The award of Germany's most prestigious cultural prize to Annemarie Schimmel, 73, and a Harvard professor for over 20 years, has awakened the ghosts of Nazi Germany.
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, and Vaclav Havel.
The announced award has resulted in 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. "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," say the protestors.
"These protests are reminiscent of Nazi Germany and other totalitarian regimes," says Enver Masud, president of The Wisdom Fund. "What is more worrisome," says Masud, "is the fact that this climate of xenophobic intolerance has spilled over into the upper crust, and is no longer confined to the less educated, the working class, or the unemployed. Professor Schimmel is being persecuted for her enlightened perspective on Islam."
Prof. Schimmel's works are aimed at providing a better understanding of the Islamic world and the lives of Muslims. She provides an intellectually valid counterpoint to the generally negative portrayal of Islam and Muslims in mainstream U.S. media.
The selection committee has thus far remained steadfast saying, "Much of the material we have received encourages us to stand by our decision." The Wisdom Fund calls upon those who believe in academic freedom to speak out against this brazen attack by the vigilantes of political correctness. If we don't learn from the lessons of the past, we are doomed to revisit it.