Navid Kermani

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Navid Kermani
Born (1967-11-27) 27 November 1967 (age 47)
Siegen, West Germany
Occupation Novelist, essayist
Nationality German

Navid Kermani (Persian: نوید کرمانی‎; Persian pronunciation: [næˈviːd kʲermɔːˈniː]; born 27 November 1967), a German writer and an expert in Islamic studies, was born in Siegen, West Germany, the fourth son of Iranian parents. He is a member of the German Academy for Language and Poetry and the Academy of Sciences in Hamburg. He has written many books, novels and essays on Islam, the Middle East and Christian-Muslim dialogue.[1][2] He regularly publishes articles, literary reviews and travelogues, especially in Süddeutsche Zeitung, Die Zeit, and Neue Zürcher Zeitung. He has won numerous prizes for his literary and academic work, notably the Buber-Rosenzweig-Medal in 2011.

In 2009 Kermani was almost stripped of a German culture prize for controversial remarks in an essay on images of the Crucifixion.[3]

He holds Iranian and German citizenship.


  • Offenbarung als Kommunikation: Das Konzept wahy in Nasr Hamid Abu Zaids Mafhum an-nass, Frankfurt et al. 1996 (Peter Lang).
  • Gott ist schön: Das ästhetische Erleben des Koran, Munich 1999: C. H. Beck.
  • Nasr Hamid Abu Zaid: Ein Leben mit dem Islam, Freiburg 1999: Herder.
  • Iran: Die Revolution der Kinder, Munich 2000: C. H. Beck.
  • Dynamit des Geistes: Martyrium, Islam und Nihilismus, Göttingen 2002: Wallstein.
  • Das Buch der von Neil Young Getöteten, Zurich 2002: Ammann: Cologne 2004: Kiepenheuer.
  • Schöner Neuer Orient: Berichte von Städten und Kriegen, Munich 2003: C. H. Beck; Munich 2007: dtv.
  • Toleranz: Drei Lesarten zu Lessings Märchen vom Ring im Jahre 2003 (with Angelika Overath and Robert Schindel), Göttingen 2003: Wallstein.
  • Vierzig Leben, Zurich 2004: Ammann.
  • Thou Shalt, Zurich 2005: Ammann.
  • Der Schrecken Gottes Munich 2005: C. H. Beck.
  • Strategie der Eskalation: Der Nahe Osten und die Politik des Westens, Göttingen 2005: Wallstein.
  • Nach Europa, Zurich 2006: Ammann.
  • Ayda, Bär und Hase, Vienna 2006: Picus.
  • Mehdi Bazargan, Der Koran und die Christen, edited by Navid Kermani, Munich 2006: C. H. Beck.
  • Kurzmitteilung, Zurich 2007: Amman.
  • Wer ist Wir? Deutschland und seine Muslime, Munich 2009: C. H. Beck.
  • The Terror of God, 2011: Polity Press.

Hessian cultural award controversy[edit]

The German state of Hesse decided to award its 45,000 euro Hessian Cultural Prize in July 2009 jointly to a Jew, a Muslim, a Catholic and a Lutheran to honour those involved in inter-religious dialogue. Fuat Sezgin, a prominent scholar and founder of the Institute for Arab-Islamic Studies at the University of Frankfurt was chosen as the Muslim awardee. Sezgin didn't want to accept a prize together with Salomon Korn, whose pro-Israeli views during the Gaza war he found unacceptable. To replace him, the prize-givers chose Navid Kermani. Kermani also had his doubts, not just about Korn, but also about the premier of Hesse, Roland Koch, who would be responsible for awarding the prize. In the end, Kermani decided to accept the prize, and to discuss the disagreements at the award ceremony. But the Catholic cardinal of Mainz, Karl Lehmann, and Peter Steinacker, the former head of the Lutheran church of Hesse and Nassau, said they weren't prepared to accept the prize together with Kermani. Lehmann and Steinacker objected to an essay by Kermani in which he wrote about his feelings on seeing a painting of the crucifixion by the seventeenth-century Italian painter Guido Reni. In his article,[4] Kermani describes how he is repelled by the cross as an image of suffering, and even experiences it as blasphemous, but how in the presence of this moving picture by Reni, he begins to imagine that he could even come to believe in the cross. He wrote,

For me, the cross is a symbol which I cannot accept on a theological level (...) Others may believe whatever they want, and I don't know better than they do. But when I pray in a church, which I sometimes do, I always make a point of not praying towards the cross. And there I was, sitting in front of the altarpiece by Guido Reni in the Church of San Lorenzo in Lucina, and I found the image so fascinating, so full of blessedness, that I could have sat there for ever. For the first time, I thought I – not someone in general, but I – could believe in the cross.

Cardinal Lehmann wrote an angry letter to Premier Roland Koch in which he demanded that the offer of the prize should be withdrawn from Kermani. Koch then decided to write to Kermani withdrawing its offer of the prize to him, an action called "childish" by the Central Council of Muslims in Germany.[citation needed]

Aiman Mazyek, secretary of the council, explained to the Berlin newspaper Der Tagesspiegel: "How would they have felt if a Muslim had refused to meet a churchman because he did not revere the Prophet Mohammed?"[5][6]

The issue was later resolved. Lehmann, Steinacker, Kermani, and Salomon Korn, vice president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, received the prize together on 26 November 2009. On that occasion, Roland Koch, then head of Hesse, apologized to Kermani for his actions.[7] Kermani donated his share of the award to a Christian priest.[8]


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