Long-Awaited Response to Sarrazin’s Book Hits German Bookshelves: A Review

25 March 2011

Patrick Bahners, editor-in-chief of the arts and culture pages of the conservative FAZ, has published a book about the hysteric German debate around Islam. In this article, the reviewer of “Die Panikmacher” (“The Alarmists”) finds that Bahners shrewdly dismantles the arguments of prominent Islam critics like Thilo Sarrazin, Henryk M. Broder and Necla Kelek. Bahners sheds light on the strategies of Islam critics, who oftentimes argue from an absolutist point of view, rejecting any form of dialogue as well as the model of the welfare state. Despite missing a few amendments, such as a comparison with neighbouring countries like Austria, the reviewer welcomes the publication very much.

Patrick Bahners: “Die Panikmacher. Die deutsche Angst vor dem Islam”. C. H. Beck Verlag, München 2011.

Turkish primary school plans stir controversy in Freiburg

An association of Turkish academics plans to open a primary school in Freiburg, which ideally caters for all children, but bears a particular Turkish and Islamic outlook. The association would not be the first to open an educational institution for mainly Turkish children, but this time the project is influenced by a particular ideology, that of Turkish preacher Fethullah Gülen. Critics warn of a school that enforces the isolation of Turkish children and impedes their learning German. Fethullah Gülen is accused, for example by Necla Kelek, of promoting an “Islamic chauvinism”. The city council is currently evaluating the plans and might grant permission to go ahead with the project already this coming school year.

“Islam humiliates women”: Interview with Necla Kelek

The Turkish-German sociologist Necla Kelek (52) is one of the most renowned critics of Islam in Germany. Her new book warns of playing Islam down (“Himmelsreise. Mein Streit mit den Wächtern des Islam” – Journey to heaven: My dispute with the guards of Islam”).

In this interview, she explains her view of German society and its strong sense of responsibility after World War II. This otherwise very important trait of not criticising other cultures has led to a reluctancy to criticise Islam, even when it appears in a discriminatory form. According to Kelek, who is very critical of Islamic culture, no other culture discriminates against women the way Islam does, and this can be derived from the Quran. She calls for a historic interpretation of the Quran, absolute equality of men and women and for an education of imams at state universities rather than religious institutions.

“Islam humiliates women”: Interview with Necla Kelek

The Turkish-German sociologist Necla Kelek (52) is one of the most renowned critics of Islam in Germany. Her new book warns of playing Islam down (“Himmelsreise. Mein Streit mit den Wächtern des Islam” – Journey to heaven: My dispute with the guards of Islam”).

In this interview, she explains her view of German society and its strong sense of responsibility after World War II. This otherwise very important trait of not criticizing other cultures has led to a reluctance to criticize Islam, even when it appears in a discriminatory form. According to Kelek, who is very critical of Islamic culture, no other culture discriminates against women the way Islam does, and this can be derived from the Quran. She calls for a historic interpretation of the Quran, absolute equality of men and women and for an education of imams at state universities rather than religious institutions.

Is is possible to criticize Islam? Summary of a heated debate in Germany

For a few weeks now, German media have been involved in a heated debate on whether it is possible to Islam and if so, in what way. While some argue for a strong distinction of Islam and Islamism (with only the latter calling for criticism), others hold Islam responsible also for its extremist forms and therefore claim it necessary to criticize the whole of Islam. The first, pro-Islamic position thinks of the other, pro-critique attitude as harshly intolerant, while in return they are accused of being apologetic of suppression and Islamic extremism. Mutual accusations and Nazi-comparisons add to the heat of the debate.

It started in early January 2010, possibly triggered by several events. First, the ongoing discussion on the impact of the Swiss minaret ban, later the attempted murder of caricaturist Kurt Westergaard, but in Germany also the reprint of Henryk Broder’s book “Hurra, wir kapitulieren” (Hooray, we surrender!). Broder, a prominent writer, journalist and very liberalist member of the pro-critique camp, claims that Muslims do not speak out against crimes committed in name of Islam and therefore tolerate and foster extremism. His deliberately provocative writings always stir an emotional debate and did not fail to do so this time.

