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«Blätter für deutsche und internationale Politik 1/2015 Katajun Amirpur, co−publisher of Blätter (Germany) and professor of Islamic studies, ...»

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Eurozine Review

Massaging the writer's ego

In Blätter, Katajun Amirpur discerns a fatal resonance between fundamentalists and

critics of Islam; Index on Censorship marks 800 years since the signing of the

Magna Carta; Krytyka publishes Stephen Velychenko's open letter to Oliver Stone;

New Eastern Europe asks, is all quiet on the Baltic front? L'Espill looks at the

success of microlocal politics in Catalonia; Il Mulino slams fast fashion; Dialogi

insists that the class struggle never left town; Esprit takes a course in biopolitics;

Samtiden tries to pin down a zeitgeist between war and crisis; and Host launches a new online journal but won't give up on print just yet.

Blätter für deutsche und internationale Politik 1/2015 Katajun Amirpur, co−publisher of Blätter (Germany) and professor of Islamic studies, discerns a fatal resonance in the outrageous arguments of fundamentalists and run−of−the−mill "critics of Islam" alike. The idea that "Islam equals violence" is not only an affront to the heterogeneity of a 1400−year−long tradition of interpreting the Koran: its dissemination also grossly distorts the terms of public debate.

As a result, oft−repeated calls for Muslims to distance themselves from the Islamic State simply drown out the voices of even the most conservative Islamic thinkers who categorically condemn IS terror. Over 120 scholars of Islam from countries including Iraq, Chad, Nigeria, Sudan and Pakistan, as well as the United States, have written a a 25−page letter addressed to Islamic State's leader and fighters, as well as those who the authors fear are vulnerable to IS propaganda. The letter states that verses of the Koran must never be cherry−picked to justify the murder of journalists, aid workers and diplomats or slavery, or any of the other horrifying crimes that IS has committed.

Hardly surprising then that the thought of scholars such as Fazlur Rahman (1919−1988) remains all but unheard of. Rahman outlined how from an Islamic perspective theology might best be set to work in securing the peaceful co−existence of people of different faiths. Amirpur herself goes further and argues how the Koran might be interpreted with a view to improving the position of women in relation to Islam.

Beware, in any event, of "battles between the West and Muslims", warns


"After all, it is above all the Sunni Arabs of the Free Syrian Army who are fighting the IS terror cells in Syria as well as the Sunni Kurds and Shiite Arabs who do so in Iraq. There they receive the Christian and Yazidi refugees and An article from www.eurozine.com 1/8 provide for them under the most difficult of conditions −− for 'the West' is, despite all the rhetoric about how western culture is based on Judeo−Christian civilization, not for a moment willing to fulfill one of the most central Christian precepts: to help those in need. The situation of the refugees is catastrophic, an injustice that cries out to heaven."

Also: Geraldine de Bastion and Markus Beckedahl on why we need a digital civil rights movement and why we need it now.

The full table of contents of Blätter für deutsche und internationale Politik 1/2015 Index on Censorship 4/2014

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Editor Rachael Jolley introduces the contributions of writers from around the world commissioned to draft clauses for a twenty−first−century Magna Carta, including Robert McCrum, Elif Shafak and Rita El Khayat. There are lively arguments for abolishing the death penalty, education for boys and girls as a fundamental right, tackling climate change, preserving net neutrality, and women having full equality with men.

The pro−EU/anti−EU Magna Carta: John Crace explains how the thirteenth−century document now known as the Magna Carta "has widely come to be seen as the foundation stone of constitutional law, both in England and many countries around the world. It was the first time limitations had been formally placed on a monarch's power and", continues Crace, that "the rights of citizens to the due process of law and trial by jury had been affirmed."

Therefore, "the appeal of Magna Carta endures and it remains the gold standard for democracy in any debate. Whatever side of it you happen to be on.

British eurosceptics argue that the UK's continuing membership of the European Union threatens the very parchment on which it was written; that Britain is being turned into a serf by a European despot. Pro−Europeans argue that the EU does more than just enshrine the ideals of Magna Carta, it turns the most threatened elements of it into law."

Azeri attack: Rebecca Vincent reports on the writers and artists facing prison in Azerbaijan, following the latest crackdown on photojournalists.

The full table of contents of Index on Censorship 4/2014 Krytyka, 1 January 2015

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"You seem actually to believe Yanukovych who, understandably, like any overthrown dictator, attributes his fate to 'outside forces' rather than to himself, his policies and supporters, domestic and foreign. Just like Yanukovych and Vladimir Putin, you seem to think that the new government that emerged from the Maidan events of 2013 and 2014 is the product of CIA machinations, that CIA involvement was something exceptionally noteworthy, and, implicitly, that because the current Ukrainian government is supposedly a CIA product, it has no merit or credibility."

Take this line of thinking further, remarks Velychenko, and you might be able to pass the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland off as a failed German plot −− or indeed, given that German intelligence also supported and financed the Bolsheviks in 1917−1918, the Russian revolution as a German plot.

Velychenko concludes: "I would also hope that if a director of your repute did make a documentary film about Ukraine it would not simply parrot the ideas of a reviled ousted dictator who built fortified fairy−land palaces with gold toilets in a country foul with corruption private wealth and public squalor."

More on Krytyka New Eastern Europe 1/2015

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Karklins explains why he believes that information literacy should become a part of every primary and secondary school curriculum: "children need to acquire certain skills that will help them to orient themselves in and distil this deluge of information, including the disinformation that is present on the Internet."

He does not however expect any "revolutionary change in media consumption" patterns, not least since only three billion of the world's population have access to information in any strict twenty−first century sense of the word (and not all of those have daily access). Meanwhile, Rebane sees no alternative to public broadcasting services in Estonia and Latvia: "We have to pay for them because we are so small."

