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14/02/2006

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.

Der Tagesspiegel, 14.02.2006

On February 10, Der Tagesspiegel published a cartoon by Klaus Stuttmann which portrays the Iranian football team as suicide bombers. (What the cartoon is really about however, is the debate on whether the German army should be deployed as a security force during the World Cup - in breach of the constitution.) Stuttmann has since received several death threats and moved out of his home. The Tagesspiegel interviews him today. Asked whether one should be allowed to caricature something which other people hold as holy, he replies: "You should. Otherwise I wouldn't be able to draw at all. Everybody has something they consider holy. And in the age of globalisation it's getting increasingly difficult. A few years ago I had a good sense for how far you could push things with people. Now a drawing is transported round the world in an instant and the different cultures all have a very different sense of humour. It's going to get really complicated."


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 14.02.2006

Henrike Thomsen presents the Islamic TV preacher Amr Khaled, who became famous with weekly broadcasts on the Arab satellite channel Iqra about the life of the Prophet and the Fast of Ramadan, and with his self-help organisation "Lifemakers" (here his comments on the caricatures). "Khaled is an avowed critic of the state of affairs in the Middle East, above all the educational system, but also of the traditional clerics who in his view spend their whole time talking and going on pilgrimage. Khaled, who holds a B.A. in economics and has lived in England for several years, is a man of action. His view of the world is a mixture of strict Islam and 'you can do it' philosophy. For the World Health Organisation, the British police and the sporting goods manufacturer Nike, this is the right mix: they cooperate with Khaled and support his projects."


Reactions to Botho Strauß' article on the 'preparatory society'

The papers are full of reactions to an article by playwright Botho Strauß published yesterday in Der Spiegel (more here), in which he argued for a return to a society of obligation and claimed that by paying more heed to the religious sensibilities of others, Western society can put its blasé, "prevailing arbitrariness" behind it.

Writing in Der Tagesspiegel, Rüdiger Schaper applauds Strauß' piece which puts down "all things triumphal, dogmatic and warlike": "What the playwright wishes for is everything that remains: 'rapprochement and a dispute between literary cultures.' Anyone who sees that as a backslide into the Middle Ages fails to see that the Middle Ages were not only dark. And they forget that all the world's clocks do not run on Central European Time."

In the Frankfurter Rundschau, Ina Hartwig makes short work of Botho Strauß: A "mixture of fear and envy fitting for the regulars' table, in short: a pot-pourri of resentment."

And in the Süddeutsche Zeitung Thomas Steinfeld is reminded of the late 19th century, "for example of ultramontanism, and the many heroic and ultimately forgotten attempts to relight the extinguished double wick of the Christian Occident, art and religion – against the forces of rapidly progressing secularisation."


Die Tageszeitung, 14.02.2006

Katajun Amirpur contintues to root for the youth in Iran – in spite of Ahmadinejad. "They feel certain that they have the upper hand in the long run. 'If the worst comes to the worst, we'll just have to wait until they're all dead' seems to be a common feeling. Even in the religious schools, the training ground for the conservatives, there is much talk about Islam and democracy, Islam and human rights. And plenty of young Mullahs believe that religion becomes tainted when it overlaps with politics too much. This is another reason why this society is moving increasingly towards a division of religion and politics."

Susanne Messmer talks to Thai director Pen-ek Ratanaruang, whose film "Invisible Waves" is part of the official competition at the Berlinale film festival, about why he makes such a virtue of appalling English in his films. "That's what the world is like now. That's how I live. I live in Bangkok and yet I spend half the time speaking bad English with my friends. And I speak bad English at film festivals. Everyone talks bad English today. I find bad English charming. It's a completely new language."


"The Free Will" at the Berlinale

Hanns-Georg Rodek of Die Welt writes that Matthias Glasner's film about a serial rapist (played by Jürgen Vogel) is a highlight of the Berlin International Film Festival. "At its core 'The Free Will' describes a double bind in which the free will of all involved has been switched off: that of the victim, of the culprit, who – the film says – will never get himself under control, and that of a society which is obliged to protect the rapist's environment from him. The director allows Theo (the rapist) to exercise his free will once only, and this culminates in a final scene of prodigious emotional complexity."

Writing in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Susan Vahabzadeh is not at all impressed either with the film or with Jürgen Vogel's portrayal of a rapist: "More than anything, however, 'The Free Will' is simply overflowing with all the wrong feelings and the wrong tones."

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