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Fear of an Islamic Fatherland

The Local · 7 Oct 2010, 11:58

Published: 07 Oct 2010 11:58 GMT+02:00

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President Christian Wulff recently riled his fellow conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) by declaring that Islam was part of Germany just like Christianity and Judaism.

He won praise for his comments from Germany's large Turkish community, but the uproar over the Wulff’s speech must seem rather hypocritical back in Ankara and Istanbul.

Turkey constantly faces European criticism – justifiably – for its treatment of religious minorities, but is now being told by the CDU's Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU) that religious freedom is not the same as religious equality. Had a Turkish politician made a similar remark, the CSU would have no doubt warned against allowing Turkey into the European Union.

In the heated debate surrounding Islam in Germany, the perverse interpretation created by the Osama bin Ladens of the world is often presented as the "true" core of the religion. But average Muslims in both Turkey and Germany do not recognize this distortion of their faith.

A frequent argument heard is that a literal interpretation of the Koran cannot be squared with western democratic values – as if a literal interpretation of the Bible could. Another common criticism is that the Muslim world has yet to go though any sort of Enlightenment, the period that curbed the role of religion in western society.

But who said that the history of Europe was the standard for all things, and that such a radical break with religion is necessary? Perhaps in other religions certain things developed in different ways than they did for the European Christians.

Plenty of Islamic scholars around the world devote their energies to asking what modern Islam should be like. The Turkish Ministry of Religion, for example, has branded forced marriage, 'honour' killings and the disenfranchisement of women as un-Islamic.

The late Muhammad Sayyid Tantawy, who as head of the al-Azhar University in Cairo was one of the world's leading Islamic scholars, dismissed women's veils as pure tradition without religious foundation in Islam.

But such voices and developments barely register in the West, where Islam is presented as a violent, reactionary block hopelessly resistant to reform. Such crude generalizations about Islam and the criticism of Wulff are mainly born of fear and the desire for excluding something seen as foreign.

Wulff's statement that Islam belongs to Germany provokes the Germans because it touches anxieties of an alien force invading and taking over the country. Thilo Sarrazin's theories have been so successful because they seem to prove to his readers that such fears are justified.

Of course, the problems with Germany's integration policies need to be discussed. But in this very emotional debate, Islamic extremists need to be described as what they are – marginal figures.

Story continues below…

No-one demands of average Christian Europeans that they distance themselves from the war criminals of the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda, who kill, maim and terrorize their victims and recruit child soldiers in the name of their Christian God. Muslims in Europe see themselves as being put under a general suspicion of being Osama bin Laden's remotely controlled jihadists waiting for the moment to draw their scimitars.

The failure to make this distinction is not just bad for the integration of millions of Muslims in Germany and Europe. It also makes it more difficult to deal with the real threat of extremists like al-Qaida. If you equate Islam with terror, injustice and the Dark Ages, then you can no longer tell the difference between friend and enemy.

This commentary was published with the kind permission of Berlin newspaper Der Tagesspiegel, where it originally appeared in German. Translation by The Local.

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

13:37 October 7, 2010 by Simon_Kellett
Thanks for a balanced view of this hot topic: I agree with it whole-heartedly, especially the dangers of any extremism, whether Islamic or Christian. Also, IMHO, there are similar dangers in other extremisms, whether right, left, animal rights, environmentalism etc.
14:06 October 7, 2010 by delvek
where do they get these stories ...
14:14 October 7, 2010 by nashv
"No-one demands of average Christian Europeans that they distance themselves from the war criminals of the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda, who kill, maim and terrorize their victims and recruit child soldiers in the name of their Christian God."

That's true - because the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda is not exploding bombs or carrying out Mumbai-style attacks or planning to do so on European soil.

This is a psychological perception issue, and guilt by association is natural (even if it isn't right). You see, I am not particularly afraid that if I go out onto the subway today , I will be blown up by Kim Jong-Il brainwashed North Koreans, or Hindu RSS bullies or even Neo-Nazis in Germany. I cannot say the same about a Muslim terrorist. Are you getting this? This isn't about the Koran, its validity or ethos. This is about the criminal acts some people who claim to follow those doctrines do.
15:15 October 7, 2010 by Simon_Kellett
Me: I am a cyclist, living and cycling in Germany. I am *much* more afraid of being killed by a car driver multi-tasking with a handy/mobilephone than *any* kind of terrorist.

