What it is actually about never surfaces. It is about Germany. A Germany that ought also to be recognizable as German in the future. It is not just about constitutional law and gender equality, but about the identity of a nation which regards itself as ethnically and culturally worth preserving as a community. This is equally true for Islam-critical movements all over Europe…
It is not Islam alone that makes Europe brittle, but boundless liberalism.
This excellent editorial article by Carlo Clemens takes a hard look at the most prominent anti-jihad groups in Europe. It was originally published in a conservative German youth magazine, and later republished at Politically Incorrect. Many thanks to JLH for the translation:
A few days ago, Carlo Clemens — 2009 winner of the Young Authors Contest of Young Freedom — wrote a comprehensive article for the conservative youth magazine, BlaueNarzisse.de (BlueNarcissus), on the discussion initiated by Patrick Bahners on Islam-critical “Panic Makers.” The content is a critique of Bahners as well as of the Islam criticism scene.
Islamization, Criticism of Islam, and Criticism of Criticism of Islam
by Carlo Clemens
Given the times we live in, the features editor of he Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), Patrick Bahners could have really stirred things up with a ground-breaking discussion on the subject of the future. In his influential position he has an audience. Nevertheless, his most recent polemic, “The Alarmists: the German Fear of Islam” (C. H. Beck) will lead to no new insights. The reason for this is not just the dismissal of entire ways of looking at the compound subject: Immigration, Identity and Future. Bahners does not really get to the root of the substantive “Fear of Islam.” Perhaps because the “Alarmists” themselves do not know what they stand for.
Do “Alarmists” Nurture Baseless Fears?
At the very beginning, Bahners establishes that critique of Islam should be distinguished from modern criticism of Islam. The latter deals with a “political movement.” It considers Islam to be a political system which threatens the West: “This criticism of Islam interprets the social problems of integrating immigrants as indicators of a political danger.” Such attitudes, he says, have long been socially acceptable. Ultimately, the Islam critics represent a threat to Western liberalism, because tolerance of Islam is challenged.
And so, “alarmists” like Necla Kelek, Alice Schwarzer, Henryk M. Broder or Ralph Giordano feed those anxieties which are expressed in extremely negative polls. Bahners cites a poll of the Friedrich-Ebert Foundation, according to which 58.4% of Germans approve substantially restricting Muslims’ religious practices. In the context of a Europe-wide poll by the University of Münster, TNS Emnid (one of the largest German opinion research companies) reported last year that Germans regard Islam skeptically. 34% of West German and only 26% of East Germans regard Islam positively, Detlef Pollack, leader of the study: “If there were a terror attack in Germany, as is feared nowadays, that would be dramatic for the Muslims. The majority of the population would see its negative opinion confirmed.”
On the Average in Germany, Islam is Unpopular
In neighboring countries, the results were considerably more positive. For one thing, compared to the French, the Danes or the Dutch, the Germans had far less contact with Muslims. This, according to the study, led to the negative evaluation. The second reason was the long delay of an open debate. The cartoon conflict in Denmark, the riots in French banlieues, or the murder of Theo van Gogh in the Netherlands created public schisms. And right-populist parties which were established in these countries brought the subject onto the agenda again and again. But the ball started rolling [in Germany] in 2010 with the Sarrazin debate.
According to Bahners, Thilo Sarrazin (SPD), former board member of the Federal Bank and ex-finance representative from Berlin, belongs to these “alarmists.” His book, Germany Is Abolishing Itself, sold over a million copies and ignited a heated a debate about the mistakes of present-day integration and social policy. Sarrazin was allowed to answer Bahners. His review criticizes the comparisons Bahners makes between Islam criticism and the anti-Semitism of the 19th century. Sarrazin’s basic disagreement is with the differentiated evaluation of assimilation.
Sarrazin respects it as desirable and as a goal of integration. Bahners and his supporters, to the contrary, consider it to be false and morally reprehensible. Bestseller Sarrazin: “If Turkish President Erdogan should ever need a ghostwriter, Patrick Bahners would be perfectly cast for the part.” In 2008, Erdogan gave a speech before 20,000 enthusiastic compatriots in the Cologne arena, in which he said assimilation was a “crime against humanity.”
