The German government wants to cut funding for the online magazine Qantara, which has been promoting exchange with the Islamic world for almost twenty years. Experts consider this a completely wrong signal.
The threat of Islamism, the human rights situation in the Middle East, the debate on the reform of Islam – who would deny that these are important and very topical issues. However, the German government seems to have lost interest in it. This, at least, signals its decision to withdraw funding from the online portal Qantara. It has been promoting exchange with the Islamic world for almost twenty years and offers journalists, scientists and intellectuals from Germany, the Middle East and North Africa a unique platform.
Leading Middle East experts have appealed to the German foreign ministry to stop the shutdown. Members of the „German Orientalists’ Day“ unanimously called for the platform to be saved, said the President of the European Association for Middle East Studies (EURAMES). “Qantara” is indispensable for the cultural dialogue with the Arab and Islamic world and must be preserved. Numerous well-known experts had previously signed an open letter and warned against withdrawing government funding for the portal.
Among the more than 70 first signers of the appeal were the writer Navid Kermani, the former chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the German Parliament Ruprecht Polenz and the director of the “Anne Frank Educational Center”, Meron Mendel. The “Deutsche Welle”, which is responsible for the content of the project had confirmed at the beginning of September that the funding from the federal government should expire at the end of the year.
The bridging function is just one aspect of the online platform Qantara, on which 120,000 articles by more than 300 authors from forty countries can be accessed free of charge in German, English and Arabic. For Arab and Islamic intellectuals and cultural workers who feel committed to democratic values and human rights, it is at least as important that they have a platform for free discussion that is second to none in the Islamic world.
The Moroccan feminist Asma Lamrabet, who has made a name for herself as an author on women’s rights in Islam, told that Qantara is “an important forum for pluralistic and controversial debates and for intellectual dialogues about common values that are conducted across cultural boundaries “. Intellectuals and cultural workers depend on platforms like Qantara because they “enable public discourse and enrich discussions by reflecting a wide range of opinions and perspectives”.
Qantara.de was founded in 2003 as a response by the German government to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. As an instrument of foreign cultural policy, the platform was intended to counterbalance the discourses of extremists on the one hand, and the propaganda of autocratic regimes and conspiracy theories they spread on the other.
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