy? Nowhere to be seen. The former president survived 14 years in office without a single French newspaper daring to reveal his true past."

Theodor Dalrymple is of a very different opinion: "The reaction of Britain and the United States will have taught Muslim extremists that if they are thuggish enough, they can intimidate powerful states, and that professions of belief in freedom of expression are hollow; in other words, that the terrorist tactics of the weak can impose censorship on the strong. Muslim extremists will have come to the not altogether mistaken conclusion that the men who control Western governments don’t believe in anything strongly enough to risk their own skins; in short, that they are decadent."


Die Weltwoche, 09.02.2006 (Switzerland)

Europe is on the road to suicide, writes Hanspeter Born with an eye to demographics. Born puts forward a three-point plan: "First Europe needs an intellectual surge comparable with the major religious awakening in England and the USA in the 19th century, which would favour a higher birthrate. Secondly the European states should attain a higher degree of cultural diversification by means of an immigration policy favouring non-Muslim cultures. Thirdly European societies have to use social measures to convince immigrating Muslims of the value of enlightened modernity, with an eye to cultural assimilation."


Il Foglio, 11.02.2006 (Italy)

With recourse to the Byzantine iconoclastic debate, Sandro Fusina emphasises how happy Christianity should be that the iconoclasts, who in his opinion were influenced by Islam, lost. "Christianity can certainly not be credited with having created occidental figurative art out of nothing, but it did save the classical figurative tradition from the radical Islamist furore, from the disastrous Byzantine attempt to destroy all icons. But its main achievement is that it created a lively tradition that was able to appropriate other directions and opinions. It was from this point of departure that a figurative art developed, which is of of the most influential and characteristic features of the occidental identity." Part 1 and part 2 of this article can be downloaded as pdf.)


Le Point, 09.02.2006 (France)

French journalist Elisabeth Levy puts in her word both on the reactions to the cartoon controversy and the hefty debate over French laws on how the colonial past is to be portrayed. These show above all one thing, she writes: "In France it is becoming increasingly difficult to escape the thought police". "Bans on talking, bans on laughter, bans on shocking people, bans on being critical: France was always proud of being a cradle of critical thought, a country where differing perspectives tussled it out with one another. Now the country seems to have a banning fit. Today the way to knowledge is paved by laws reflecting the official truth and publicly approved beliefs. Dissenters are threatened with an opinion tribunal – or they are dealt with summarily." Levy also criticises the way the French government has buckled in face of Islamic protest at the caricatures: "Can every minority now demand not only that it control its own history, but also that it should be free from criticism?"


Al Ahram Weekly, 09.02.2006 (Egypt)

Al-Ahram prints a thick dossier on the Muhammad cartoons. In an exclusive interview, Denmark's Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen tries to play down the damage: "We very often consider cartoons - for instance cartoons of a politician - a big honour. Very often drawings and cartoons are used to convey a message in a more modified way; that's how we think. But politicians are very different from prophets, I would say, of course, and this is the other side of it."

For Salama A Salama, "the tension is easy to explain. Europe has failed to integrate its ethnic minorities in a meaningful manner. In Denmark, there was no reason whatsoever for the offending drawings to be published. But the recent elections have seen the rise of the far-right People's Party, known for racism and xenophobia. The People's Party has managed to turn public opinion against Muslims and foreigners in Denmark - an easy task considering frequent hostage-taking incidents in Iraq."

A further dossier deals with the quarrel surrounding the publication of a novel by Naguib Mahfouz. After Mahfouz himself made the publishing of "Children of the Alley" conditional on the consent of the Muslim Brotherhood, a move which brought the anger of the Egyptian intelligentsia down upon him, Sayed El-Bahrawi reminds readers of the moral function of literature: "In penetrating beneath the contradictions of a human dilemma or social phenomenon, no matter how bizarre or unconventional the characters, it leads the reader to a greater awareness of the nature of these contradictions and, hence, enhances his or her ability to overcome them. ... Whether his reluctance to have his book published stems from personal conviction or fear, Naguib Mahfouz seems to have conceded that the Muslim Brotherhood has already become a moral authority to be deferred to. If this is the case it is a position that must be fought with vigour."


Le Nouvel Observateur, 09.02.2006 (France)

The Nouvel Obs interviews French philosopher Regis Debray, who calls on the West to voluntarily limit freedom of opinion out of consideration for Islam: "We must be careful not to transfer our system of social perceptions and thought categories onto other cultures with a different history, where religious factors play the same structural role they did here 300 years ago."


Outlook India, 20.02.2006 (India)

The Muhammad cartoons – a matter of taste? A contribution by Sanjay Suri documents the legal implications: "From a debate within the media, the controversy is now moving to a debate over a conflict between laws that guarantee freedom of expression, and others against blasphemy. Many of the laws intended to restrain religious provocation were meant against fiery imams like Abu Hamza, who was sentenced in London this week. Courts in Denmark - and maybe elsewhere - could now face the piquancy of peaceful Muslims in legal pursuit of a provocative European media in the dock. Material for a future cartoon, possibly."