Assimilation as a “Crime against Humanity”
Further, Sarrazin declares that constitutionality cannot be contested by any religious law. Bahners will not accept this as fact. And with that, he attaches himself to the political model of Islam: “There comes a secret desire for a binding world order beyond human standards of worth, which the West simply cannot offer anymore.” Further, Bahners denies the existence of Political Correctness, yet preaches “civility” as the measure of political communication. Here speaks with the arrogance and unworldliness of a journalist who comes from sheltered circumstances and has remained protected from the “storms of life.” So he is the opposite of many of the Islam critics he is attacking, whose arguments led to numerous defamations from the Muslims and the political class.
Sarrazin may have vented the anger of the Islam-critical camp, but he too does not penetrate to the core of the matter. Skirmishes about separation of church and state, head-scarves in school or bans on the burka are just side issues in the fateful question of the future of our country. In the process, both sides — Islam critics and critics of Islam critics — lay claim to freedom, democracy, human rights and enlightenment. Legitimation is supposed to come from emphasizing their own liberality which each side sees threatened or frivolously squandered by the other side.
Tell me, What is your Attitude toward Israel?
In the course of this debate, a tableau of blogs, groups, and activists has formed with the purpose of explaining the rapidly spreading “political Islam.” The blog Politically Incorrect (PI), founded in 2004 — by its own account the largest in Germany with up to 60,000 hits/day — plays the leading role. PI specifically separates itself from racism and xenophobia, can be placed vaguely between liberal and neo-conservative. What is notable is its unconditionally pro-American and pro-Israeli stance. The Jewish state is seen as the last bastion of freedom and democracy in the Near East and so is glorified.
As a surrogate, the term “Islamophobia” was established in political science. By definition, it implies an irrational fear of Islam which can be countered by enlightenment, dialogue and transparency. It is used in political confrontation more and more as a shibboleth. Historian Wolfgang Benz provided the theoretical basis. The head of the Center for Anti-Semitism Research at the Technical University of Berlin draws a parallel between historical anti-Semitism and contemporary “Islamophobia,” even though the Islamophobes are extraordinarily fanatic fans of Israel.
So-called right-populist parties, especially, which have been able to register a number of successes in recent years in the slipstream of Islam-criticism, have to put up with this reproach. Netherlander Geert Wilders is a radiant icon. The peroxide blond plebs’ tribune attracts attention not only through his appearance. His fundamental opposition to Islam is notorious. He compared the Koran to Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Islam, he says, is in essence “fascist” and is fundamentally incompatible with the Western lifestyle. Suras calling for the murder of Christians, Jews and “infidels” are routinely cited.
Homages to Israel are a consistent part of Wilders’ agenda. His “Party for Freedom” reached 15.5% in the parliamentary elections last year. According to polls, it is the second most powerful force in the Netherlands. A trial against him for ethnic incitement is still going on. Other critics of Islam are also facing court judgment. In February, the Austrian Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff was sentenced to pay a fine because she had designated Mohammed “pedophile.” In 2008, the FPÖ politician Susanne Winter caused an uproar when she called the founder of Islam a “child molester” and incurred a charge of “incitement and denigration of religious doctrines.”
The Dutch route to success is not merely trying to emulate the FPÖ. It does not hurt that Wilders’ program, aside from positions critical of immigration, is extremely liberal. Socio-political or conservative-bourgeois oriented rightist parties in Europe invoke the task of warning against the “totalitarian threat” of “political Islam.” In so doing, Muslims are not engaged as human beings. The goal is said to be the preservation of the “Judaeo-Christian heritage.” Obligation is to “humanism” and “enlightenment.”
Principles are roughly described in the “Jerusalem Declaration,” signed in December, 2010 by Heinz-Christian Strache (FPÖ), Filip Dewinter (Vlaams Belang), Kent Ekeroth (Sverigedemokraterna) and René Stadtkewitz (Die Freiheit): “We see ourselves as part of the worldwide struggle of defenders of democracy and human rights in opposition to all totalitarian systems and their accomplices. We are in the vanguard of the battle on behalf of the Western democratic community of values.
