The award of Germany's most prestigious cultural prize, The Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, to Annemarie Schimmel, 73, a Harvard professor for over 20 years, has awakened a storm of protests from about 220 writers, 100 publishing houses, and several members of parliament who accuse Prof. Schimmel of being too sympathetic to Islamic fundamentalism.
Prof. Schimmel, one of the world's leading experts on Islamic mysticism, will next month be presented The Peace Prize of the German Book Trade. She will join a line of luminaries which include Albert Schweitzer, Vaclav Havel, Martin Buber, and George Kennan.
The protestors, including novelist Gunter Grass and philosopher Jurgen Habermas say, "This German Orientalist is a welcome guest in totalitarian Islamic states like Iran, but in her entire work there is not a single reference to human rights violations in these countries."
Dr. Ayub Ommaya, a Fellow of The Wisdom Fund, and very familiar with Prof. Schimmel's works says, "The charges against her are baseless and irrelevant. Prof. Schimmel is a spiritual person who writes about Islam, and the culture of Muslims. Like Mother Theresa, Prof. Schimmel is apolitical, and oblivious of the politics of countries she visits." Prof. Schimmel, now retired from Harvard, is living among a Sufi community in the Sind province of Pakistan.
Former peace prize winner George Kennan, however, turned out to be a closet hawk. Policy Planning Study 23, written by Mr. Kennan for the U.S. State Department in 1948 says in part: "... we have about 50% of the world's wealth, but only 6.3% of its population ... Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity ... To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality ... We should cease to talk about vague and ... unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of living standards, and democratization." This was, of course, a top secret document at the time Kennan was awarded The Peace Prize of the German Book Trade.