From 9/11 to the Arab Revolutions

    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.


    When we were planning this edition of Fikrun wa Fann/Art&Thought last November and decided that our topic would be ‘10 Years After 9/11’, none of us could have dreamed that, half a year on, the Arab world would find itself in a state of radical upheaval. The Arab world had been in stagnation for so long, and was so well secured by repressive state apparatus, that grassroots change seemed to be an impossibility. The only way that anything would ever change, we all thought, was through a slow, guided process of alteration originating from the governments themselves. That, or pressure from abroad. In the West in particular there was a fear that the greatest threat to any of the regimes in power was a coup instigated by Islamic extremists. No one believed that democratic revolution, like those that took place in Europe in 1989 (cf. the articles in Edition 92 of our magazine from 2009), was possible.

    The Arab people have shown us that we were wrong. A wind of liberation, self-determination and democracy is blowing through the Arab world, and so far the West has contributed little towards it; on the contrary, for far too long Europe and the United States supported Arab regimes that had long since lost all credibility with their people. The West’s reputation has suffered in the Arab world as a result. The belated decision to take military action against Gaddafi is not enough to restore this confidence, which has fallen away over a period of many years. However, unlike their governments, people in the West, the majority of intellectuals included, welcomed the revolutions in the Middle East with great enthusiasm from the start. This of course is also true of us here at Fikrun wa Fann/Art&Thought, especially as many of our contributors were themselves active in supporting the revolutions and have been directly affected by them.

    The Arab revolutions alter the entire relationship between the West and the Islamic world as it has existed since, at the latest, September 11th 2001. They mark the end of an era, which also concludes the one that began in 2001. This change is reflected in this edition of the journal. We trace an arc from 9/11 to the Arab revolutions. Ten years after the attacks on New York, how do we reflect on the especially noticeable, almost entirely negative consequences in the Islamic world and in the way Muslims are treated in the West? Against this backdrop, what is the significance of the recent events in the Arab world? The author Aatish Taseer is the son of Salman Taseer, the murdered governor of the Punjab who spoke out in support of greater religious tolerance. He writes for us about the changes that have taken place in Pakistan, one of the countries most affected by the consequences of 9/11. From the United States, the Iraqi writer Yasmeen Hanoosh reports about her experiences after the attacks; the Islamic scholar Sonja Hegasy writes about the negative changes in the Western (and German) image of Islam, while the Saudi Arabian writer Ahmad al-Wasil outlines the changes that have taken place in his home country. The Iranian theologian Hasan Yousefi Eshkevari tackles the dangers of political Islam compared with a peaceful understanding of the religion, as does the author Alawiyya Sobh from Lebanon. The perspective of the Iranian exile is represented in this edition by Bahman Nirumand and Abbas Maroufi, while the young Afghan writer Taqi Akhlaqi reports on the changes that have taken place in his country, and Ali Badr contemplates the difficulty of being Arab and Muslim post-9/11.

    The Arab revolutions are, however, still ongoing. We have tried to do more than simply present snapshots of what is happening right now; instead, we tentatively take stock of the situation and draw initial conclusions. From Tunis, we hear from the author Hassouna Mosbahi, who worked for Fikrun wa Fann in the 1980s. From Yemen, Ali al-Muqri puts the situation into context; in Egypt the poet Girgis Shukri has recorded his impressions; and finally one of Germany’s best-known sociologists, Ulrich Beck, presents his perspective on the changes.

    Not only in the Arab world but here, too, there have been changes: Fikrun wa Fann/Art&Thought celebrates its 50th anniversary this year and, as our readers can see, we have given the magazine a new layout. We hope you like it, as well as the exciting content of the articles in this edition.