Platitudes on Top of Platitudes: the Liberal Corset of the Islam Critics
The “Jerusalem Declaration” contains all the signature themes of the Islam critics and may therefore be seen a exemplary. The allegiance to democracy as an allegory for Western lifestyle. Recognition of Islam as a threat to this lifestyle, illustrated by unemancipated head-scarf wearers and fundamentalist terrorists. And the allegiance to Israel — the only country to defend its existence in open battle with Islam.
It becomes clear that the expansive gestures demonstrate little intellectual substance. Islam criticism is not an intellectual movement, not a philosophy. Here are gathered petit-bourgeois forces, who find the demographic change, especially in the inner cities, off-putting; who have had to endure experiences with disrespectful youthful immigrants from Islamic lands as well as discrimination inside their own country. Ordinary citizens who are no longer in agreement with established policy and have had to accept that Muslims are steadily becoming a greater percentage of the population and in many areas are the majority.
The Loudest Islam Critics are Working on Symptoms
The liberal sheathing of the Islam critics acts as a corset. It leads to their only indirectly expressing their own interests and working away at symptoms. In the case of Islam critical parties like Pro-NRW, it could be a calculation. That is also true of initiatives in whose wake — though it may be as the network “Cities against Islamization — this year’s “pilgrimage to Israel” or the “march for freedom” is to take place in Cologne in the coming May.
Many participants in these events are irritated by the countless Israeli and homosexual banners and wonder what the background for this decoration is. Most citizens are not aware of the arguable weaknesses of the Islam critics when they organize citizen initiatives against the building of mosques, hold vigils for persecuted Christians in the Near East or — like the Islam-critical group Pax Europa — establish information stands on sharia and female genital mutilation. Even the more rabid-appearing English Defense League under its charismatic leader, Tommy Robinson, which presents at least more patriotically than its German counterparts, thinks of itself as the voice of the “white working class” and offers the usual arguments.
Islam as a Projection of the Instinct to Self-Preservation
Islam serves as a representative of the foreign intruder who does not fit in and turns the social environment on its head. This development is seen a colonization helped along by the political elite, who are committing treason against their own people. What it is actually about never surfaces. It is about Germany. A Germany that ought also to be recognizable as German in the future. It is not just about constitutional law and gender equality, but about the identity of a nation which regards itself as ethnically and culturally worth preserving as a community. This is equally true for Islam-critical movements all over Europe.
Naturally, referenda against the construction of minarets or to intensify immigrant laws would have fulminating majorities here, like those in Switzerland. What many Swiss voters were probably not aware of, is an instinctive will to survive which was expressed in their vote. If little towers with crescents put an entire city into an uproar, then there is more to it than that: the assertive will to protect what is your own and you see endangered, is more than the right to a hedonistic life. If it is not expressed that way, that is not necessarily from fear of the “Nazi club.” Many are not conscious of their instinctive behavior. They are imprisoned in liberalistic patterns of argumentation and lapse into platitudes from strident populists. They seek direction from provocateurs like Henryk M. Broder, who relates all social debates back to the subject of Islam and therefore is so polarizing.
“Death of the Core German Culture”
It is significant that the concept of the “German core culture” — in spite of its credit with the majority — was so discredited in the public media. Left liberal opinion makers like Patrick Bahners explain it with the “theory of the inner barbarian.” It is not hairy-bearded Islamists and modest head-scarf wearers who consider that the will of Germans to remain German is “barbaric.” It is allegedly perfectly integrated, model immigrants like the religious pedagogue, Lamya Kador, the writer Feridun Zaimoglu or the social scientist Naika Foroutan, who are mounting a general assault on those Germans who regard assimilation as the goal of successful integration.
To be sure, the anti-integration declaration by the journalist Hilal Sezgin, which appeared in February and goes by the name “Manifest of the Many — Germany Re-Invents Itself” is straight out of the Ivory Tower — even if its back is covered by the editorial pages. It is inhaling the liberal spirit à la Bahners, who is drunk on his own ideas. If the Islam-critical movement wants to get to the root of its discontent, then it must develop further and think about what is essential. It is not Islam alone that makes Europe brittle, but boundless liberalism.