16/05/2007

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.

Süddeutsche Zeitung 16.05.2007

In "The Trouble with Islam Today: A Muslim’s Call for Reform in Her Faith," Canadian Muslim feminist activist Irshad Manji calls for a return to Ijtihad, critical thinking in Islam. She is certain that Islam is capable of reform. "There's no question that Islam can be modern. In Islam's golden age, so much progress was made that it became the basis of the European Renaissance. We Muslims have to change ourselves, that's the main difference. We can't keep blaming America or Israel for our misery."

The majority of shareholders of the Süddeutsche Zeitung want to sell their shares. Philosopher Jürgen Habermas reflects on how quality papers can be saved from rapacious financial investors. Perhaps with state funding? "Public communication is a force that stimulates and orients citizens' opinions and desires, while at the same time forcing the political system to adjust and become more transparent. Without the impulse of an opinion-forming press, one that informs reliably and comments diligently, the public sphere will lose this special type of energy. When gas, electricity or water are at stake, the state must guarantee the energy supply for the population. Shouldn't it do the same when this other type of 'energy' is at risk - the absence of which will cause disruptions damaging to the state? It is not a 'system failure' when the state tries to protect the public commodity that is the quality press. The real question is just the pragmatic one of how that can be done best."


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 16.05.2007

Christian Schwägerl visited a congress in Berlin organised by the Daimler Benz Foundation where neuroscientists gave insights into their somewhat uncanny activities: "'Consciousness is a simplified version of what's really going on in the brain.' This is how John-Dylan Haynes of the Berlin Bernstein Centre attempted to prepare listeners for the shocking message of his most recent research results. Haynes added a twist to the famous Libet experiments, and uses measurements to unerringly predict how a subject will decide between simple alternatives - even before the person is aware of his or her choice."


Die Welt 16.05.2007

Tomorrow the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, which split off from the former in 1917, will sign the document confirming their canonical reunification. Gernot Facius is uneasy about the growing influence of Orthodoxy in the West: "The Moscow Patriarchate distances itself from Western definitions on the delicate topics of human rights and religious freedom. It sees Enlightenment humanism at work in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, considering it to undermine the theological humanism of Christianity and lead people 'away from God'... And to the dismay of Western onlookers, the Metropolitan Bishop identified himself with Orthodox patriotic state ideology as expressed in the speeches of Vladimir Putin: the nation is the creative force behind belief and religion."


Die Tageszeitung
, 16.05.2007

Author Ilija Trojanow is fuming over the exploitation of Africa by Western pop singers like Björk, who travels to Mali for a couple of days to record a song with the great Toumani Diabate. It went something like this: "Toumani had worked with Björk on a song the previous afternoon. He invited me to accompany him to the Bogolan-Studio the next day, to hear the recording. But the pop princess had already flown, without saying goodbye. Toumani found a message from her New Yorker partner Matthew Barney in his mailbox: It was nice in Mali, thank you! See you next time in Iceland! The recording engineer was particularly annoyed. 'She was here earlier, played the recording onto her laptop and then took off! These people don't know how to behave themselves! The enter a country as though it were a restaurant. When they leave, they quickly pay the bill and soon after, they've forgotten where they were.'"

Human rights activist Ludmilla Alexeyeva explains in an interview why we should not assume that Putin – despite his good standing in the polls – will enjoy popular support indefinitely. "In February of 1917, women took to the streets because there was no bread. A hundred days later, Tsarist Russia was history. Why? Because nobody was willing to defend the regime. In August 1991, the Muscovites went to the White House to defend their country against the putsch. In both cases, there were no organised opposition and nobody expected this to happen. Today the people are at odds with each other. Nobody really understands the mood among the people. Nobody knows what will happen next. That's why it's hard to assess the opposition's chances."


Other papers
16.05.2007

In an interview with Örjan Abrahamsson in the Stockholm newspaper Expressen, writer and politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali talks about the multiculturalism debate launched by signandsight.com and its sister site perlentaucher.de, indicating that she intends to respond to the positions of Timothy Garton Ash and Ian Buruma on Islam in Europe. "I fail to understand why Ian Buruma and Timothy Garton Ash would rather defend Islam than women - or individual rights and the Enlightenment. I've had a look at their books and articles to find out where we disagree. And I think that in principle we see eye to eye, but not on the question of how you should address Muslims." Hirsi Ali also discloses she is working on a novel that takes place in the New York Public Library: the Prophet Muhammad wakes and has a talk with her favourite philosophers, Mill, Hayek and Popper.

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