“Many Muslim reformers make the mistake that they do not really want to break the chain holding the Islamic system together. They try to paint the chain in their favourite colour, and call this a ‘Reform’. I believe that the untouchable nature of the Quran stands in our way, and we need to leave this behind. Without polemicising against it or destroying it, we must simply separate ourselves from this notion that this is the word of god, providing relevant instructions for daily life in the 21st century. Post-quranic discourse means that we need to look for other explanations and solutions for our lives today.”
Thilo Sarrazin has caused a major controversy in Germany by breaking the greatest taboo of political correctness and talking about the harm that Muslim immigration is doing to his country. He’s not the only one discussing this forbidden topic, but he has raised the temperature of the conversation and drawn public attention to other people who are saying similar things.
One of them is Hamed Abdel-Samad, a young Egyptian-German who criticizes Islamic culture and insists it must move beyond the death-grip imposed by its own holy book. The following interview with Mr. Abdel-Samad is from a news program on German television. Many thanks to the Gates of Vienna reader who sent the tip, to the Counterjihad Collective for the translation, and to Vlad Tepes for subtitling it:
A full transcript is below the jump.
A Muslim critic of Islam
[Speaker:] Thilo Sarrazin is a man rattling all of Germany with his — pardon my French — drivel about a ‘Jewish’ gene and his provocative theses about Muslim immigrants and their supposedly inability to integrate. A man who will inflame the debate even more is the German-Egyptian political scientist and historian Hamed Abdel-Samad. Himself the son of an imam, he speaks from the point of view of an insider. His autobiography ‘Mein Abschied von Himmel’ (“My Departure from Heaven”, not translated into English) has already caused quite a stir. In it, the Muslim describes his emancipation from his religious parental home and his conviction that Islam is not compatible with a modern lifestyle. Now he adds more with his new book, and simply prophesies the collapse of the Islamic world. My colleague Thorsten Stecher met Hamed Abdel-Samad in Munich to discuss this explosive diagnosis.
Mr. Abdel-Samad, in your new book you prophesy the collapse of the Islamic world. How did you come to the conclusion that an entire world religion simply will disappear?
‘Disappear’ is not what I said. I said ‘collapse’, meaning that Islam offers no answers to the questions of modern life, Islam is past its zenith, and is in a process of decay, of downfall — this is what I mean.
You are speaking explicitly of the spiritual attitude of the Islamic world, and state that the mentality of many Muslims, possibly all Muslims, is not fit for life in a modern world.
In the Islamic world one lives in contradictions. People consume modernity, but are not open to thoughts of freedom, equality, questioning the holy, so the Islamic world gets stuck in resentment, consumption without productivity.
Why aren’t people in the Islamic world reacting productively or creatively to the challenges, but rather, as you claim, aggressively?
Eh — the Islamic world has not accepted that it lost its power in the world long ago. They still insists on their cultural grandeur, moral superiority, towards the West. Thus they maintain this illusion: Nothing good can come out of the West, for the people there are infidels. And therein lies the problem.
There was a time when the Islamic world was a world power and eventually everybody else had to obey its command. But this is long gone, admittedly, but the Islamic world cannot be bad in itself, because it brought about so much good.
True. It was between the 7th and the 11th centuries that the Islamic world was still self-confident, and open to the world. Many Muslims believe that it was Islam that had given them a high culture. I doubt this thesis, it was not Islam, rather the openness of the Muslims, the mixture of many peoples bringing something from their old high cultures. Persians, Aramaeans, Berbers, Jews and Christians, who ended up under Islamic rule They had worked together in fertile ways and created this culture, not only the Muslims. The proof of this is that the first important cities of knowledge in Islam were not Mecca or Medina, but rather Baghdad, Cairo and Córdoba. All originally non-Arabic cities.
Let’s talk about immigration: This is recognized as a problem in Switzerland, as well as in Germany, at least as concerns Muslims. Why, as you write in your book, can it be that Muslims, as you put it, indulge in a mentality of making demands?
Yes, it comes straight out of this moral superiority. They come here, they depend on this land, Germany or Switzerland, but inside they also despise the morality of these countries.
How does that show up in everyday life? Do you have some examples?
Well, fathers forbid their daughters to participate in swimming lessons, children are warned against adapting a “decadent” lifestyle. From this comes no cultural symbiosis, not even parallel societies, but asymmetric societies.
Thilo Sarrazin is causing furor these days with thoughts quite similar to yours. What differentiates you from a Thilo Sarrazin, who many currently have on their hit list, when they say that it is not at all acceptable, even racist, what he says?
This is not comparable. I’m dealing with the Islamic culture and its collapse. Thilo Sarrazin warns about the future of Germany. It could go on like this. I would say that 90% of what Thilo Sarrazin says is true, but people concentrate on those 10% where he is sort of missing the point, when the talks about genetics and intelligence.
Thilo Sarrazin says that Germany is getting more stupid, because an increasing number of stupid Muslims need to be integrated.
It doesn’t have all that much to do with stupidity or intelligence, it is about social reality… It is about young Muslims, many with no opportunity to get a good education, not being able to make themselves qualified, that they become a burden to the country, are not productive, and no society can cope with this. This is completely true.
But who is to blame then? The integration policy of Germany, or the stubbornness…?
It does take two to tango. They were dealing with the problem in an old-fashioned way, and here we are, and now of course they try to find scapegoats. Mr. Sarrazin might have been wrong in some of his statements, but he is not responsible for the integration mess that we have.
You are not only attacking, you also propose a solution. You say that really there is no other option than to switch to a post-quranic age. You need to explain this. What is a “post-quranic age”?
Many Muslim reformers make the mistake that they do not really want to break the chain holding the Islamic system together. They try to paint the chain in their favourite colour, and call this a “Reform”. I believe that the untouchable nature of the Quran stands in our way, and we need to leave this behind. Without polemicising against it or destroying it, we must simply separate ourselves from this notion that this is the word of god, providing relevant instructions for daily life in the 21st century. Post-quranic discourse means that we need to look for other explanations and solutions for our lives today.
You once said that you have converted from faith to knowledge. That sounds incredibly sensible — then what do you tell all those people who say “I want to believe, I need a god.”?
That’s quite fine. Completely fine. I am not calling people to atheism, merely asking that each keeps his faith in his own heart, rather than being a pain in the neck on the streets.
I would consider you a radical thinker, which you can consider either positive or negative. You had a very religious upbringing. Your father was an imam. How has that influenced you?
Well, I would not consider myself radical at the moment… I used to be a radical, but now I try to think in sober and rational ways. But I believe that in today’s Islamic world, introducing rational ideas is indeed radical. Perhaps the breaking of taboos has become a luxury in the West. In the Islamic world it is a necessity. This is why I decided for this approach.
Thank you for your time.
I thank you as well.
[Speaker:] These ideas carry a certain risk. There is a fatwa against Hamed Abdel-Samad, with a threat on his life.