We have featured the Turkish-German sociologist Necla Kelek several times in the past. Below is a powerful speech she gave recently, as translated by JLH.
The translator includes this introduction:
This is the speech given by Necla Kelek on receiving the Freedom Prize of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation (slightly shortened by editors at Politically Incorrect). She has the credibility of living in a Muslim family, having moved to Germany when she was eight. She also has the credibility of succeeding in German society in a way the Germans prize. She was an exemplary student, writing her graduate thesis on the “parallel society” of Muslims in Germany, and has since become a leading critic of Islam.
Early in her career as a sociological researcher, she was attacked in an editorial article by a coterie of multiculti academics as being unscientific. Given a chance to reply, she shot back so effectively that she dragged public opinion to her side.
When she speaks, it is as a German. When she says “we”, she means “we Germans.”
For those of us who follow Fjordman, there will be familiar themes here: the relationship of culture to technology, the Islamic rejection of philosophy, and so on.
My favorite phrase in the whole piece is “Freedom of thought disappeared under the prayer rug.”
And the translated speech from Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung:
Muslims Must Become Free Citizens
A speech by Necla Kelek
November 9, 2010
“Love” said some forgotten poet of the pre-March era, “is the highest thing in life, but higher than life is freedom.” So let us speak about freedom, because I have the impression that we must free this concept from randomness and populist co-option. Let me first say something about the freedom of women.
Five years ago, I published a report drawn from the interior of Turkish life in Germany “Die fremde Braut” (The Foreign Bride), and called attention to the fate of Turkish “import brides”, and reported on women and girls who are married under orders for traditional, religious reasons and brought into the country and practically have to live in apartheid and unfreedom in a counter-society.
This has had enormous resonance and, with other events, unleashed a fundamental controversy about integration and Islam. That this was possible we owe above all to the media, among them Alice Schwarzer and her magazine “Emma,” which took up — earlier and more intensively than all others — this subject which had been suppressed by politics and scholarship. From Alice, the Abla, the big sister of the women’s movement, I have learned, beyond political fashions, with a warm heart and cool head, never to lose sight of the central point, the situation of women and the rights of human beings. I was never a victim, never affected personally or in my publishing and scholarly work, but always aware and with my subject.
A Ban on Forced Marriage As Symbolic Act of Condemnation
I have no special destiny. My life has unfolded like many others. So it sometimes serves as an example, just as the great sociologist, Richard Sennett described in himself the effects of the modern age on the individual. The media attention is responsible for the fact that the law against forced marriage, demanded for years, shall become reality. It is more than a symbolic act. It is the social condemnation of an unspeakable practice — thousands of “isolated instances” of young people being married against their will. We will activate this law and we must prepare emergency telephones and qualified support, to really make it an instrument of liberation.
The requirement for a ban on forced marriage, for a minimum age of 18 years and mastery of 300 words of German for the reunification of families, and the analysis of the connection of patriarchal system. tradition and religious legitimization encountered and still encounters resistance and rejection among Turks, Islamic organizations, immigration researchers, and many politicians. Then as today, they called me a slanderer of Islam and of Turks because I talk about what is considered taboo in these communities, because I not only understand and help, but want to enlighten and change. But despite all the critics, the number of imported brides has decreased by two-thirds in recent years, because it has become uncomfortable to bring a bride to Germany. So thanks to a simple legal step, tens of thousands of young men and women may have a chance to decide their own lives.
On the Difference Between Freedom and Randomness
The Green Party chair, for instance, has no such worries and derides those who cannot abide “a few differences in cultures.” As if the debate on integration was about sushi or sisha and not elementary human rights. This moralistic pride — abroad above all among intellectuals — that relativizes anything and everything, downplays problems — if they are not their own — that mocks worries, that mistakes freedom for “anything goes,” that from pure randomness no longer knows that freedom without responsibility destroys itself — those responsible for these things are the true obstacles to integration.
The debate has expanded because of pressing social problems and thanks to the book written with cool intelligence by Thilo Sarrazin, and has risen over the banks of discussion of repression of women in a narrower sense. It is a coming-to-terms not only with individual faults of social, educational and integration policy. It questions the political approach to “understanding and helping,” to social policy as social work. Instead, Sarrazin demands responsibility from the individual, including the immigrant. Freedom means standing up for yourself and taking responsibility, for immigrants as well. That may be seen as cold, and I too may not be in agreement with all of Sarrazin’s views and his tone. His description of root causes can be doubted. But his book without doubt already represents a sea change in integration policy.
