Federal President Joachim Gauck has refused to meet bereaved family members of the victims murdered by the right-wing terrorist group NSU (National Socialist Underground). The Turkish community had welcomed a meeting but the Office of the Federal President refused it.
Kenan Kolat, representative of the Turkish community criticized the reaction of the Federal President. “The President should set a sign. Many family members of the victims would have been disappointed by the results of the commission of inquiry.”
The reaction of President Gauck is peculiar. He condemned the NSU series of murders but did not take a clear stand in favor of the victims. In contrast to his predecessor Christian Wulff (CDU), Gauck refused to recognize Islam as an integral part of Germany. He has underlined the “strangeness” of Islam and its differences to the German and European identity. He related it to the historical strangeness of Western democracies towards Communism. President Gauck has shown understanding for the fear of Germans towards Islam and Muslim immigrants.
7 February 2011
In this opinion piece, Paul Schulmeister argues that despite the doubts raised by debates concerning the integration of foreigners in Europe, the notion of European identity does exist, and must be promoted. While on the one hand, we should not exaggerate concerning the difficulties that foreigners have had in integrating, on the other hand we should not shy away from wishing someone a “Merry Christmas” or giving a piggy bank as a present.
According to Schulmeister, European identity ultimately rests on the concepts of freedom and justice; the rationality of the Enlightenment; and a striving towards the absolute, which is tempered by scientific relativism. While the German Chancellor Merkel says that “‘Multikulti’ has failed,” what she means is that the ideology of multiculturalism has failed, given that multiculturalism has become a part of everyday life. Schulmeister states that “lip service to European leitkultur” is simply not enough: for immigrants that choose Europe as their new homeland, there must be an unreserved recognition of democracy, the rule of law, human rights, and equality of the sexes.
In this article, the author argues that Europe was not sure about its religious or secular identity and was therefore unable to deal with the challenges of the new Islamic presence. Referring to Christopher Caldwell’s recent study “Islam in Europe: Reflections on the Revolution in Europe”, the author claims that a minority with strong cultural and religious beliefs has a significant influence on a majority society, if that majority has “weaker beliefs and sense of identity”. This is allegedly the case for Switzerland and Europe in general.
The interest in resolving the social conflicts in which European Muslims are involved stretches back over the last 30 years. Muslims of Europe are more affected by unemployment and social exclusion than the rest of the population. Yet, it is not their social exclusion that raises the interest of European institutions and policymakers. Rather, the reason for their interest in the Muslim presence in Europe is linked to the fear of the radicalisation that could spring from the failure to integrate them. This obsession for securitising the political demands of Muslims has led policymakers by extension to consider these political claims as potentially destabilising and threatening elements to the European identity. A survey of the press as well as of policy documents produced on the relationship between Islam and social crisis since 2001 reveals that it is mainly when violence or political radicalisation is linked to Islam that institutional, national and local policymakers feel that the European identity is threatened.
During a conference in Grenada, Tariq Ramadan responded to Pope Benedict XVI’s recent remarks affirming that the Alhambra, the Moorish palace in Southern Spain and showcases Islamic architecture, shows that Europe is also Islam. He added that the Al-Andalus has informed the creation of European identity. Ramadan accused the Pope of resisting a plural reconstruction of the European past.
The European Assembly of Imams and Spiritual Guides had their inaugural two-day conference in Brussels, Belgium on February 25-26, 2008. More than 150 Imams from 28 countries attended the event which was organized by the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe (FIOE). The European Assembly of Imams and Spiritual Guides stressed the importance of creating an Islamic European identity and also discussed issues of Islamophobia and other contemporary politics in the Muslim World.
In Europe today, millions of Muslims are living in secular democratic states by their own choice, contributing to the societies they are living in and forming now a new part of European identity. European secular legal orders grant them religious freedom and equal rights. Nevertheless, certain challenges for both Muslims and European legal orders should not be neglected. Certainly, freedom of religion and equality before the law prevent legislation and administration from any religious bias. But current legal institutions were developed in a concrete historical and social framework, with Christianity playing a major if not crucial role in this regard. The legal integration of Islam, being much less institutionalised than Christianity or Judaism, has become a challenge for European legal orders. European countries have to find ways to grant the full range of rights to Muslim individuals and groups by re-reading the existing rules without altering their validity as such. This book discusses the above issues and tries to find answers to questions such as: Does Shari`a contain intrinsic instruments to develop rules consistent with this binding legal framework? Are Muslims defining themselves as a minority living in diaspora? Are there opportunities for them to actively participate in societal institutions, based on a self-understanding as an integral part of the societies they are living in?