Weekend Roundup: Laughing at God


Nathan Gardels is the editor-in-chief of Noema Magazine.

The first principle of an open society is not to let the intolerant define “the territory of insult” — those areas off limits to criticism or ridicule. But how does one define “territory” when media now crosses the boundaries of nations, cultures and civilizations?

In the end, free societies must defend the right of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists against murder by fanatics, the Sony filmmakers against the North Korean regime and novelists like Salman Rushdie against a fatwa from the ayatollahs. But isn’t Pope Francis also right that, in today’s diverse and connected world, we must exercise the civil restraint of “respect” for the non-fanatic faithful (see the other depiction of the Prophet Muhammad acceptable among some Muslims on left above), even if we insist on irreverence toward political authority?

Finding an equilibrium amid the frictions and fusions that abound in this global public space will determine whether or not we can forge a new cosmopolitan commons of the 21st century.

This week, The WorldPost engages this conundrum. Writing from Denmark, Flemming Rose, the Jyllands-Posten editor who commissioned cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad a decade ago that set off riots across the Muslim world, argues against “the tyranny of silence” fanatics would impose. Mehdi Hasan says he is “fed up with free speech fundamentalists” who feel they have a “duty to offend.”

In a similar vein, Faisal Kapadia asks “can we trust France’s ‘freedom’ when hate cartoons are ok and hijabs are not?” Writing from New Delhi, Nilanjana S. Roy defends the Charlie Hebdo journalists and warns against “the trap of decency.”

Writing from his hometown of Thuringia, Germany, Maximilian Elliger says he is more afraid of the growing influence of PEGIDA — Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West — than Islamization. Jack Miles, editor of the Norton Anthology of Religions, warns against a coming backlash if we inflate the importance of the acts of “murderous criminals” in Paris into a new “war on terror.”

Writing from Paris, Rokhaya Diallo argues that “France has created its own monsters” by not integrating its Muslim immigrant population while hiding behind its “republican fable” of a universalist and color-blind society. Jumoke Balogun compares the different levels of global outrage over the killing of 17 French citizens to as many as 2,000 Nigerians by Boko Haram. Novelist and futurist David Brin proposes how “to defeat the meme of fear.”

In this week’s Forgotten Fact series, The WorldPost asks why we know so little about the horror in northeast Nigeria.

Writing from Istanbul, Behlül Özkan wonders how Turkey can both aspire to lead the Islamic world and remain an ally of the West.

Writing from Beijing, Wu Zhenglong tells the U.S. to “get out of the way” if it doesn’t want to democratize the IMF by giving more power to the emerging economies, and warns that alternative institutions will be built by China and others. Writing from Vladivostok, Artyom Lukin explains why the natural resources of the Russian Far East are coveted by China. Lev Golinkin disputes a recent article in The WorldPost comparing the contested Donbass region of Ukraine to America’s Deep South.

From Mexico City, former Foreign Minister Jorge G. Castañeda examines the burgeoning political crisis there. “Mexico is burning,” he writes. Cuban-American poet Richard Blanco muses over “the emotional embargo” that must be lifted against Cuba among his generation of exiles.

In an interview, French thinker Jacques Attali promotes his idea of “a positive economy” that takes the long-term into account. Economist Dani Rodrik argues that the welfare state of the industrial era must be replaced by the “innovation state” of the information age, where the public shares the dividends of new wealth creation. Based on the Report of the Commission on Inclusive Prosperity of the Center for American Progress, Larry Summers and Ed Balls outline policies to restore social mobility in the advanced economies facing falling wages, rapid technological change and the dislocations of globalization.

Sea Shepherd Founder Paul Watson says that by allowing oil prices to fall, OPEC may achieve what the environmental movement has been unable to do — stop fracking.

Finally, Ruth DeFries makes the counterintuitive case that growing urbanization can be better for the environment as cities “re-wild” and innovate in the efficient use of resources.


EDITORS: Nathan Gardels, Senior Advisor to the Berggruen Institute on Governance and the long-time editor of NPQ and the Global Viewpoint Network of the Los Angeles Times Syndicate/Tribune Media, is the Editor-in-Chief of The WorldPost. Farah Mohamed is the Managing Editor of The WorldPost. Kathleen Miles is the Senior Editor of the WorldPost. Alex Gardels is the Associate Editor of The WorldPost. Katie Nelson is the National Editor at the Huffington Post, overseeing The WorldPost and HuffPost’s editorial coverage. Eline Gordts is HuffPost’s Senior World Editor. Charlotte Alfred and Nick Robins-Early are Associate World Editors.

CORRESPONDENTS: Sophia Jones in Istanbul; Matt Sheehan in Beijing.

EDITORIAL BOARD: Nicolas Berggruen, Nathan Gardels, Arianna Huffington, Eric Schmidt (Google Inc.), Pierre Omidyar (First Look Media) Juan Luis Cebrian (El Pais/PRISA), Walter Isaacson (Aspen Institute/TIME-CNN), John Elkann (Corriere della Sera, La Stampa), Wadah Khanfar (Al Jazeera), Dileep Padgaonkar (Times of India) and Yoichi Funabashi (Asahi Shimbun).

CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: Moises Naim (former editor of Foreign Policy), Nayan Chanda (Yale/Global; Far Eastern Economic Review) and Katherine Keating (One-On-One). Sergio Munoz Bata and Parag Khanna are Contributing Editors-At-Large.

The Asia Society and its ChinaFile, edited by Orville Schell, is our primary partner on Asia coverage. Eric X. Li and the Chunqiu Institute/Fudan University in Shanghai and Guancha.cn also provide first person voices from China. We also draw on the content of China Digital Times. Seung-yoon Lee is The WorldPost link in South Korea.

Jared Cohen of Google Ideas provides regular commentary from young thinkers, leaders and activists around the globe. Bruce Mau provides regular columns from MassiveChangeNetwork.com on the “whole mind” way of thinking. Patrick Soon-Shiong is Contributing Editor for Health and Medicine.

ADVISORY COUNCIL: Members of the Berggruen Institute’s 21st Century Council and Council for the Future of Europe serve as the Advisory Council — as well as regular contributors — to the site. These include, Jacques Attali, Shaukat Aziz, Gordon Brown, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Juan Luis Cebrian, Jack Dorsey, Mohamed El-Erian, Francis Fukuyama, Felipe Gonzalez, John Gray, Reid Hoffman, Fred Hu, Mo Ibrahim, Alexei Kudrin, Pascal Lamy, Kishore Mahbubani, Alain Minc, Dambisa Moyo, Laura Tyson, Elon Musk, Pierre Omidyar, Raghuram Rajan, Nouriel Roubini, Nicolas Sarkozy, Eric Schmidt, Gerhard Schroeder, Peter Schwartz, Amartya Sen, Jeff Skoll, Michael Spence, Joe Stiglitz, Larry Summers, Wu Jianmin, George Yeo, Fareed Zakaria, Ernesto Zedillo, Ahmed Zewail, and Zheng Bijian.

From the Europe group, these include: Marek Belka, Tony Blair, Jacques Delors, Niall Ferguson, Anthony Giddens, Otmar Issing, Mario Monti, Robert Mundell, Peter Sutherland and Guy Verhofstadt.


The WorldPost is a global media bridge that seeks to connect the world and connect the dots. Gathering together top editors and first person contributors from all corners of the planet, we aspire to be the one publication where the whole world meets.

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