The Re-Schooling of East Germany to Democracy Is a Model
Let me expand by one thought the sentence that begins with either “Islam” or “Christianity” and ends with “belongs to Germany.” Here too, it is a question of freedom — and socialism. Socialism has belonged to Germany for something more than 20 years. The GDR was the reality, and anyone who dared to question the life model of socialism before 1989 in the West was laughed at as living in the past, as someone who had not recognized the signs of the times. In the East, that person was a dissident who was punished. I have been living in Germany for more than forty years now. I went to the new federal republic lands in 1991 after my studies and after the fall of the Wall, and, while teaching at the university in Greifswald, I schooled former administrators in Wolgast and Neu-Brandenburg “in democracy.”
For the former citizens of the GDR, who were at first very distanced from “Wessis” (Westies) like me, freedom was not unconditionally what it meant in middle-class society. Freedom was “seeing what was necessary,” therefore, what had been scientifically shown to be necessary, that is, what the Party had decided. Freedom was a collective possession, for “only in the community with others does each individual have the means to develop his assets; only in the community is personal freedom possible,” say Marx and Engels.
A Sixteen-Year-Old’s Will to Freedom
Once, when I was sixteen or seventeen years old, I asked my mother, who was imprisoned in the Turkish-Muslim tradition, when I would be free, meaning that I could decide for myself. She told me: “Freedom is not for us.” She did not understand my question. For her, “being free” was the same as “vogelfrei” (“literally “free as a bird”, but actually meaning “outlawed”), that is, being without protection. “Being free” in the common understanding of the umma (Muslim community) means being unprotected, being abandoned — by the family, the clan, the protection of the community. The price of this protection is the power of men over women.
In case of doubt, the woman is at the mercy of the violence of men, for the men of the family protect the women from the violence of strange men. If the husband himself is violent, that is “kismet” — fate. In life, men are still the protectors and guards of many Muslim women. For many Muslim women, it is being free “of something”: free of the hostilities of strangers, but also free of responsibility for herself, free of her own will.
Islamic Roots in Europe
Like the other monotheistic religions, Islam was not a religion of peace, but militaristically active and aggressive. In fact, this new religion promised its warriors either rich plunder or a direct path to paradise. In the Middle East in the seventh and eighth centuries, the Greek philosophers had ground down and exhausted themselves in arguments and wars over the doctrines of the Talmud and Christianity. Greek philosophy was still fostered above all in the Baghdad, which had been conquered by the Muslims. There were beginnings of reconciling Aristotelian wisdom with the new Muslim ideas, but the dogmaticians won, banned this rational beginning and forced through their own school of thought.
In this connection, I would like to de-mystify the fairy tale that is told again and again and describes the significance of Islam for European culture. It is said that Islam saved the thoughts of Aristotle for Europe. That statement makes it sound better than it is. Along with the other Spanish-Arabian philosophers and mystics there was Ibn Rushd — called Averroes. In the twelfth century in Cordoba, he translated the works of Aristotle — believed lost — into Arabic and commented on them. In a commentary, he analyzed the relationship of revelation and reason. That provoked the resistance of Muslim believers in their scriptures.
Islam Considers Philosophy Disproved
The representative of Islamic orthodoxy, Al-Ghazali, tried by way of doubt to achieve certainty in God, but succumbed increasingly to skepticism, lost his trust in reason and found his own certainty in faith. Finally, he rejected philosophy as his own way to the truth and the revelation in the Koran and the creation of the world by Allah guaranteed there. In the end, it was Al-Ghazali, with his “Refutation of the Philosophers,” who sealed Islam against all doubt and exiled the religion into that box which to this day robs it of any possibility of innovation, further development and modernization.
The Ibn Rushd who is today offered as a testament by Muslims was banished by the religious leaders, his teachings and those of Aristotle were repudiated in the Islamic world. The contribution of Islamic philosophy to European culture is heresy to this day from the Muslim point of view. Ibn Rushd was an Islamic dissident. Before the Muslims invoke him, they should rehabilitate him.