(Not that I advocate complacency about terrorist threats, just a sense of perspective.)
18:41 October 7, 2010 by michael4096
"where do they get these stories ... "

It tells you exactly where the story came from - or, are you just expressing frustration?
21:40 October 7, 2010 by Nathan_stuck
So when was the Enlightenment period in the middle east? No western countries still stone people to death. Most don't even have the death penalty, let alone killing women for being adulterous. Read "While Europe Slept" and this article pretty much falls into line with typical liberal media appeasement (and I consider myself way off on the left side of social issues). The Muslims are taking over Europe and no one is doing anything about it.
22:37 October 7, 2010 by delvek
@ michael, was a weak moment, that was posted in frustration at the mindlessness.

@ Nathan, I do agree the threat is real and constant, many people dismiss it and think we should embrace others, however, I dont believe they are in a position of control, the backlash is coming just have to wait for the pendulum. It always swings!
01:55 October 8, 2010 by sonriete
Thomas Seibert reduces peoples fears to an irrational belief that equality for Islam in Germany will ultimately result in the type of state Osama bin Laden is fighting for.

Most people who disagree with him are far more rational than that.

He holds out the citizens of Turkey and residents in Germany of Turkish descent as more moderate examples of what to expect.

What people are afraid of really is what is happening in Turkey right now, where a "soft" Islamic government is gradually introducing more and more Islamic law. Examples in Democratic Turkey abound of creeping Islamization.

Only one example is the way a law was changed last year regarding school principals and the "moderate" Islamic government removed each and every public school principal with with a far more pro Islam replacement the very next day.

People have worries about to which ends democracy will be used for.
12:32 October 8, 2010 by dankworth
If you want a sober perspective on this issue visit Robert Spencer's excellent www.jihadwatch.org/ which comments on islamic events and issues around the world and their implications. Strongly recommended.
15:47 October 8, 2010 by zeddriver
here is the problem as I see it. recently in the united states a fundamentalist christian said he was going to burn the Koran. And guess what happened? Both right and left came together and denounced this idiot for what he was about to do.

That does not happen in the muslim world. granted there might be one or two that speak out. But the vast majority of the moderate Muslims throw their burkas over their heads and don't say a thing. The terrorist sect is so small that moderate muslims could over throw them with ease, If they really wanted to.

but it seems that the moderate Muslims fear their own fundamentalist minority. And so the moderate Muslims turn to me and say. I have nothing to fear. when they live in fear of their own people. so if Muslims will start policing themselves. I would gladly stand beside them. and welcome them.
05:21 October 9, 2010 by Nur Ainne Johar
Dear Mr Thomas Seibert,

Thank you for the worth-to-read article.

Have a nice day... :)
17:04 October 9, 2010 by Bruno53
You Germans, and Europeans, never learn from your history. A century ago your great, great grandparents were badmouthing Jews and other minorities. And paid badly the consequences with two world wars, genocide and firebombings. And now you are badmouthing Muslims? Did Jews disappear with the last genocide? You know the answer: no. And don't expect Muslims to disappear either. And it's up to the Muslims to make the changes they see fit. No "humanist", I admit to dislike them more than religious believers, will tell them "what to do".
17:51 October 9, 2010 by recherche
There are immigrants who confront you and say you will have to change your way of life. These are the recent immigrants who create discord. Remember that migration has occurred for thousands of years and the migrant usually does his/her level best to blend in with the host culture. They migrate because they like their host culture and wish to become part of it.

