Panelists at the discussion "Freedom of Expression" in Bonn, 25. October 2017, Foto: S. Heuser

"Freedom of Expression – A Cultural Difference" by Abdul Rauf Anjum, Pakistan

What can be said? What not? Debates on freedom of expression, satire and its limits have been shaping the European-Islamic cultural dialogue for many years. As part of the "CrossCulture Tour", which featured intercultural dialogue in seven German cities between April and October 2017, ifa and its cooperation partner Deutsche Welle were looking for answers: Is there a typical Islamic narrative on the subject of freedom of expression? Where do the intersections lie with a European style of reading, where do the opposites lie?

In the podium discussion on October 25, 2017 moderator Atif Tauqeer (Deutsche Welle), together with filmmaker Sabine Jainski, satirist Dr. Jesko Friedrich, journalist Asma Abidi, Islamic scholar Dr. Stephan Milich and Pakistani social scientist and CrossCulture-alumnus Abdul Rauf Anjum, shed light on the basis and significance of freedom of expression in different cultural spaces.

The event was musically accompanied by "Culture Resonance". The young trio from Bielefeld, merge western music styles with influences from Turkey, India, Afghanistan or Turkmenistan into a transcultural listening experience.

Quotes of the panel discussion

Dr Jaesko Friedrich, Panelist at "Freedom of Expression", 25 October in Bonn (Foto: Heuser)

"Satire doesn’t kick downwards. We are aiming at those who have power, real power, and misuse it. We don’t take the humble Muslim as an opponent."

Jesko Friedrich, German actor, editor and author (Extra3, NDR)

Asma Abidi, Panelist at "Freedom of Expression" on 25 October 2017 in Bonn (Foto: Heuser)

"In fragile societies, transformative societies or sensitive contexts, people struggle on everyday-basis for job security, food, health issues and so many things. For them, freedom of expression is a luxury. We heard people saying: 'We need bread, not freedom of expression'. I think freedom of expression is not a luxury, but it's a basic human right guaranteeing dignity and can't be limited or controlled."

Asma Abidi, Tunisian blogger and activist

Abdul Rau Anjum, Panelist at "Freedom of Expression" on 25 October 2017 in Bonn (Foto: Heuser)

"Concerning the discussion about freedom of expression between the so-called Muslim and the Western world, I think the religion should be put last on the list. There are many other wonderful and universal values. We can talk of democracy, of women rights or of education. Let’s not start with religion. If we start with the religious doctrines, it creates problems."

Abdul Rauf Anjum, initiator of the panel discussion "Freedom of Expression". From Lahore, Pakistan

Sabine Jainski, Panelist "Freedom of Expression" am 25 Oktober 2017 in Bonn (Foto: Heuser)

"Humor is not a weapon but it’s an instrument for peace and for bringing people together. That impression was shared by everybody around, whether they were believers or non believers."

Sabine Jainski, film maker, journalist and translator based in Berlin


Dr Stephan Milich, Panelist at "Freedom of Expression" on 25 October 2017 in Bonn (Foto: Heuser)

"For me it’s very problematic to have this emphasis on religion and that we always perceive the other with his religious identity. That’s the thing we have to overcome."

Stephan Milich, Islamic scholar and Arabist at the University of Cologne

Short Film & Intro of "Freedom of Expression"

Impressions of the panel discussion

Panelist and Initiator

Abdul Rauf Anjum, Foto: ifa/Kuhnle

Abdul Rauf Anjum lives and works in Lahore, a city in the east of the Punjab province of Pakistan. His scientific background is in the field of social sciences, in particular history and politics. He is currently working as a freelance development consultant in the fields of governance, conflict resolution and education. Abdul Rauf completed his CCP fellowship in December 2009 at Deutsche Welle in Bonn. During the internship he wrote reports, moderated current topics and produced a radio magazine. Abdul Rauf says, 'every single project of the CrossCulture Tour shows the great success and proves that the idea of an ongoing dialogue with the Muslim world is in full swing.'

"Freedom of Expression – A Cultural Difference" took place: 25. Oktober 2017 at Brotfabrik Bonn, Kreuzstraße 16, 53225 Bonn.

In Cooperation with

Deutsche Welle (DW) is Germany's international broadcaster. The information services in 30 languages - on television, radio and Internet - are aimed in particular at people all over the world who make decisions that actively participate in shaping political opinion. DW, with offices in Bonn and Berlin, is organized under public law and is financed by federal tax revenues.

"Culture Resonance", music of the evening