JLH has translated a guest editorial by Cahit Kaya from Die Presse (print version April 29, 2010). Mr. Kaya is one of the founders as well as the current chair of the Central Council of Ex-Muslims in Austria:
A Yes to a Burka Ban is a Yes to Secularization
Guest Editorial by Cahit Kaya
A Burka Ban Would be a Rejection of the Repression of Women
I am sorry that I have to struggle with the Koran whenever burkas or whole-body coverings are debated. In the Koran, there are just two places where veiling of Muslim women is suggested, but without precise instructions on how this is supposed to look. Everything else was added over time, layer by layer, by Islamic theologians, and simply served to keep women on a leash and make them controllable.
The most important question here should be: What does it matter whether it is in the Koran or is considered to be prescribed by Islamic law? Religious freedom does not mean having to tolerate things that are so inhuman or undemocratic, just because they were required 1400 years ago by the founder of a religion and his ideological disciples, and are still seen by orthodox Muslims as exemplary (sunna). In a secular, European state, universal human rights are the basis of our mindset and our laws. Blind obedience to Islamic rules is not appropriate. If reason and freedom are rejected as heathen by orthodox Muslims, the logical conclusion is that modern democracy, which has arisen from reason and freedom, is also being rejected.
Hanging onto the burka tradition is forcing a reactionary Islamic state inside of a European one. It is not necessary to mention how dissimilar our concept of human rights is from an Islamized version. We have reached the point where women have their equal place next to men. Irrespective of moral appearance.
The sight of this kind of covering can evoke only incomprehension and vigorous head-shaking in an enlightened person, since our modern concept of freedom contradicts this one, must contradict it. The modern European has his own history in this regard, which likewise speaks of a dark time, when voluntary submission to Christianity had so advanced that almost all of classical antiquity’s knowledge from Plato to Pythagoras fell victim to it. Hard to believe that there was a time when the Islamic caliphs tried to bring Hellenistic, secular knowledge into harmony with Islam.
But what is happening today, almost a thousand years later, no longer corresponds to that enlightened picture of Islam. Despite enormous income from the sale of oil and their geo-strategic location on commercial routes, the Islamic lands seem unable and unwilling to let these billions flow to the good of their own populace. As is documented so often in Islamic history, the wealth is shared out among the ruling class. Sumptuous palaces and mosques adorn the cityscape. What the average Muslim may enjoy of this wealth is the prayer given under the arches of richly embellished mosques.
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To conceal this social injustice, an external enemy is called up, which — occasionally rightly, but often wrongly — is given as the source of all problems. This can only be explained by an approach — both pliable to authority and inimical to knowledge — which recognizes the Islamic preacher as the only authority and opposes discourse as an “alien” and “liberal” mindset. That is how the person oppressed by Islam, without realizing it, becomes the strongest advocate of his own oppression. Fanatic faith makes him into the creator and preserver of this own misery.
Mohammed’s goal 1400 years ago was the expansion of Islam over the entire world, because he regarded Islam as the successor of all monotheistic religions known to him.
One could believe that it was never as easy as it is today to spread such an intolerant movement. A pretext can readily be found right in Europe for why this can be tolerated. Criticism of Islamic imperialism is considered racism — which seems completely absurd in a historical context. Diverse groups and ideologies located in Europe seem to have found an ally in orthodox Islam, which has been lost to them in recent decades. The preferred partner for opposing US imperialism is Islam, which speaks quite openly today of subjugating the entire world so soon as the chance presents itself. At that point, not much will remain of democracy and freedom of expression.
What should be assessed is the especially intense interest in the politics of various European nation states with comparatively high numbers of immigrants who play a decisive role in elections. Orthodox Islamic associations are the contacts allowed to represent Islamic communities. They are granted a certain immunity in the form of religious propaganda. To win Muslims as a voting block, they are not criticized, even though there would be clear grounds for it (for example, in Austria the president of the Islamic religious community IGGIO was complicit in allowing an Islamic textbook to be used for ten years which was very questionable from a democratic point of view, until this coincidentally became known).
The Blasphemy Paragraph
Now it becomes clear why it is important to declare a ban on burkas. An important indication would be given by a ban of the most visible element of orthodox Islam: a rejection of the public suppression of the Islamic woman and of the religious disenfranchisement of Muslims. As a further step, it will be necessary. to offer help to the clearly larger group of secularly oriented people immigrating from Islamic countries in organizing, together with enlightened Europeans, to oppose Islamic orthodoxy. Until now, help has been assured only for Islamic associations, since religion — as questionable as it may be — enjoys official protection and is given an untouchable status in our democracy by the so-called “blasphemy paragraph.” As a rule, it is not racism to reject intolerant representatives of a religion, although “genuine” racism leads secular “Muslims” to hold back from coming together with secular Europeans and forming a common front. It is precisely the most intolerant representatives of Islam who resort to the “racism club” to suppress any criticism of their methods.
The Secularized Muslim
The idea of the “secularized Muslim” implies a politically relevant group which quite openly confronts orthodox Islam — both in and beyond their circle of acquaintances — without fear of being exposed to insane imputations like racism. It is up to all of us to change things and to prove-even though the pure calculus of politics allows for questionable streams — that we ourselves are responsible and enlightened enough to recognize secularization among the immigrants and acknowledge their usefulness to the survival of an enlightened Europe. Because otherwise the burka ban will be pure political eyewash, merely taking the wind out of the sails of the Islam critics, and beyond that supporting the less visible, more dangerous influences of radical orthodox Islam. Have the courage to use your reason. Have the courage to support the secular powers inside the immigrant scene as a bulwark against Islamization.
Cahit Kaya (Born May 5, 1979, in Turkey) grew up in Vorarlberg. Chair of the Central Council of Ex-Muslims (ZdE).