What we see in the last 50years is not that acceptable kind of migration, but a migration that states that we are going to change you, like it or not, in a racial, and therefore cultural, and religious way. Europe is vulnerable because of the events of the mid-1900's. The events that made some Europeans take a dislike for themselves! That is not justified in my opinion. Whatever you think about 20th Century Europe, we have to protect our cultural/ethnic heritage and survive in this World. Give us a break!
10:33 October 10, 2010 by DepotCat
In the U.K back in the 1970s, I went to school with Hindus Sikhs and Muslims. Muslims didn't push themselves forward like they do today, but the Hindus and Sikhs always said that Muslims would ultimately want to take over. At the time I pooh pooed that idea...Now I see that perhaps they were right. Pandering to them will not make them appreciate the liberlism of European countries. They will only see it as a weakness to be exploited.
12:21 October 10, 2010 by Sucram

Two world wars fought to avenge badmouthed minorities? I think not. And: the holocaust was neither the reason for the second world war nor the reason for the bombings of German cities. I am sorry. People, especially politicians, do not know anything about history these days.
01:25 October 11, 2010 by Prufrock2010
Mr. Seibert's commentary laudably urges moderation, a view to which I subscribe. However, he predicates his article on a false premise. He states:

"The late Muhammad Sayyid Tantawy, who as head of the al-Azhar University in Cairo was one of the world's leading Islamic scholars, dismissed women's veils as pure tradition without religious foundation in Islam.

But such voices and developments barely register in the West, where Islam is presented as a violent, reactionary block hopelessly resistant to reform. Such crude generalizations about Islam and the criticism of Wulff are mainly born of fear and the desire for excluding something seen as foreign."

Unfortunately, as we are all witnessing on a daily basis, Islam IS a violent, reactionary religion hopelessly resistant to reform. Unless Islam undergoes a major reformation, people's negative perception of it and animosity toward it will only increase. It is the responsibility of Islam to clean its own house, not the responsibility of its declared enemies to embrace it.
15:33 October 11, 2010 by michael4096
"Islam IS a violent, reactionary religion hopelessly resistant to reform"

The reference you gave gives an indication that reform is far from impossible. Farooq was a reformed 'extremist' and as such became a threat to the unreformed.

Surely the objective for the west is to encourage those who are trying to embrace a de-radicalized islamic society but to do that we must first accept that such a society is possible and desirable. The constant barrage of 'islam is evil' rhetoric simply puts all muslims on the defensive.

Secondly, it is time that the rest of the world started living by the standards it demands from islam. If we ask for democratic leaders why do we insist on installing corrupt puppets? If we don't think that arbitrarily killing your perceived enemies is a good idea why are helfire missiles from drones taking out our enemies, their family and half the rest of his village so great?

Finally, most of the radical form of islam comes from the poorer countries. Where muslims are better educated and don't have to worry so much about the basics of life such as eating they are less likely to support those preaching revolution. Like christianity in medieval europe (a common analogy), poverty and ignorance breed religious intolerance, not because people are evil but because radicals can assign blame and promise future rewards be they 'get out of purgatory, free' cards or xx virgins or whatever. Give them something to lose and the radicals won't sound anywhere so near tempting to the 'common man'.

We should be supporting moderate muslims as allies across the world and particularly in countries like germany and turkey.
19:54 October 11, 2010 by elke77
"..Of course, the problems with Germany's integration policies need to be discussed..."

Then article fails to discuss, very good.. This is also how they "discuss" an immigration policy that over last 30 years has seen the majority of skilled immigrants going to USA while EU gets the majority of unskilled.

Yes, lets discuss these policies and lets also discuss who voted for them and who is to blame for them.
20:28 October 11, 2010 by Prufrock2010
Michael4096 --

Points well taken. However, Farooq is an example of what happens in a theocratic society when its version of theocracy is hijacked by a minority of radical extremists. The government is powerless to prevent the escalation of violence. Is Pakistan a theocratic society? Ostensibly no, but the distinction there between secular and theocratic is rather blurred. One cannot be certain where the government's loyalties lie in Islamabad.

Has the West, particularly the US, reacted badly to the threat? Absolutely. The wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and now Pakistan are all disastrous, and serve only to inflame the radical minorities. Propping up the corrupt Karzai regime is catastrophic, and killing innocent civilians by drones or otherwise is intolerable. But it does little good to try to figure out how we got into this morass when the more salient question is how do we get out of it. Americans made great efforts after the failed Soviet invasion of Afghanistan to rebuild Afghan infrastructure, all in vain. Attempting to bring education and sustenance to a culture that rejects it is futile. Nation-building is not the province of the United States or any other foreign power.

