The following article from
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung Die Tageszeitung was translated by “Guest” in our comments.
The translator notes:
This is by a reformist Muslim who does define some of the problems of Islam and who is trying to get support from the Left. This one at least has strong prejudices against AfD and PEGIDA — unjustified, in my opinion. Still, I do think waking more young, Left Germans up to the extremely right-wing truth of Islam is a useful first step.
The translation has been lightly edited for spelling, punctuation, and clarity:
Essay: Leftists and Muslims
by Ahmad Mansour
We Aren’t Your Stuffed Animals
The left-liberal movement has trouble with critical Muslims. It sees itself as protector of conservative Muslims and thus turns them into victims.
The woman wished to remain anonymous when she recently wrote to me; a staff member of a youth service. She was helpless. Her service knew of cases in which violence belongs to a ‘traditional upbringing’ in families with a ‘migrant background’. Small girls and boys had bruises, had been cowed with threats and trained to ‘obedience’. But the staff members at the youth service have to deal with parents and children in a ‘culturally sensitive’ way and not necessarily step in, although it was clearly a legal requirement. Her letter stated “That’s not all right, is it?” as though she wanted an OK from me for something that is as clear as glass in human and legal terms: step in, of course, no matter where someone is from.
What the staff member of the service wrote to me is not unusual. I get hundreds of such letters. Teachers and social workers describe the dilemma they find themselves in: should they consider traditions? Have respect for authoritarian fathers? Care for the honour of girls — and their families — who aren’t allowed to attend swimming lessons? The people writing to me are kind and completely helpless.
Muslims and people with a “migration background” enjoy a special sympathy and solidarity amongst Left progressive people in Germany. They want to stand up against racism and prejudice. I am an Arab myself, originally from Israel, and have lived here since 2004. In my first years in Germany I met many nice people in the left-liberal political wing.
Since I have criticised certain religious content with which I grew up, they aren’t quite so nice any more. Of course their reactions can’t be compared to my ‘internal’ opponents, from whom I receive hate mail. But some people no longer like an Arab such as myself.
I don’t fit the cliché
I don’t fit the cliché of those who only complain about racist prejudices, even though I certainly do that too, but I welcome the democracy in which I live, and I openly and clearly criticise the denominational narrowness of the Muslim communities in this country. I criticise Muslim confederations such as Ditib or the central council of Muslims [Zentralrat der Muslime] who claim to speak in the name of my religion and for all Muslims in Germany, which doesn’t even stack up statistically.
I work for intra-religious and societal reforms and publicly state that much is going wrong in families, schools and society in the way they handle religious fundamentalism and Islamic radicalism.
A network of German Left-liberals and Greens ‘protects’ a majority of Muslims in Germany from the minority of their Muslim critics. What is Left about that, what is progressive? I ask myself. And: are you insane? Or have we become your stuffed animals?
Humanistic criticism of society, and enlightenment have a great tradition in the German-speaking sphere. Enlightenment always, absolutely always, involved criticism of the regime [Herrschaft]. And the regime almost always has to do with masters [Herren], i.e. with men, with patriarchy. The great monotheistic world religions pay homage to a patriarchal, punishing God, one of the strongest power factors of a hierarchical, anti-democratic world view.
“Opium of the Masses”
Marx called religion the “Opium of the Masses”. Hegel, Kant and Weber were critics of religion. Freud analysed one origin of the invention of a strict father God as stemming from an immature need to give responsibility to authority, to submit in a childlike way. The French revolution criticised religion as an instrument of power and oppression. The student revolts of 1968 also involved criticism of the clergy, of the status of women in the church, of religious prohibition of thought, of concepts of authority and the cruel practices in state and church orphanages. Recently the general public has been shocked by the widespread abuse of children in Catholic and other institutions, which became known as of 2010.
Criticism of religion as an instrument of power by believers and non-believers is a classic of the Left! This criticism belongs in the centre of its foundation. Thus it seems crazy when Muslim critics of their own religion are viewed with suspicion by Greens, Leftists and even Social Democrats. Why is our criticism not just as valid?
Beneath a different key signature the Left-Green camp is doing the same as the Salafists, Wahhabists and other Islamic fundamentalists whom we criticise. They want to muzzle critical Muslims. One group silences Muslims in the name of a patriarchal God, the other one because they consider criticism of our religion too offensive: we Muslims are deigned incapable of thinking critically and releasing ourselves from decrepit traditions. But why should that which largely succeeded for other religions through criticism and reformation from within and without — for Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism — not work for Islam? And why don’t we receive solidarity from the progressives in this country?
Critical Muslims are refused debate in Germany from two sides: from the official Muslim associations and from most Left and Green milieus. This is astonishing, and should be food for thought. In both camps one refuses to clearly name and deal with burning problems in Muslim communities.
Amongst others these problems are: the growth of a dangerous fundamentalism that is drawing ever more young people into the terror state of IS, the exclusion of women as second-class people, raising children through the pedagogy of fear, a hostility towards sexuality (simultaneously highly sexualised and made taboo), and a literalism that doesn’t understand the Koran in its historic and local context but sees it as dictated by Allah. Thousands of examples show how constrained and unhappy the adherence to these concepts makes people.
As long as the Muslim associations — as well as Greens and Left — deny that a traditionally patriarchal understanding of Islam supports fundamentalist Muslims, AfD and Pegida will have their say. The new right claims identification of the problems for itself — and it really does so: in a rabble-rousing and racist way instead of politically enlightening, sociologically clear and analytical criticism of religion.
No Solidarity from AfD
Wise and preventative politics must desire and prompt debate in the middle of society. A traditional understanding of Islam promotes sexual taboos and sexual violence. It has a huge influence on gender interaction. The events of Cologne’s New Year’s Eve have their example in Cairo’s Tahrir square and elsewhere. Young men forced into sexual abstinence by ‘religious tradition’ attack women in public. Observing this is not racist but a fact. We, Muslims, have this problem — the critical ones amongst us name it and need the solidarity of democrats in this country. We don’t want solidarity from AfD or Pegida, because that would be none.
An open debate without taboos will lead to solutions, to reflection and better prevention. And it will weaken the radical right and Islamists. It must also become clear to all that Muslims don’t want to be cast as ‘victims’ but want to be citizens with equal rights and duties.
There are many of us critical Muslims. More than you think. In April 2015 I helped found the Muslim Forum Germany [Muslimische Forum Deutschland] in Berlin. We fight for a humanistic Islam, for a debate within the Muslim community. We are journalists, Islam scholars, sociologists, psychologists, and students. And we are all part of this society. Dare to listen to us and discuss with us!