Heine's famous quotation, "Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings,” has had a fresh outing in the wake of the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the public burning of books by the Nazis. Today, Islamist militias in Iraq are showing that they can eclipse even the Brownshirts in brutality. They have skipped a stage. They don't bother with destroying art - they are killing artists.
In November Seif Yehia, 23, was beheaded for singing western songs at weddings, and painter Ibraheem Sadoon was shot dead as he drove through Baghdad. In February Sunni fighters killed Waleed Dahi, 27, a young actor, while he rehearsed for a play due to open at the Jordanian National Theatre this month.
These chilling words came from a spokesman,
'Acting, theatre and television encourage bad behaviour and irreligious attitudes. They promote customs that affect the morality of our traditional society.'
I suppose beheading is a moral act then.
One of the things tyranny fears most is art (though it loves kitsch). Art is the anti-imperialism of the mind, expelling the totalitarian occupation force of the official ideology. Instead, it offers rational thought and human emotion - truth and beauty. It is on the front line.
Read Stan Persky here