May 17, 2009

Admiration as A Compulsory Exercise

On Friday, Navid Kermani, a Muslim writer and orientalist, was expelled from the awardees' list of the annual Hessian culture award because it had transpired that he had, as a good Muslim ought to, assigned from a great height a place in the back row to the Christian faith when he had stated (among other things) that the painting "Crucifixion" by the Italian baroque painter Guido Reni, that the crucifix is a blasphemous, pornographic and idolatrous image. In the Swiss newspaper NZZ, that was, and in one of those shallow, vain, blabbering "reflections" we know him for and which go down only too well with only too many.

The state of Hesse had intended to award their 45,000 Euro prize jointly to a Jew, a Muslim, a Catholic and a Lutheran to honour the cultural achievements of the monotheistic religions.

Notoriously liberal Cardinal Karl Lehmann of Mainz for once balked and refused to share the award with Navid Kermani, as did Peter Steinacker, former head of the Lutheran church of Hesse and Nassau.

The board then wrote to Kermani, withdrawing the award. The fourth recipient is Jewish, Salomon Korn, vice president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany and leader of the Frankfurt Jewish congregation.

Reactions were predictable. The speaker of Germany's parliament (according to the order of precedence Germany's second-highest ranking official after President Horst Köhler) Norbert Lammert, a member of the Christian Democratic Union, Catholic, denounced the board's turnabout, saying "If this is true, they should abolish the prize altogether ... Culture is nice, tolerance too, but one can't have both without making a big effort." It ought not to be forgotten that there will be federal- and elections for the European parliament held soon and that the Iranian contacts of businessmen close to the CDU are not to be neglected, needing, indeed, big efforts.

Aiman A Mazyek, secretary of the Central Council of Muslims, who thinks that it's quite alright to make jokes about the Prophet Mohammed as long as one does not talk about his flaws, said to the Berlin newspaper Tagesspiegel: "How would they have felt if a Muslim had refused to meet a churchman because he did not revere the Prophet Mohammed?" The question is not how they would have FELT, but what they would have DONE, Aiman. respectively what they would have NOT done.

But that isn't the whole story. Largely ignored by the mainstream media remained the fact that Kermani hadn't been the first choice for the award. That had been the Muslim Fuat Sezgin. Sezgin had refused to accept the award together with the Jew Salomon Korn whose view of the situation in Gaza Sezgin found objectionable.

Notabene that it's quite alright for the German media that a Muslim rejects an award because of insurmountable cultural differences with a Jew, but not if a Catholic does exactly that to a Muslim.

Just who is this particular Muslim? Navid Kermani, born in Germany to Iranian parents, who gets much acclaim as both, an orientalist and as a protagonist of "moderate Islam", is married to Katajun Armipur, another orientalist and protagonist of "moderate Islam", as well as another "Germano-Iranian" (as the politically correct description goes). Armipur has gotten some fame (or is it notoriety?) when she had stated that "even thinking about replacing stoning with other punishments is a step in the right direction" when in August 2004, in the Iranian town of Neka, a 16-year-old girl was hanged because of "unchaste behaviour". Kermani and Armipur are considered models of well-assimilated, "moderate Muslims" from whom we can learn a lot and whose admiration is a compulsory exercise. Notabene, too, that media darling Kermani's Habilitationsschrift, an orgiastically acclaimed effort, was in great parts lifted fom the epochal work "Das Meer der Seele" by the peerless and long dead German orientalist Hellmut Ritter, as Gudrun Eussner substantiates in her article (sadly in German only) "Hellmut Ritter: Das Meer der Seele - und der Tümpel von Navid Kermani" (Helmut Ritter: The Sea of the Soul and Navid Kermani's Puddle).

Different from another case of multicultural enrichment, I do not think that Kermani makes up his shit arbitrarily as he goes along, but that it is cooly calculated. However, what I then said about a society that showers those "culture-enrichers" with acclaim still stands: Only in a country like Germany, with that dangerous mixture of self-hatred and denial and without any moral and ethical compass, phonies like him can become the media darlings of the unenlightened masses. In any sane society he would have been laughed out of the door ages ago.

Edited to add:
Yesterday night, when I finished this, it seemed so self-evident that I didn't say it. In broad daylight there seems something to be missing, so here it is: If anything shows that there is no "dialogue" with Muslims possible, it is this carefully calculated mixture of open insults, taqiyya and half-truths, wrapped in the smugly chic and vain harangue of an educated -- WESTERN educated -- intellectual.

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