Leading representatives of Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim religious organisations, as well as the heads of employer associations and unions, and of umbrella associations in the fields of culture, sports and social welfare joined hands in the creation of the ‘Alliance for Open-Mindedness’. According to Zekeriya Altug, spokesman of the Coordination Council of Muslims in Germany, the Alliance’s objective is to speak out against fringe movements – especially those from the populist far-right – claiming to represent the societal mainstream. This sentiment – a thinly veiled reference to right-wing protestors to chant ‘We are the people!’ at their anti-immigrant and anti-Islam rallies – was echoed by the leaders of the other confessional organisations. The Alliance conceives of itself as a civil society platform without any party affiliation, seeking to offer a space for religious and social dialogue. Under the header ‘human dignity shall be inviolable’, the Alliance issued an initial proclamation demanding a less hysterical debate on questions of immigration and integration that would remain mindful of fundamental commitments to human rights and to the German Basic Law.
The Catholic theologian and philosopher Heiner Bielefeldt talks in this interview about legitimate criticism of religion on the one hand and racist Islamophobia on the other hand. Bielefeldt claims that as long Islam is in line with the German Basic Law – and theologically figures out how to do so – there should be no conflict within the German society. Criticism may be uttered in a robust, even satirical way, but the limit is reached when the discussion comes to a point of simple defamation and marginalization.
Heiner Bielefeldt is the former director of the state-funded German Institute for Human Rights in Berlin. In September 2009, he assumed the very first German chair for Human Rights and Human Rights Policy at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. On this subject he has already published, among other things, a book entitled “Muslime im säkularen Rechtsstaat – Integrationschancen durch Religionsfreiheit” (Muslims in the Secular State Governed by the Rule of Law: Opportunities for Integration through Religious Freedom).