I am about as laissez-faire as anyone you'll ever meet, but I throw up my hands in despair as I watch the collision of two immutable forces. The die is cast, I'm afraid.
20:19 October 12, 2010 by munichiscool
@Prufrock2010 : you are not spreading wrong information about muslims in each and every articel :) you are right that Americans failed to bring any cahnge in Afghanistan. So , it would be great that they leave Afghanistan. Then you will see there will be peace in both Paksitan and Afghanistan. Why not leave them and let them do what they want to do with themselves.

@michael4096 : Just for your information there are thousands of reformist in Pakistan , and this story does not show the real situation of Paksitan.But the problem with most of the people is that they think Paksitan consists of , may be jsut few educated people. lol..... Sorry for such thinking.
01:04 October 13, 2010 by Prufrock2010
I'm not holding my breath until there's peace in Pakistan, with or without American involvement. That said, I think America needs to get the hell out of Afghanistan AND Pakistan. If the Muslim sects want to kill each other off, let them. I am somewhat concerned about the nukes, however. They really do pose an existential threat and must be dealt with. Difficult choices lie ahead, to be sure.
11:03 October 13, 2010 by munichiscool
Yes Prufrock, Nukes are laying on the streets and ready to be sold or Pakistan has put them in a room and they will be stolen after breaking the locks. Sometimes I just cannot stop my laugh when I read these kind of jokes. :) . It just show how naive are people around the world. Man, Pakistan started that program in 1977 and they got this power in 1998. It is the hard work of 22 years and billions of dollars and the people protecting them are not stupid. It is not like this that a group of bandits would load the parts on a truck and throw it on somebody. Please at least try to learn more about nukes , their delivery and launching system ,their preparation , handling etc. I hope that will at least help you to save yourself from the propaganda that you listen on CNN or read in Spiegel or NY times :)
12:17 October 13, 2010 by Prufrock2010
Yes, I should heed your brilliantly expressed propaganda rather than pay attention to the comical concerns of nuclear proliferation experts around the world. You've demonstrated to everyone here that yours is the voice of reason and perspicacity. Thanks for setting me straight. I know that I'll rest easier tonight knowing that the nuclear weapons in Pakistan are in the secure hands of a stable, strong and reliable government.
13:20 October 13, 2010 by munichiscool
:) That also shows how much you know about them. In Pakistan the Nukes are in control of Military and not in the hand of Government. Even the prime minister has complained many times that he is not given complete picture about them. What else can I say.
18:27 October 13, 2010 by Prufrock2010
Try saying nothing else and look like a genius in the process.

Are we supposed to be more comforted by the thought that the military that controls Pakistan's nuclear weapons is not part of the government? Never mind.
21:20 October 13, 2010 by Feodora
Not any turkish or arabic speaking person is a muslim as well as there are muslim with deep german, europian roots....

What we see of the Islam is not THE Islam. We have christians in Irleand killing each other for decades,

There is no THE Islam as ther is no The Christainity or THE Hindu or THE Jewdaism THE Buddist...
22:10 October 13, 2010 by Prufrock2010
Sounds rather Buddhist to me.
08:01 October 15, 2010 by chezwick
One reads this article and so many of the comments that follow...and is struck by the extent of willful denial that is today pervading Europe. The theology and the history (both ancient and recent) of Islam are staring you in the face, and all you can do is to contort yourselves into all manner of intellectual gymnastics in order to believe it is something other than what it is.

Muslim individuals may be good or bad, just like anyone else, but the religion of Islam is - in its very essence - antithetical to human freedom. This is fact....the very word Islam means submission. Converting out of the faith is a veritable death sentence, carried out by the state under Sharia...or often by the family in non-Sharia-compliant societies.

