About Fikrun

    Fikrun wa Fann was a cultural magazine published by the Goethe Institute from 1963 to 2016 that supported and shaped the cultural exchange between Germany and Islamic countries. Together with the publishing of the last issue, “Flight and Displacement” (issue 105), in autumn of 2016 the maintenance and updating of this online portal was ceased.


    Photo: Kai WiedenhöferWhen the topic of displacement was selected, a year in advance, for the summer of 2016, it was already foreseeable that this would be the principal topic of our times.

    However, it was not yet apparent how controversial the refugee crisis and the reactions to it would become – and remain – over the months that followed. At the same time, choosing a subject like this for a ‘slow’, biannual magazine like ours always entails the risk of coming to it too late, when it is so topical that everyone has already been writing about it for months. And indeed we had to ask ourselves whether perhaps everything there was to say about the refugee crisis had already been said, whether there were any other, new voices left to discover. Rather to our own surprise, we found that yes, there was still much to be said – including from many people who have not yet received the public attention they deserve concerning this subject. Have you, for example, heard of Bakhtiyar Ali? This great Kurdish-Iraqi author, a star in his homeland, has been living in Cologne for many years, unremarked by Germans. He can explain to us like no other what it means, both for the refugees and for the societies who take them in, to be ‘displaced’ – to be a fugitive, physically, mentally and emotionally.

    We also learn from Bakhtiyar Ali that ‘refugee’ is an inner state – a state people continue to carry within them long after they have ceased to be refugees. This, incidentally, is something Germans could recognise from their own history, as illustrated in the article by Barbara Lehmann. But do they still want to hear this lesson? German authors, some of whom have foreign names like Steven Uhly, Rasha Khayat, Alem Grabovac, Amira al-Ahl or Stanisław Strasburger, are also in a position to tell us about the experience of a sense of foreignness. These authors may feel German, but there’s always someone somewhere who thinks, because of their names, that they’re foreign, and in doing so signals to them that perhaps they are somehow different, after all. One may be justified in asking, as Steven Uhly does in his article, whether this is just a precursor to racism, or whether it is racism itself. In any case, it makes it clear how difficult it will be for the refugees now arriving to be truly accepted in the future; for them not to continue to feel foreign despite doing their very best to integrate. And in any case, if Bakhtiyar Ali is to be believed the goal should not be integration at any price, as this can lead to a loss of memory and resilience.

    The idea of Europe as paradise is an illusion with which the West, too, deceives itself, observes Bakhtiyar Ali. But for many people this illusion is also a hope to which they cling, until they get to Europe at last and are confronted with the reality. Alfred Hackensberger vividly describes how these hopes converge on the Moroccan coastal city of Tangier, and how people try in vain for months to reach Europe from there by the dangerous sea route – a Europe that exists only in these people’s imaginations. Because although, as Jochen Oltmer explains in his article, Europe has always been characterised by migration, nowadays the ‘migration regime’ has fundamentally changed. This ‘migration regime’, meaning attempts to steer migration both politically and militarily no matter what the cost, is described for us by Bernard Schmid. The refugee crisis raises the question of whether Western values are still worth anything at all, or whether their worth is purely rhetorical.

    Navid Kermani’s famous acceptance speech for the Peace Prize of the German Book trade was also given with these developments in mind. It calls on people not to lose hope in the face of the civil war in Syria and the crises throughout the Arab world. Finally, we commemorate the 500th anniversary of Luther’s Reformation and take the occasion to invite the Moroccan-German philosopher Rachid Boutayeb and the Saudi-Jordanian theologian and critic of Salafism Raed al-Samhouri to discuss and debate their ideas about reform and reformation in Islam.

    We trust you will find this timely edition of Fikrun wa Fann / Art & Thought an exciting one!

    Stefan Weidner

    Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Fikrun wa Fann
    June 2016

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