How does one explain the phenomenon of Salafism? And what causes young Islamists the world over to take up jihad? Wolf Schmidt offers some answers in his insightful book “Young, German, Taliban”. Albrecht Metzger has read the book
The recent riots in the Islamic world triggered by a crude film about the Prophet Mohammed once again demonstrates how deep the cultural divisions have become between the Islamic world and the West over the past decades.
Most Muslims regard it as taboo to ridicule religion, whereas most people in the USA and Europe have no problem with such insulting behaviour, even when directed against prophets, whether Christian or Muslim. These are differences that cannot be so easily bridged.
At the very least, non-Muslims should try to understand the nature of these religious sensibilities in the Islamic world and what can set them off. For many Muslims, the defence of religious honour is a way of challenging the political, cultural, and economic dominance of the West – even through the use of violence.
This disposition to violence is unsettling, particularly in a prosperous society like Germany, where most people appear to live well in comparison to other countries. Anxiety rises whenever religious motives are involved, as the notion of going to war for the sake of the cross is one that has been lost long ago.
The height of misunderstanding, however, is reached in cases where someone is prepared to sacrifice their life for a religion. Most people in Germany see this world-view as a relic from the Middle Ages.
Sometimes good intentions are just not enough: a new campaign by the German interior ministry, says Robert Misik, only contributes to the widespread paranoia about “the Muslims” – and thus encourages the very radicalism it wants to fight
The German interior ministry is currently on the hunt for missing persons. In fact, quite a lot has gone missing from the country’s security services: files about a gang of neo-Nazi killers which got lost and shredded, for example. But that’s not what the ministry is looking for: the “missing” it’s looking for are called Ahmed, Hassan, Fatima and Tim. Their friends can’t seem to talk to them any more – they’ve become strange.
All four of them – the three immigrants and the young German – have in common that, in fact, they don’t exist. They’ve emerged from the fantasy of some PR-types who’ve thought up a nice public relations campaign for the ministry’s “Radicalisation Advice Centre”. What they also have in common – at least according to the brief texts on the “missing” posters – is that they have all drifted into Islamist fundamentalism; they’ve been caught in the fangs of some radical preacher and their character has suffered a deep change, so that their former friends don’t recognise them any more.
It’s not just Muslim organisations and immigrants’ associations which are up in arms about the new campaign; many people working in the integration field are also shaking their heads in disbelief: the campaign, they say, encourages prejudice and paranoia. They want it stopped.
As a presenter for MTV, Kristiane Backer was an icon of popular
culture. In her book Islam as a Way of the Heart she goes to the heart
of her religion to demonstrate that a tolerant, open Islam grounded in
the Koran and Islamic source materials does indeed exist. Lewis Gropp
has this review.