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Who Benefits from a New Division of the World?

by Horst-Eberhard Richter Monday, Mar. 06, 2006 at 3:13 PM

We in the West should be more prepared than ever to respect the cultural identities of other people. We should strive to accept their ideas and demands on us..The problem of the West is understanding the mental consti-tution of the poor and humiliated.


Invoking an Islamic Stereotype. Freedom of the Press was not intended to Legitimate Insulting Religious Feelings

By Horst-Eberhard Richter

[This article published in: Freitag, 2/10/2006 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, Horst-Eberhard Richter is a former chairperson of the International Physicians against Nuclear Proliferation and Nuclear War. Other articles by Dr. Richter are available at]

When a new division of the world after the division of the Cold War threatened following September 11, 2001, anxious advisors immediately offered proposals to counter this danger. Psychologists, social researchers and political scientists from Canada, the US and Europe demanded Washington strictly pursue and prosecute the al-Qaida terrorists and their accomplices but not for heaven’s sake to start any clash of cultures. Ex-German president Johannes Rau declared: “We in the West should be more prepared than ever to respect the cultural identities of other peoples. We should strive to accept their ideas and demands on us.” Neither the researchers nor Johannes Rau were given a hearing.

The Turkish author Orhan Pamuk, winner of the 2005 German Book Trade prize, was even clearer at that time. He wrote: “Unfortunately the West has no idea of the feeling of humiliation that the large majority of the world’s population must live through and overcome without losing their minds or conforming to terrorists, radical nationalists or fundamentalists.” “Today,” Pamuk continues, “the problem of the West is less finding out what terrorist at what time, what alley and what distant city prepares his bombs to rain down. The problem of the West is understanding the mutual constitution of the poor and humiliated, the majority who do not live in the western world.”

The different admonishers judged that the Bush administration was not intent on narrowing the conflict but on a total offensive against Islamic “rogue states.” Thus the proclamation of the “crusade-war occurred and the disaster of Islamic terrorism in Iraq was provoked that did not exist there where a reform-oriented opposition originated, the anti-American hatred was revived that swelled there since 1953 when the CIA overthrow the democratic Mossadegh regime in Teheran.

Now the caricature scandal comes to Islamists. Stagings or productions obviously occur with the excesses all over the Islamic world. However these productions can only function because ample pent-up hatred coalesced. Nothing really happened in the West since September 11 to deactivate the inter-cultural tension as Johannes Rau and Orhan Pamuk hoped.

Everyone knows about the central role of religion in giving identity to Islamic people and its idiosyncrasy. Now a scandal occurs through the caricatures. Freedom of the press requires a clear apology. The frequent reprinting of the Mohammed caricature could not be interpreted other than as a defiant mockery in the Islamic world. Freedom of the press was not conceived to legitimate insulting religious feelings. What is at stake here is de-escalation or kindling inter-cultural tensions, not a know-it-all attitude. The editors acted according to the letter but should have refused. “There are better ways to demonstrate freedom of the press,” the London Independent writes. The Guardian calls the publications “a wrong decision. They are provocative and play into the hands of Islamic extremists and preachers of hate.”

The great expense in police, secret service and technical prevention of terrorist attacks becomes a farce when all the paths for terrorist attacks are simultaneously paved psychologically. Nevertheless the Munich security conference insists that several things could be won from a new cultural division and invocation of a stereotype of the Islamic world – the prospect for a transatlantic war front and further diversion from the unsolved problems of the unjust neoliberal globalization. On the other side of the world, there could be no longer thousands of nuclear missiles but thousands upon thousands of recruited human bombs.

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