This week's editor


Adam Ramsay is co-editor of OurKingdom.

On 9/11 the West woke up to its ignorance of Islam and the state of Muslim public opinion - in the Middle East and the diaspora. This debate was our response. Initiated by London’s Goethe Institute, European cultural institutes, in conjunction with openDemocracy, have collaborated in a series of live debates featuring leading scholars of Islam from Europe and beyond on the relationship -historical, theological, social and political.

Cartoons, caricatures and civilisations

Muslim anger over the Danish cartoons of Mohammed signals a deep political problem – to which Islam has the solution in its rich heritage, says Farhang Jahanpour.

Europe and beyond: struggles for recognition

The European parliament has finally passed its amended version of the controversial services directive while thousands protested at its gates. British prime minister Tony Blair and European Commission president José Manuel Barroso, the greens and conservatives in the parliament, trade unions and business associations had all started the year by declaring that the liberalisation of services markets would be the key European issue in 2006.

Free speech in the frontier-zone

"There is a new frontier-zone today, and we are in it." Saskia Sassen sees the Danish cartoon conflict as part of the making of a new global territory where principles like free speech are being renegotiated.

Old Europe, New World

The attitude of many of those responsible for publishing the hostile cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed (praise be upon him) can perhaps be best understood by a Marxist analysis. I refer to the quip by (Groucho) Marx: "How dare she get insulted just because I insulted her?"

The supporters of the publication of the cartoons appear to be surprised that many Muslims found the cartoons offensive; at the same they claim these cartoons are part of an effort to throw back the forces of multiculturalism in favour of national (i.e. European) cultural restoration. The conflict between those who see in the publication a noble principle at stake and those who see just another episode of European racism disguised as high moral principle has itself become a metaphor for other conflicts that exceed the xenophobia of a tiny statelet.

Words on images: the cartoon controversy

Across four days, twenty writers from ten countries assessed the political and cultural fissures opened by the row over the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. Sarah Lindon summaries and reflects on this openDemocracy feature.

Facing up to Islam in the Netherlands

As the Dutch parliament considers banning the burka from all public spaces, a measure that would apply to fifty or so women in total, Markha Valenta explores how a piece of clothing is disturbing the Netherlands' tradition of tolerance.

Once again, the Netherlands surprises. Flying in the face of a centuries-old commitment to freedom of religion, of conscience, and of expression, it is about to prohibit Muslim women from covering their faces in public.

The liberal dilemma: integration or vilification?

The origins of the infamous Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed do not lie in an attempt to offer contemporary comment, let alone satire, but the desire to illustrate a childrens' book. While such pictures would have been distasteful to many Muslims – hence why no illustrator could be found – the cartoons are in an entirely different league of offence. They are all unfriendly to Islam and Muslims and the most notorious implicate the prophet with terrorism. If the message was meant to be that non-Muslims have the right to draw Mohammed, it has come out very differently: that the prophet of Islam was a terrorist.

The right to caricature God!and his prophets

Believers in free speech must resist Islamist attempts to enforce theocratic censorship, says Doug Ireland.

Muslims and Europe: a cartoon confrontation

The row over the publication of cartoons of the prophet Mohammed raises profound tensions – between freedom of speech and mutual respect, ethics of satire and sacrality, shared values and coexistence, perceived western arrogance and Muslim victimhood. openDemocracy writers respond to the dispute and seek ways forward.

A carnival of stupidity

The conflagration over Danish cartoons of Islam's prophet reveals that Europe's balance of freedom, mutuality and coexistence is at a trigger-charge moment, says Neal Ascherson.

Representing différence

'Dans les écoles, les collèges et les lycées publics, le port de signes ou tenues par lesquels les élèves manifestent ostensiblement une appartenance religieuse est interdit. Le règlement intérieur rappelle que la mise en oeuvre d'une procédure disciplinaire est précédée d'un dialogue avec l'élève'


Article 1 de la loi n° 2004-228 du 15 mars 2004, inséré dans le code de l’éducation.

