Galerie Peter Herrmann
Louzla Darabi


Cultural politics in Multicultural EUROPE!

How does public cultural policy deal with the facts, and why is EUROPE bowing to the Muslim threat? A case in point: Louzla Darabi

By Nasrin Amirsedghi


Until a couple of years ago, I had always had a flattering image of Swedish society: it was a collection of everyday heroes and heroines, committed freedom fighters and custodians of freedom for ALL, known for their openness to the world, their courage and their allegedly so very critical and caustic journalists. That was of course until, as a silent guest of the Swedish intellectual “high society”, I had the honour of getting to know the country and its people face to face. A press report I read in February of this year topped off my perceptions:

“‘The Museum for World Cultures in Göteborg has taken a fateful step. Following protests by adherents of the Islamic faith, the management of the museum has bowed to pressure and taken down the painting “Scene d’Amour” by Louzla Darabi.”

A picture depicting an act of love, focusing on the female body, in clear white, yellow and red, and with a verse from the Quran on the upper edge of the painting.

Once more I was seized by a chilling doubt!

Hans Magnus Enzensberger’s sigh of ‘Oh, Europe!’ came straight away to mind. Are most Swedes deviationists? Or do they simply idolise consensus? Are they obedient, is their security their prime concern? Or is the sound of the organ of harmony so loud that they have to bow to the Muslim threat? No, the Swedes are not the only ones. The consensus seekers are lurking everywhere in Europe.

Where do we stand today? Where are the feminists? Where are the guardians of European cultural achievements over the last two centuries and more, such as unlimited personal freedom, freedom of expression, freedom of the press and the arts, etc.? Has not the dominance of religion long since been banished? How have a couple of bigots with their threats managed in the name of Islam to destroy right here in the middle of Europe all of these humanistic achievements and to terrorise those who think differently? To terrorise them to the extent that a museum management sees itself as forced to act against its DUTY? The duty of guaranteeing a protective space for art, in order to engender a world of open conflicts, of divergences, of contrasts and of apparent and real irreconcilabilities. The protective space which art needs in order to survive.

The decision of the museum management – understandable, but not acceptable – only confirms the validity of the famous “Jante’s Law” in all areas of society, and legitimises Muslim threats. An absurd self-censorship, which kills off democratic achievements on the spot.

Oh, Europe! What is it all about, then?

It is about a work. A work which deals with the themes of eroticism, women and Islam, produced by a child of Europe, by the young artist Louzla Darabi, who comes from Algeria and lives in Paris. She attempts to produce a poetic and spiritual reconciliation of women with the omnipotence of Allah through the act of love. She sings the song which all Muslims sing four times a day:

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful. All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds. The Beneficent, the Merciful. Master of the Day of Judgment. Thee do we serve and Thee do we beseech for help. Keep us on the right path. The path of those upon whom Thou hast bestowed favors. Not (the path) of those upon whom Thy wrath is brought down, nor of those who go astray.” (Quran; Surah 1 “The Opening)

And it is Louzla Darabi who sought this right path. And that is also a path which can be reached through the act of physical love. It is a message, an invitation to mutual respect and to the reconciliation of the children of humankind in Islam. A breaking of taboo, in the widest sense of the word, in an erotic and poetic form which takes it beyond boundaries. A completely new language in a time of the delusions of neurotic pseudo-feminism. In a time of sick sexual obsession. Art is being used here as a medium for peace and thoughtfulness, as a means of legitimising womanhood and humanity. Louzla Darabi’s tender and humane postulate, according to which “physical love is one of those various paths which can lead to the threshold of cognitive understanding,” stands against a thousand abhorrent theories. An absolute act of freedom, which is the precondition for being able to reach cognitive understanding.

Nobody is aware of this. Perhaps if this had to do with a prominent victim like Salman Rushdie, thousands of petition signatures would bubble up from the dark springs of the earth, committees would be formed and they would preach verses in praise of freedom of expression. As President of the American PEN-Club, Rushdie claimed recently in the “Sunday Times” that “pornography could, in repressive societies like Iran or Pakistan, become the standardbearer for freedom, even for civilisation.” But here we are not talking about Rushdie, with his intellectual “macho” career, nor about his associates.

Oh yes, I had quite forgotten: Louzla Darabi is no well-known celebrity. No worldwide reputation is to be gained through her, no fortune to be made from her; no chance of sitting down with high society and planning the next conference on cultural politics in Europe, conveniently forgetting that Europe’s future will require stronger teeth than the dentures she currently wears.

Good morning Sweden, Good morning Europe! We won’t leave your children in the lurch! Even if there are not many of us. Because we are on the path that you were 200 years ago. And, in the name of the Almighty, we will not allow our DEGENERATION!

Mainz, 02.05.2005

Nasrin Amirsedghi, a German-Persian publicist, philologist, orientalist, film and literature critic, lives in Mainz.

* The law of the Norwegian writer Aksel Sandemose states: “Just don’t imagine that you are somebody; don’t imagine that anyone is bothered about you; and don’t imagine you have anything we want to hear.”