Below is a recent essay by Henryk Broder from Die Welt, kindly translated by JLH.
Learning From Islam Means Learning How to Win
There are fanatics in every religion, but in no other one is there such a stubborn denial that they have anything to do with the religion they profess.
by Henryk M. Broder
January 11, 2015
The German-Soviet Friendship Society (DSF) was the second-largest mass organization in the German Democratic Republic. It had about six million members. Only the Free German Trades Unions were larger.
The DSF sponsored Russian courses and study trips to the Soviet Union. It awarded badges of honor to especially deserving members and organized pen-pal correspondence between German and Soviet young people.
In the early 1950s, the DSF coined the saying “Learning from the Soviet Union is learning to win!” The DSF has been history for 25 years. But its spirit still hovers over the land. Except that it is no longer about the organized friendship of two peoples, but about the relationship between two cultures — one aggressive and one defensive. The aggressive culture sees itself as the victim of the defensive culture, while the defensive culture is twisting itself into a pretzel to avoid being seen as aggressive.
Good Islam, Bad Islamism?
After the attack on the editorial staff of Charlie Hebdo, all the news was not only about the dead, who were at the wrong place at the wrong time, but about the obligation of the majority society to retain its propriety. Still on the day of the bloodbath, Sigmar Gabriel warned against “misusing” such an act of violence to “paint Muslims as violent perpetrators or as Islamists,” which no one had done, either in Germany or in France. According to the head of our own SPD, what had happened in France had “nothing to do with Islam,” but “I would say, with bloodlust and terrorism.”
According to Justice Minister Heiko Maas, anyone who would suspect “Muslims in general” is “only interested in dividing society and sowing hate.” At the end of the day, it was unclear with whom we should sympathize more — the victims of the attack or the repeatedly confirmed “peaceful majority of Muslims,” who do not deserve to be put under general suspicion.
That was not enough for Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière. He demanded that YouTube delete a 42-second clip in which one of the two terrorists is seen executing a police officer lying helpless on the ground with a well-aimed shot to the head. De Maizière said that “you could see many things on YouTube, but not all of it should be allowed to remain there.”
Such a comment not only testifies to the desire to make what has happened unhappen, but also to a catastrophic misunderstanding of the situation. Just as spilled milk cannot be conjured back into the bottle, a video that has made the rounds cannot be made to disappear by order of the Grand Poobah.
“Real Socialism” Was a Singular Failure
Back to the beginning. There are astonishing parallels between the efforts of the Society for German-Soviet Friendship to idealize the conditions in the Soviet Union to fairy-tale status and the contemporary, widespread practice of trying to see Islam solely as a “religion of peace.” They both use the same trick.
The mismanagement and cronyism in the Soviet Union had nothing to do with socialism. There was no poverty, no unemployment, no corruption and no criminality, apart from dissidents and other “negative elements.” Socialism was a paradise on earth, a guarantee of individual and collective well-being.
The only truly stupid people were those who did not want to participate. The fact is, socialism was a thoroughly tolerant philosophy which co-existed peacefully with other philosophies wherever it was not in power. And everywhere where it was in charge… forget peacefulness and tolerance.
It is pretty much the same with Islam. Al-Qaida, Boko Haram, the Islamic State and the Taliban have nothing to do with Islam. The regime of the ayatollahs has nothing to do with Islam. The bloody battles between Shi’ites and Sunnis have nothing to do with Islam. When blasphemers are flogged and adulterers are stoned in Saudi Arabia, that has nothing to do with Islam.
Good Capitalist, Bad Capitalism?
The 9/11 killers had nothing to do with Islam. And what happened in London, Madrid, Bali, Boston, Sydney, Brussels and Toulouse had nothing to do with Islam. You see, Islam means “peace” and “jihad” — as we keep hearing — does not mean “holy war,” but simply “inner struggle,” whatever that is. There are fanatics in every religion, but in no other one is there such a stubborn denial that they have anything to do with the religion they profess.
Soberly examined, the distinction between good Islam and bad Islam is as arbitrary as that between socialism per se and socialism as it really works. Then there are further differentiations. There are “moderate,” “very devout” and “fanatic” Islamists. However, this nuancing shows that Islamism is not the opposite of Islam, but just one of its variations.
It seems odd that no one yet has come up with the idea of distinguishing between capital and capitalism, in order to salvage the reputation of capital and put the blame for all the negative, attendant phenomena on capitalism. There is much supporting evidence. Did not the Fuggers have a heartfelt sympathy for the poor and needy? Did the Krupps not build one of the first worker settlements? Doesn’t Wolfgang Grupp (Trigema) take such good care of its employees?
Ergo: Capital is good; capitalism is bad. This message must only be communicated correctly. How about the motto: “Learning from Islam means learning to win!”?