Germany won't lead the West: Klaus Bachmann provides a thorough historical analysis of Russo−German relations and what he considers Germany's failure in its bid to assume a leadership role in the Ukraine crisis.

An article from www.eurozine.com 3/8 The reasons for failure lie in the "conservative image of Putin's Russia as another embodiment of the Tsarist empire" having persisted for so long, in comfortable co−existence "with the leftist vision of Putin's Russia as the continuation of the Soviet Union". Bachmann argues that it wasn't until Russia took Crimea in March and separatists troops downed the Malaysian Airlines plane in July that Germany finally received its wake−up call, by which time things had already gone too far.

Also: Reviews of the latest book from Ukraine's leading investigative journalist Sergii Leschenko, which ventures a diagnosis of ousted president Viktor Yanukovych; and of Viktor Yushchenko's memoir, also published recently in Ukraine.

The full table of contents of New Eastern Europe 1/2015 L'Espill 47 (2014)

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Not that rampant corruption can stand in the way of "new voices, new protagonists, who aspire to reconfigure a political map that seems exhausted."

The magazine features some of the most prominent figures of "new politics" in the Catalan−speaking regions.

Retaking the institutions: Ada Colau is the public face of Guanyem (Let's Win), a citizen−assembly based movement that could become the largest force in Barcelona City Council at this year's local elections. Colau says "we have a kidnapped democracy". Economic crisis has been inseparable from a "profound democratic crisis" that has massively discredited institutional politics, seen as unrepresentative and under permanent suspicion of corruption.

The current situation is "an absolute emergency", Colau says, as the time has come to "retake institutions and democratize them". Explaining why Guanyem has focussed on local, city−based politics, she says what is needed is "a collective empowerment that transforms our institutions from the roots [...] From this point of view, municipalism is key. It's people who see each other every day, who meet in their districts, who have the capacity to organize and transform ordinary life." "Microlocal policies demonstrate that things can be done differently", she suggests, "and the 'butterfly effect' can then reproduce this at higher levels."

New forms: Mònica Oltra, a deputy in the Valencian parliament for the radical Compromis (Commitment) movement, writes that it is no longer a priority to attack the Partido Popular, in power both in the Madrid government and in Valencia, since they are already discredited. Instead, progressive forces need to consider how to manage, change and establish new forms of exercising power in institutions that have been hugely devalued.

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The pursuit of permanently new fashion styles and the idea of fast fashion, where the time between design, production and sales is reduced to a few weeks, have led to insupportable working conditions. The collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Savar, Bangladesh in April 2013 caused 1138 deaths. But the garment workers who survived were ordered back to work the very next day.

"This catastrophe meant the stories of traditionally invisible workers finally got out, along with the message not to ignore the person behind every piece of clothing, the person fighting every day against exploitation and precarious conditions. [...] In fact, while access to cheap garments is considered the norm, the associated slavery and exploitation are placed outside the centres of fashion and consumption, on the periphery of Europe, in the Global South or on the peripheries of our cities, among migrant workers."

Also: Four months after the Scottish independence referendum, Davide Gianluca Bianchi stresses its extraordinary international and institutional relevance, particularly where re−thinking European nationalisms is concerned.

The full table of contents of Il Mulino 6/2014 Dialogi 9/2014

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However, it is Siegfried Kracauer's The Salaried Masses (German original 1930, Slovenian translation 2013) that is the key text for Oberstar and the issue as a whole. The German theorist describes in this work how "Hundreds of thousands of salaried employees throng the streets of Berlin daily, yet their life is more unknown than that of the primitive tribes at whose habits those same employees marvel in films."

Therein lies a class dynamic that Oberstar senses never entirely left the city, something that David Harvey reflects cogently upon in "The Right to the City".

Today's creative classes, concludes Oberstar, appear to be "an entirely appropriate replacement for Kracauer's salaried masses".

An article from www.eurozine.com 5/8 Also: Gasper Rus and Domen Finzgar look at the impact of urban life on recent comics, from Berlin of American comic creator Jason Lutes to urban life styles depicted by former Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Riad Sattouf.

The full table of contents of Dialogi 9/2014 Esprit 1/2015 Esprit's (France) January dossier deals with a new politics of life that is disrupting received definitions and oppositions between living and dead, philosophy and biology, naturalism and constructivism, neuroscience and social science. Catherine Malabou looks at "biopolitics": the relationship between life and socio−political mechanisms. Though it seems that life cannot resist the control exerted by biopolitics, this does not mean that life consists solely of pre−determined biological functions.

Studies in epigenetics now show, for example, that genetic traits may be "read" differently by different individuals, whilst the science of cloning demonstrates

how specialist cells may be made to "evolve backwards" to become stem cells:

"Regeneration −− the ability to naturally repair all or part of one's body −− was largely lost to mammals during the course of evolution. This is why the discovery of stem cells that can repair, reshape or regenerate damaged organs or tissues should cause us to look in two directions: [...] towards the development of techniques that will make medical use of such cells and towards the past because regeneration is an ancient phenomenon, normally associated with primitive creatures such as the hydra, the flatworm or the starfish."

The full table of contents of Esprit 1/2015 Samtiden 4/2014

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This time, Lena Lindgren takes the helm, the society editor of the Norwegian weekly newspaper Morgenbladet. In keeping with the title of the journal, which can be roughly translated as "current times", Lindgren invites a group of public intellectuals to diagnose today's zeitgeist. Picture editor Lotte Konow Lund provides a piercing selection of documentary−style art photography, and the issue opens with Norwegian politician and scholar Gudmund Hernes interviewing Francis Fukuyama.

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