In the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, feuilleton chief editor Claudius Seidl strongly argues for distinguishing Islam from Islamism, for not neglecting human rights violations by extreme Islamists, but at the same time recognising the racist potential that the criticism of Islam evidently bears. In the Süddeutsche Zeitung feuilleton, Thomas Steinfeld argues in a similar way against Broder and refers to the intolerant fighters on both sides as “hate preachers”. In the same paper, Wolfgang Benz had warned about right-wing Islam critics who employ the same methods as anti-Semitists in the 19th century. Another article on the pro-Islam side in the tageszeitung by Birgit Rommelspacher is wary of feminist critique that holds a whole religion or culture responsible for suppression, implying a proximity to right-wing and Nazi ideologies, until finally Necla Kelek appears in the debate.

A social scientist and feminist of Turkish background, Necla Kelek is a strong critic of Islam, which she sees as a patriarchal and authoritarian system. Having suffered from this during her childhood, she distanced herself from Islam, while still actively engaging in debates on the topic, also as a Muslim. Her article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, a critical account of the criticism of Islam, strongly opposes the previous articles, calls for a criticism of Islam, which she does not regard equal to racism, and vehemently defends “Western values” and liberty as the ultimate resource for all people, including Muslims. Hamed Abdel-Samad claims in Die Welt that criticism of Islam is essential if Muslims are to be taken seriously and especially Muslims themselves must start this debate. Jens Jessen, feuilleton chief editor of Die ZEIT, sums up the main points by asking what was worse, trivialising Islamism or condemning Islam altogether? To what extent could Islam be equated with Islamism? Eventually Jessen calls for a true and analytic understanding of the Islamic religion while not being tolerant of intolerance. On Qantara.de Stefan Weidner provides a summary of the German debate of “Islamkritik” and looks at the role that Muslims play in it.

Islam without Angst

English summary: This Wednesday in Berlin the Islam conference begins. Islamic critic Necla Kelek demands of this conference a clear formulation of a fundamental religious understanding that can govern the everyday life of Muslims. Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has invited representatives from the Muslim Federation and from the Muslim Civil Society to the conference. Through this meeting, as well as in closed workgroups throughout the next two years, these representatives should, along with representatives of the German states, develop rules for Islamic religious instruction, for the formation of imams in Germany, and for a coalition of the 3.2 million Muslims who live in this country. One of the participants is sociologist Necla Kelek, who has for years fought against honor killings and polygamy, and for the rights of Muslim women and girls. —– Article in German: Islam ohne Angst In Berlin beginnt an diesem Mittwoch die Islam-Konferenz. Die Islam-Kritikerin Necla Kelek fordert von ihr eine klare Abgrenzung von einem fundamentalistischen Religionsverst_ndnis, das den Alltag der Moslems beherrsche. Zu der Konferenz hat Bundesinnenminister Wolfgang Sch_uble Vertreter der muslimischen Verb_nde und Repr_sentanten der muslimischen Zivilgesellschaft eingeladen. Sie sollen bei dem Treffen sowie in anschlie_enden Arbeitsgruppen in den n_chsten zwei Jahren, zusammen mit Vertretern des deutschen Staates, unter anderem Regeln f_r eine islamischen Religionsunterricht, die Ausbildung von Imamen in Deutschland und f_r eine gemeinsame Vertretung der hier lebenden 3,2 Millionen Moslems erarbeiten. Eine der Teilnehmerinnen ist die Soziologin Necla Kelek, die seit Jahren gegen Ehrenmorde und Zwangsheiraten und f_r die Rechte der muslimischen Frauen und M_dchen k_mpft.

Necla Kelek: “Immigrants Set up More Borders”

Necla Kelek, the Turkish-born sociologist and widely read author, argued in a debate that the German “multi-kulti” model is misapplied or has failed, insofar as it allows self-inflicted social isolation and discrimination – such as Muslim fathers keeping their daughters away from standard swimming lessons in school -, and that carving out new “religiously justified liberties” is not compatible with a democractic system. Her debating partner, Bishop Wolfgang Huber, pointed to the failure of the German education system as an additional cause of cultural intolerance. They agreed that successful integration presupposes some sort of shared social, cultural and civic identity.