In the final analysis, with the denial of philosophy, the Islamic world left the cultural discourse in Europe almost a thousand years ago. In the near-millennium since, Islam has closed itself not only to philosophy, but to the natural sciences. Freedom of thought disappeared under the prayer rug. If mathematicians, physicians, astronomers were leading in the first centuries of Islam, then the natural sciences fell into agony in the following centuries. Technologically, Islamic countries are still on a Western drip-feed. The desperate efforts to at least master the technology necessary to extract their own oil is among the open sores of the Islamic world. The computer and the cell phone are not just a bit of technology, but the product of five hundred years of Western cultural history.
Constitutionality Before All Despots and Gods
Let us now speak about freedom in Europe. The polis — the city states of Greek antiquity — were the first state organizations to provide equality of citizens before the law — albeit only for free men. Aristotle propagated the rule of law, ergo constitutionality, above all despots and gods. He wrote that a regime in which people and not the law govern, therefore, is not a rule of freedom. Thus we owe the Greeks not only democracy, but also the legal system.
This was expanded in Rome by Cicero around the concept of humanity and the striving for cultural development. He established civil law and the right of property — one of the prerequisites for the independent individual to be able to develop and disengage from the collective of the tribe. Judaism, like Christianity, followed the idea of equality before God and, with the figure of Jesus Christ, individual responsibility becomes a category of behavior. These are values that played no role in the world view of the Islam that was forming in the seventh and eighth centuries. There, the “equal freedom” of Antiquity became “equal devotion or submission to the will of Allah.”
Conscience Becomes the Measure of Moral Behavior
Inspired by Averroes, the theologian Thomas Aquinas identified the human being as subject, as one who acts in history, and also has free will in relationship to God. With that, he set the intellectual beginning of scientific thinking in Europe.
With the Reformation and Renaissance in the North, people recognized the necessity of secularization, the two-realms-theory of Luther, the separation of temporal and spiritual power and simultaneously the development of personal conscience as the measure of human behavior.
Since then, the realm of God for Christian doctrine is “not of this world” and therewith not to be judged by human standards. Meanwhile on earth, a verifiable order was sought. Decisions “on earth” are on the one hand referred to the inner person, the conscience and, on the other hand, delegated outward, that is, worldly laws assumed the role of protection and punishment. There is no separation of this world and the otherworld in Islam. Only as a member of this order can the Muslim fulfill his duties. Politics for Muslims is consequently the fulfillment of the tasks assigned by Allah. Responsibility is only to Allah.
The category of conscience does not exist in Islam, for it does not lie within the decision-making power of the human being to judge what is good or evil. Allah specifies what is “just and what is reprehensible.” The believer has his duty to fulfill by holding to these directions. In case of doubt, Allah forgives or punishes the sinner, possibly as late as Judgment Day. But Allah alone decides.
A Judicial Nucleus Is Not Sufficient As a Social Basis
German constitutional law is the quintessence of lessons from history and the development of this culture of freedom wrested from the churches. But we would be reducing our community to the judicial nucleus, if we did not place it in the context of its values. There is a “spirit of the law,” as Montesquieu formulated it. The welfare state, for example, is an expression of this spirit of Christian charity as humanistic solidarity. Denying this context would be reducing the value of a tree to the price f the wood.
But the tree is not just wood. Trees live, some bear fruit and give shade. The “freedom trees” of the Revolution of 1848 are living symbols of the spirit of this will to freedom. A democratic society needs democrats as the tree needs light and water to live. A society that does not continuously agree on this common sense and does not develop its own values again and again — like a tree growing its leaves in the Spring — will die, will be hollowed out and will be easy prey for beetles or storms.
Human Rights Under the Restriction of Sharia
The worth of the human being, the equal rights of man and woman, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and religion, the right to assemble and freely associate, the separation of state and religion — all such concepts, from that time on, were principles of European society. With some delay, freedom and equality appeared in the constitutions and laws; they shaped the value orientation of civil society and to this day comprise the identity of Europe.
