The Erich Maria Remarque Peace Prize, endowed with a sum of €25,000 will be awarded to the Moroccan author Tahar Ben Jelloun, born in 1944 in Fez, for his work which promotes the cause of peaceful coexistence of Christian and Muslim cultures. In awarding the prize, particular emphasis was placed on his latest collections of essays, Arab Spring (2011), examining the origins and consequences of the democracy movement in North Africa and the Middle East.
Speaking of the Prize Winner, Osnabrück’s Lord Mayor Boris Pistorius said: "Those who read into his books will realize the degree of impressive empathy and experience with which Jelloun tackles problems and questions and helps us to understand them. With his latest book Arab Spring, his insight helps to increase our understanding of current happenings in the Arab world and why they are taking place".
The PRO ASYL organisation receives the Special Prize with a cash endowment of €5,000 for its involvement in the protection of persecuted people in Germany and Europe as a whole against the backdrop of the stream of refugees fleeing North Africa for Europe.
The prizes will be awarded on Friday, 16th September 2011 in the Peace Hall of the historic Town Hall of the City of Osnabrück.
Tahar Ben Jelloun‘s work is a symbol of integration. The Moroccan author with a French passport writes from a migrant’s perspective about the problems of the coexistence of differing cultures, for example in his novels Partir "Leaving" (2006) and Au pays "In the country" (2010). Furthermore, he is seriously committed in his essay work to an understanding of a peaceful Islam and against racism, for example in Islam Explained (2001) which was translated into 25 languages, and in La montée des haines "The Rising of Hate" (2005). His unceasing commitment to understanding and tolerance and his involvement with the needs of migrants in Europe link him in a special way with the works of Erich Maria Remarque. With his collected essays Arab Spring. The Recovery of Arab Dignity (2011) Tahar Ben Jelloun has grappled in a unique literary way with the democracy movements in North Africa and the Middle East, contributed to their being understood by the wider public, and has also clearly shown the consequences for Europe of this political and social upheaval.
The human rights organisation PRO ASYL, founded in 1986, is outstanding in its involvement with the rights of refugees in Germany and the rest of Europe. It is especially the critical way in which it observes the treatment of refugees on the external borders of the European Union and in North Africa, and its advocacy for a common European right of asylum which links the work of PRO ASYL to that of Erich Maria Remarque who intensively discussed the fate of emigrants and refugees in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s in numerous novels.
The Erich Maria Remarque Peace Prize is awarded in the spirit of its namegiver for literature, journalistic or scientific work which examines the themes of internal and external peace and for exemplary commitment to peace, humanity and the freedom of the individual.
Under the chairmanship of Prof. Dr. Claus Rollinger, President of the University of Osnabrück, the jury includes Prof. Heinz Ludwig Arnold, Prof. Dr. Hans Mommsen, Prof. Dr. Heribert Prantl, Ms Jutta Sauer, Prof. Dr. Rita Süßmuth, Dr. Hubert Winkels as well as Prof. Dr. Tilman Westphalen, as representative of the Erich-Maria-Remarque-Gesellschaft, and Dr. Thomas Schneider as head of the Erich Maria Remarque Peace Centre, as well as the representatives of the City of Osnabrück: Lord Mayor, Boris Pistorius and the city’s press officer, Dr. Sven Jürgensen.
Those who have previously received the Erich Maria Remarque Peace Prize are Lev Kopelev (1991), Hans Magnus Enzensberger (1993), Uri Avnery (1995), Ludvik Vaculik (1997), Houshang Golshiri (1999), Svetlana Alexievich (2001), Prof. Dr. Dan bar-On and Mahmoud Darwish (shared equally in 2003), Leoluca Orlando (2005), Prof. Dr. Tony Judt (2007) and Henning Mankell (2009).
The Special Prize has previously been awarded to Anja Lundholm (1991), Dörte von Westernhagen (1993), Miljenko Jergovic (1995), the Joint Czech-German Commission of Historians (1997), the founding committee for the Association of Iranian Authors (1999), the International Society for Historical Research, Human Rights and Social Care MEMORIAL (2003), Jurij Andruchowytsch (2005), Grigory Pasko (2007) and Lukas Bärfuss (2009).