This week's editor

James Ron

James Ron hosts this week's openGlobalRights theme: public opinion and human rights.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

Could democracy be the ultimate antidote to terrorism? In the face of violence, how should democratic values be put into action? openDemocracy writers present their views - join the conversation in the forum to add yours.

This debate is an extension of arguments presented by openDemocracy in the run up to the International Summit on Democracy, Terrorism and Security, held in Madrid in March this year. To access the online forum discussion from this earlier period of debate, which is hosted on the Summit site, please click here.

Democracy, Islam and the politics of belonging


In January, two prominent – and rival – thinkers on Europe and Islam, Tariq Ramadan and Dyab Abou Jahjah, met in Rotterdam for an eagerly attended debate. Rosemary Bechler pursues and examines their views on democracy.


Zakaria Hamidi is surprised at how many "Dutch people" have come along to the first public debate in Rotterdam organised by New Horizon, a newly-launched platform for discussion focusing on Islam in the Netherlands.

Torture: from regress to redress

A new Human Rights Watch book examines the return of torture as practice and doctrine. Its core theme is United States policy in the era of "war on terror", finds Neal Ascherson.

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.

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.

Human rights: can we afford them?

The defence of human-rights principles, procedures and conventions is essential to the security of citizens in democratic states fearful of terrorism, says Geoffrey Bindman.

Osama bin Laden's message to the world

Osama bin Laden’s urgent attempt to reconstruct a unified and global Islam from its increasing fragmentation is only one form of a wider global predicament, says Faisal Devji, author of “Landscapes of the Jihad”.

In his address to the American people on 29 October 2004, days before they went to the polls in a bitterly contested presidential election, Osama bin Laden spoke of the profound similarities between the Muslim world and the United States.

Diversity in question

2005 has been a bad year for multiculturalism. Does it need to be reformed or replaced? Reena Bhavnani, Max Farrar, Judith Squires, and Sami Zubaida joined an openDemocracy / Open University panel to discuss living with difference. Sarah Lindon summarises a rich discussion which you can watch by webcast.

Muslims in Britain after 7/7: the problem of the few

The July bombs in London have dominated discussion of British Muslims in 2005. But, says Tahir Abbas, even more important than the social problems of young Muslims is the quality and character of Muslim leadership.

The CIA archipelago

Europe’s belated shock and outrage at news of America’s transfer of “secret prisoners” may have lasting political effects, says Michael Naumann.

The Arab Gulf states: fighting terror lawfully

Arab as well as western states are introducing new laws for an age of terrorism. Mohamed Al Roken, professor of public law at UAE University, evaluates the counter-terrorist laws passed in two Gulf states in 2004 in light of historical and modern international experience.

The European Union's anti-terror plans: lift the secrecy

European justice ministers plan to adopt stringent new anti-terror measures on 1 December without public debate. This is very far from European Union democracy, says Mats Engström.

America's secret prisons: Alvaro Gil-Robles interviewed

The CIA is accused of operating “black sites” – secret prisons in Europe, using European airports for clandestine flights connected to the transfer of unacknowledged prisoners. Alvaro Gil-Robles, human-rights commissioner for the Council of Europe, tells openDemocracy’s Isabel Hilton that this must stop – and that democrats cannot fight terrorism by abandoning their principles and values.

Guantánamo: the United States's torture

The United Nations has cancelled its fact-finding mission to Guantánamo Bay, citing American obfuscation. Isabel Hilton reports from a London conference where ex-Guantánamo detainees reveal what the United States prefers to hide.

The rules of the game: Britain's counter-terrorism strategy

The British government has suffered a major defeat on its post-7/7 counter-terrorism proposals, but its plans still threaten the democratic balance between security and liberty, and thus jeopardise both, say Stuart Weir & Andrew Blick.

Muslims: made in Europe?

The idea that a Muslim community is a European neo-colonial invention is a myth; rather, the emergence of this community represents a rebuke to European claims to universalism, argue Cemalettin Hasimi & Shehla Khan.

Multiculturalism and 7/7: neither problem nor solution

Both multiculturalists like Tariq Modood and Bhikhu Parekh and their “solidaristic” critics like Gilles Kepel and David Goodhart are locked into the dead-end of identity politics. The real challenge is to create a genuinely inclusive and liberal public space, says Paul Kelly.

Tariq Modood's multicultural project

The complexity and diversity of British Muslims resists the multicultural model that scholars like Tariq Modood seek to impose on them, write Neville Adams, Stephan Feuchtwang & Kazim Khan.

The 'Muslim community': a European invention

Europeans’ tendency to view immigrants from Algeria and Turkey, Pakistan and Iraq as belonging to a single, homogeneous “Muslim community” reflects an essentialist, neo-colonial view of the “other” which carries negative political consequences, argue Hazem Saghieh & Saleh Bechir.

The left and al-Qaida: two cheers for Sasha Abramsky

Leftists like Tariq Ali, Robert Fisk, John Pilger, and Arundhati Roy are not misguided progressives but on the other side of freedom, says Eli Lake.

Whose al-Qaida problem?

Much of the left’s opposition to the Iraq war and the Bush administration’s anti-terror campaigns – voiced by figures like Tariq Ali, Robert Fisk, George Galloway, Naomi Klein, and John Pilger – has blinded it to the need to engage with real problems and threats, says Sasha Abramsky.

Remaking multiculturalism after 7/7

Britain’s multicultural model is held responsible for the London bombs of July 2005. Rather, says Tariq Modood, it needs to be extended to a “politics of equal respect” that includes Britain’s Muslims in a new, shared sense of national belonging.

Who labels who? A reply to Ehsan Masood

The differences among British Muslims should not be aligned with the events of 7 July in London. Both the BBC’s John Ware and Ehsan Masood in openDemocracy have got the community wrong, says Abdullah al-Kateb.

9/11, four years after

openDemocracy’s editor Isabel Hilton introduces a selection of the reflections and analyses we have published about the “two hours that shook the world”.

British Muslims must stop the war

A low-level war of ideas has exploded into an open conflict among British Muslims. The government, the media, and even openDemocracy have been caught in the crossfire, says Ehsan Masood.

The Britishness of Brits (by a German)

Matthias Matussek, London correspondent of “Der Spiegel” (and brother to the German ambassador to Britain), bids farewell to a nation he loves to chastise and a city he adores.

Europe's answer to Londonistan

The London bombs expose the failure of Britain’s multicultural model, but also pose a challenge to Europe’s sense of identity, says Gilles Kepel.

Spectral brothers: al-Qaida's world wide web

The global jihad retailed by al-Qaida has obscured the old-fashioned Islamic fundamentalism which dominated Muslim politics during the cold war, adopting from it categories such as ideology and revolution in the quest for an Islamic state. With the end of the cold war and the emergence of global networks in which goods, ideas and people circulate outside the language of citizenship, the fundamentalist fight for ideological states has lost influence.

The state Muslims are in

Britain’s Muslims must reclaim their faith’s true character from those who would use it for extreme political ends, says Aftab Malik.

Hizb-ut-Tahrir's distinction

Hizb-ut-Tahrir welcomes careful, objective scrutiny of its ideas, says Abdul Wahid, but much of the criticism it receives is inaccurate and outdated.

Hizb-ut-Tahrir: the snarl behind the smile

The core fact about Hizb-ut-Tahrir is that it is a party of theocrats not democrats, says David T of Harry’s Place.
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