Political Islam — and by that I mean for example the 45 states of the Islamic Conference — put human rights under the restraint of sharia, its divine law. Islamic organizations in Germany also emphasize the retention of sharia. Therefore it is difficult to separate Islam and Islamism from one another. The rejection of secularism and the culture of the West does not just have a militant aspect; it is the nucleus of policy of almost all Islamic institutions.
Religion Is Only One Part of Freedom
Europe is not only in the tradition of monotheistic religions. it is only conditionally a Judaeo-Christian heritage that makes up the identity of Europe. In the end it is the battle for the freedom of the individual, the Enlightenment, Humanism, which have founded our liberal, enlightened civil society. Doubtless the religions belong to it, but they are only a part of this freedom, not freedom itself. Religions are part of our freedom, but they do not stand above the constitution. That is true as well for Islam.
Finally, let us talk about Islam’s freedom in Europe. Muslims are in fact actually only free in the West, for they can make use of a right that does not exist in any Muslim country: freedom of religion. In Turkey, for example, every citizen is a Muslim, and in fact a member of the state-sponsored Sunni sect. The few Christians there live in hiding, do not belong, and the Alevites, an autonomous faith community of Sufism, with Shi’ite influence, who are the majority population in several areas of central Anatolia, are under government guardianship. Islam does not recognize religious freedom but only freedom of believing. The sentence: “There is no compulsion in belief” is not a right to be free of religion, but only the possibility for the believer to decide how to practice the faith.
Islam Has No Binding Authority
“Islam” as an institution does not exist. It has no organization, no common theology. It is not a church. Islam is a world religion with no address. You can make no treaties with it, reach no agreements. It has no sense of commitment.
None of the mosque societies or Islamic organizations, even if they take it upon themselves, can speak for “Islam” or the majority of Muslims.
Democratic societies should not make the mistake of accepting “Islam” as an institution. But what shall we do instead? Let us think about democratic principles. Let us go back to our heritage. Let us think about the freedom of the individual. There is “a” Muslim” just as little as there is “an” Islam. There is the Anatolian farm worker who lives out his tradition here in the mosque; the educated, secular woman doctor who has never seen the inside of a mosque; the baker who does not pray but would describe himself as a believer. There is the locked-in wife who is dependent on her mother-in-law; the assimilated journalist who considers the debate on Islam superfluous. And many more. And there are the cultural structures and traditions as they are lived in the Muslim family and society. There is the “unquestioned actuality” of Muslim existence, the socialization which is all too quickly defamed as a cliché even by the researchers, who should know better.
Meet Fear With Knowledge
As a sociologist, I see my task as demonstrating these conditions and limitations through religion, in order to describe ways out of the fear. One meets fear with knowledge. Muslims are deficient in confronting their own religion. There are only the beginnings of a critical engagement with the Koran. Spiritual belief, tradition and policy mix aimlessly together. The freedom of scientific thought, the rational engagement with Islam, would do Muslims good — lifting the ban on thinking, and examining what there is of this faith that can help the human being today.
The citizens of Muslim faith in Europe have the chance to live in freedom. They are confronting the historic task of reading the Koran with a historically critical eye, so that they find their place in the secular society of the West. And I am convinced that the majority of Muslims want that. They want to free themselves from being infantilized, but for that they need the support of a society that lives and defends its own freedom and that of every person.
Bring the Assimilated to Responsibility
But only when there is an attitude of loyalty to society in the Muslims, and the recognition of the principle of the freedom of the individual, only when they are prepared to no longer deny their own problems, but to deal with them, will they be able to fulfill their responsibility as citizens. And it is precisely the assimilated, the integrated, those who have come to German society and been received, who are successful — it is on them that a great responsibility is laid. They must admit the problems of their original culture, in order to solve them.
Yes, the reality of Islamic life is a part of Germany. Yes, citizens of Muslim faith are part of Germany. But they are also more. They are citizens, not victims. They too are the people. That is, their freedom must be protected, but at the same time, responsibility must be demanded of them. Our society makes the offer of freedom. It is up to the Muslims to understand that this is a chance.
Let us seize freedom. For neither sharia, nor the unity of state and religion, nor the umma’s claim of infallibility, nor the apartheid of man and woman may become part of Germany. That would be a betrayal of freedom, of our constitution and of the Muslims who for the first time in history are experiencing freedom.