Muslim writer denied German award after criticizing crucifix

A Cologne-based Muslim writer has been dropped from a list of recipients for a major German culture prize after an article he wrote on the imagery of crucifixion ruffled feathers among Christian leaders.

The award was supposed to jointly go to four men from four different world religions – to a Catholic, a Lutheran, a Muslim and a Jew. But now, Muslim author Navid Kermani has been dropped from the quartet after a controversial article has upset the two Christian candidates. Catholic Cardinal Karl Lehmann of Mainz and Peter Steinacker, the former head of the Lutheran church of Hesse and Nassau have objected to sharing the prize with Kermani, a Cologne-based writer who was born in Iran.

In March, Kermani penned an article for Switzerland’s Neue Zuercher Zeitung about a recent trip to Rome, where he went to see a 17th century painting by Guido Reni depicting the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Kermani’s piece is an analysis of the painting and leads to a philosophical discussion of the crucifix as a religious symbol. “I’d express my personal rejection of the theology of the cross frankly with ‘blasphemy and idolatry’.” “Not that I respect people who pray before the cross any less than other people at prayer. This isn’t an accusation. It’s a rejection,” he wrote. This did not go down too well with Cardinal Lehmann and Peter Steinacker, who formally complained to the Cultural Committee of the state of Hesse. Giving in to the pressure, the committee has responded by withdrawing the prize from Kermani. The fourth recipient is Salomon Korn of the Central Council of Jews in Germany.

Germany’s Muslims Angered By Cardinal’s Remarks

The Central Council of Muslims in Germany (ZMD) harshly criticized the Christian churches after high-ranking German clergyman Cardinal Karl Lehmann last week spoke out against Islam enjoying equal status to Christianity. “The (Christian) churches would like to ban Islam to the lower leagues,” Aiman Mazyek, general secretary of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, told the Sunday edition of Berlin’s Tagesspiegel. Mazyek also pointed out that Germany’s Basic Law ascribes equality to all religions, saying that there were no legal grounds for granting Christianity special legal status.

Top German Cardinal: Christianity Needs Special Status in Europe

Germany’s highest-ranking cardinal has warned against indifference and uncritical tolerance which he says could lead to Islam enjoying equal standing with Christianity in the country. Cardinal Karl Lehmann, who is head of the German conference of bishops, expressed concern about religious freedom leading to all faiths being treated equally regardless of the size of their flock and their history. Germany’s constitution obliges the state to maintain strict religious neutrality. But Lehmann pointed to Christianity’s role in shaping European history and even its legal culture.