Europe has imported millions of immigrants who do not share their culture of freedom. To pretend that this will have no impact on your societies is willful ignorance.
12:57 October 15, 2010 by JAMessersmith
I'm personally an atheist, but I can see quite a big difference between Christianity and Islam based on history alone, let alone the tendency towards fundamentalism.

Muhammed, according to every single historical account, was a warrior, as evidenced by the:

-Battle of Badr

-Battle of Uhud

-Battle of the Trench

-Conquest of Mecca

-Battle of Hunayn

-Battle of Tabouk

-Battle of Mu'tah

-Battle of Khaybar

-Second Pledge of al-Aqaba (i.e. Pledge of War)

-Conquest of Mecca

-Conquest of Arabia


These were battles fought by Muhammed himself, not his successors who may or may not have been distorting his original message. Jesus, on the other hand, did not fight any battles of his own. Constantine, Karl der Grosse, Pope Urban II, etc... may have fought battles in the name of Christianity, but Jesus never specifically commanded them to do so. In fact, everything we know of Jesus' teachings told them not to do so, and clearly advocated a message of non-violence, so it can honestly be said that anyone who did or does fight wars in Jesus' name was or is in fact perverting Christianity.

In the case of Muhammed, however, these wars he fought were not philosophical battles, or mere myths, but real fighting and killing perpetrated by the founder of Islam himself. The reason I point this out is because those who adhere to a certain religion naturally wish to emulate the founders of their respective religions in actions and deeds. It therefore stands to reason that any devout Muslim would wish to take Muhammed's warrior-spirit and conquests as an example as to how to live their own lives. In this sense I ask, if a Muslim preaches non-violence, are they not shunning and disowning the very acts of Muhammed himself? Are they not shunning the very foundation upon which their religion was built? Or do they make exceptions in his case? Is violence against apostates and non-believers ok as long as Muhammed is brandishing the sword?

Conversely, nearly every story that's been passed down about Jesus has stressed the fact that he was a pacifist who disavowed the use of violence quite explicitly, as in "love thy enemy". Yes, there are historical revisionists who claim Jesus was in fact a revolutionary who was attempting to lead an insurrection against Rome, but that interpretation flies in the face of the tradition that's been passed down over thousands of years, whether historically accurate or not.

As is often said, talk is cheap. Actions speak louder than words. The Koran may (or may not) talk of peace and love just like the New Testament, but Muhammed's actions were one of a brutal warlord, and that is a fact that must be taken into account when considering the impact of Islam on the West. It was, and is, a warrior-religion in all honesty.
11:44 October 16, 2010 by Cracatoa
Good to see people are a awake to the dangers on our doorstep. Perhaps no all of them are extreme. But as they become more aggressive, the moderates will do whatever they are told to do by the lunatics above them. Or at the very least, the moderates will form the logistical support for the 'not so moderates'. Who created the open-door policy for these people in the first place? And how did so many good countries open their doors all at the same time? (genuine open question..)
21:36 October 22, 2010 by wxman
This is getting tedious. I agree with Prufrock once again. The US needs to get out of Pak/Afghan ASAP. However, when we leave we need to inform them that if any bad stuff comes at us from there, we will come back - - with a lone B-2 with one bomb onboard.
10:53 October 30, 2010 by reinertj
Indonesian Muslims used to be a fairly relaxed bunch, but due to the influence of extremists have turned very hard line. Here in Australia (that's the one with Kangaroos, not the one with the mountains) our Muslims are doing their best to convince everyone they are peaceful citizens, but to do so they are having to rewrite history. A religion which defines itself as a people apart and does not accept the concept of the nation state is going to eventually clash with the nation. The first sign of this is the appearance of the niqab/burka. A form of dress which has no justification in the Koran, and frankly is completely impractical for everyday wear.
11:00 September 12, 2011 by Cissie
JAMessersmith left a very interesting comment on Oct. 15th, 2010. Thank you for that, JAM!

This is a great article, and nice work on the translation. Some of the comments above seemed to be saying that the article does not go far enough in offering solutions, or that it is just more liberal dribble. The world's grief cannot be solved by one editorial, I mean, come on. The author's heart is in the right place, at least.
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