Gazeta Wyborcza, 11.02.2006 (Poland)

In the paper's weekend edition, the Polish-English author and activist Lisa Appignanesi argues against laws meant to protect religions, especially Islam, from attack. "You can't live in today's multicultural world without being insulted several times a day! If every single insult is met with censorship, soon we'll have no free art, free press, or free thought at all." Asked how far freedom of speech may go, Appignanesi answers: "Free societies should fight hurtful opinions by spreading good ones – not with the help of prosecutors and prisons."

Liberalism is falling into disrepute in Poland, the Polish-American historian and philosopher Andrzej Walicki laments. "Liberalism in the strictest sense - as an economic doctrine - was the chosen doctrine of admirers of Thatcherism in Poland, and that's why it's now an easy target for those who like to equate it with social Darwinism and a contempt for the weak. The seedling of liberalism which once took root in Poland, and which advocated tolerance and state neutrality, was pulled up long ago in the name of a collectivist republican tradition. The rhetoric being used by those in power today also runs along these lines."


Elet es Irodalom, 10.02.2006 (Hungary)

At the beginning of the 1980s, people in Poland felt much more solidarity with opposition intellectuals than the Hungarians did, says Roza Hodosan, one of the most important representatives of the Hungarian democratic opposition, in an interview: "During the demonstrations in Warsaw, all over the city doors were opened to people fleeing the police. People were taken in and cared for. ... It was fascinating to see how all of Poland was united in its critical attitude toward the regime." The Hungarians, on the other hand, showed little sympathy. When Gabor Demszky – today mayor of Budapest – was beaten by police on the street, "I screamed the whole time until I lost my voice, so there would be eye witnesses. ... The next day when a paper 'reported' on the event with the title 'Sociologist attacks police', we couldn't find a single eye witness, not one. Even though the windows and balconies were full of people. Many, many people saw exactly what happened."

Hungarian theatre director Peter Halasz is dying of cancer and is turning his own burial into a performance. He is lying in his open coffin at the art museum in Budapest, and listening to the funeral speeches of his friends. The ES magazine prints the necrology given by the writer György Konrad: "Theatre revolves around a great theatre director. ... Theatre is where you are. Your bed, where you are lying, the catafalque on which you are lying. Funny, my child would say. Not funny at all, my other child would add mournfully. The truth is that the many people gathered that you have met over the course of your life, have all played their role in your eyes.


The Nation, 27.02.2006 (USA)

The writer Walter Mosley calls for a new Black Power, a political party for black Americans. Because the Democrats have done virtually nothing for them in over fifty years. "We have the lowest average income of any large racial group in the nation. We're incarcerated at an alarmingly high rate. We are still segregated and profiled, and have a very low representation at the top echelons of the Democratic Party. We are the stalwarts, the bulwark, the Old Faithful of the Democrats, and yet they have not made our issues a high priority in a very long time."

French intellectual Bernard-Henri Levy directs a wake-up call to the American left, which he found in a semi-comatose state on his journey through America in the search for Toqueville. "For an outside observer it is passing strange, for instance, that a number of progressives needed, by their own admission, to wait for Hurricane Katrina before they got indignant about, or even learned about, the sheer scale of the outrageous poverty blighting American cities. For a European intellectual used to the battlefield of ideas, it is simply incomprehensible that more voices weren't raised long ago, in the name of no less than the force of 'the Enlightenment,' to denounce the ridiculous fraud of the anti-Darwinian supporters of 'intelligent design.' And what about the death penalty? ... And Guantanamo? And Abu Ghraib?"


Folio, 13.02.2006 (Switzerland)

The February edition of Folio has a good look at all the self-appointed "super nannies", career coaches, lifestyle experts, closet clearers, and fitness gurus of the world. Sociologist Gerhard Schulze has just one name for them "sugary poison". "Advice is frequently sold as enlightenment, but Immanuael Kant sees in it the exact opposite: paid self-incapacitation... In place of self-will and trial and error, we seem determined to discredit the 'dilettante' and demand the expert. The history of mankind began as a do-it-yourself project and led to a dependence on experts."


The New York Times Book Review, 12.02.2006 (USA)

Noah Feldman reviews the book "Messages to the World", containing the pronouncements of Osama bin Laden. "What makes the collected speeches, interviews, Web postings and other public statements of Osama bin Laden different from, say, 'Helter Skelter', is that bin Laden is not clinically mad. He gives reasons for his actions that, while morally outrageous and religiously irresponsible, could be accepted by otherwise logical people who shared his premises. This makes him more, not less, dangerous than the Charles Mansons among us. Bin Laden has an audience, of which he is acutely aware — a fact made particularly clear by his recent offer of a 'truce' with America. His words, as much as his deeds, aim to convince others to embrace his view of the world and act accordingly."

In the New York Times Magazine, Joseph Lelyveld presents the senator Chuck Hagel, who may well become the Republican Party's next presidential candidate: "Chuck Hagel never became a dove, but he became a bird that's nearly as rare in the Republican aviary. He became an internationalist, someone who's capable of feeling intensely about alliances, multilateral endeavors, the value of global institutions; a fellow traveler of the Council on Foreign Relations, a politician who actually reads Foreign Affairs. A singular Great Plains Republican, in other words, who cares about the rest of the world for reasons that don't begin and end with agricultural exports."

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