In February 2004, French MPs voted 494 to 36 in favour of legislation banning ostentatious religious symbolism in schoolwear. Could anything have been worse – one might ask – than such a large consensus among the political parties to promote a law that, in much of its implementation and outcomes, generates exclusion from state schools (47 individuals since September 2004), accentuates gender inequality by being directed mostly at women, and exacerbates indirect discrimination (did it occur to no one to remember the Sikhs during the preparation of this law)? But let us ask: would there have been a better result had more women been sitting in the French Parliament when these decisions were taken?

Meeting Heba Ezzat

A Muslim civil society activist and politics professor in Egypt is a new kind of cultural ambassador, says Rosemary Bechler.

Islam and democracy: an interview with Heba Ezzat

How to bring Islam, democracy and modernity into a new relationship with each other is a major challenge for 21st-century Muslims. In meeting it, the Egyptian scholar-activist Heba Ezzat is also taking her ideas into the arena of global civil society. openDemocracy’s Rosemary Bechler talks to her.

Lebanon before and after Syria

Lebanon’s recovery of national independence requires a full accounting of Syria’s role in its destruction, says Roger Scruton.

A humane Muslim future

Islam can move beyond its association with oppression and violence by being true to itself and its past, says Fareena Alam.

A law to close minds

The proposed British law against hatred on religious grounds will be used as a weapon of censorship, says Lisa Appignanesi.

'They do not vilify our ideas, they vilify us' : a reply to Salman Rushdie

The right to blasphemy is not the right to religious hate. Shakira Hussein draws on her own multi-religious background to challenge her childhood hero, Salman Rushdie.

Defend the right to be offended

“The moment you declare a set of ideas to be immune from criticism, satire, derision, or contempt, freedom of thought becomes impossible.” Salman Rushdie sounds the call for a new enlightenment.

After tolerance

The murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh has left the Netherlands in turmoil and its reputation for tolerance in tatters. What does the second political murder in thirty months mean for the Dutch multiculturalist model? The strategist and author Theo Veenkamp looks back and thinks forward.

From 'velvet revolution' to 'velvet <em>jihad</em>'?

Could the peaceful triumph of Czechs and Slovaks over communism fifteen years ago offer a model of democratic revolution to religious fundamentalists today?

The war for Muslim minds: an interview with Gilles Kepel

From Fallujah and Peshawar to Amsterdam and Paris, is radical, militant Islam winning or losing its political battle for the support of the world's Muslims?

From race to religion: the next deterrent law?

A lively openDemocracy exchange between philosopher Julian Baggini and journalist Nick Cohen exposed deep disagreements over the British government’s proposal to introduce a law banning religious hate-speech. Now, lawyer Geoffrey Bindman adjudicates the argument.

Should 'religious hatred' be illegal?

The British government is proposing to offer legal protection to those abused on religious grounds. The philosopher Julian Baggini and the journalist Nick Cohen agree that Muslims are at the heart of the new law, but vigorously dispute its principle and practicality.

A bridge across fear: an interview with Tariq Ramadan

“I want to go beyond the perception that I am only different from you, or that difference is the beginning and the end.” In an interview of remarkable range and frankness, the influential Swiss–Egyptian philosopher, teacher and writer Tariq Ramadan talks to Rosemary Bechler of openDemocracy about his life’s project: bringing Muslims and Europe home to each other.

openDemocracy: What is the personal background to your attempt to elaborate a fully European Islam?

Tariq Ramadan: I come from a family where everything was drenched in I

Reinventing Islam in Europe: a profile of Tariq Ramadan

The sophisticated exponent of a European Islam, Tariq Ramadan, articulates a project that speaks to a continent, and a faith, in transition. openDemocracy’s Rosemary Bechler encounters a complex mind on a restless journey.
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