The Crescent Over Berlin
This comment is from Alexander Goerlach, editor of German online magazine The European.
Islam is not part of European history - but Muslim immigrants are integral to contemporary European societies. It is absurd to invoke the Judeo-Christian tradition in the defense against Islam after centuries of contempt. We must learn to live alongside each other and respect each other as citizens.
Too much is read into the words of the German President. During a speech commemorating the twentieth anniversary of German reunification, President Wulff said: "Today, Islam is a part of Germany." He did not intend to make a theological statement, and he did not deny the importance of Christianity for European history and culture. He simply wanted to tell Muslims that they, too, can feel at home in Germany.
Germans must learn to accept religious minorities. And we should do a better job than in centuries past, when Jews and Christians lived divided by contempt and hatred for the other. When we invoke the "Judeo-Christian tradition" and hurl it against Islam, then we must be aware that such a tradition is founded on the experience of the Holocaust. "Never again!", that is the cry of Christians who remember how millions were slaughtered for their religious beliefs and who are aware of the shame these years brought over European "culture". It is shortsighted to say that the Turks are the Jews of today, and that Islamophobia is on par with genocide. But it is equally absurd to think that intolerance and societal exclusion could not happen again, today.
The Christian tradition has indeed left its mark on Germany. From the rubble of the Second World War, the founders of this nation pulled the teachings of the Christian God. The "responsibility before God" is included in the preamble to our constitution. It mentions the God of the bible, none other. In 1948, nobody imagined that millions of Muslim immigrants would come to live in German soil. But today, Muslims are indeed free to see their God in our constitution as well. They must not accept the Christian God to embrace the preamble. We should acknowledge that without hesitation.
There has been much discussion on whether the Judeo-Christian tradition should be included in the European constitution. Representatives from Muslim organizations have demanded that Islam should be listed alongside Christianity. That is simply wrong. Throughout its history, Europe has attempted to fend off Islam. The Christian religion and the culture that is influenced by it differ from Muslim religion and culture not just in the details. They differ in their view of human nature, of society, of the world, and of God.
Islam and European Muslims must strive to find their place in a world that is founded on very different traditions. Islam assumes to be the dominant religion, and Muslims might be better off in countries where Islam is the belief of the majority. "Islam rules, it is not ruled" - that is a core belief of the Muslim tradition.
But tradition is only one aspect. Change is another one. Muslims living in Europe today are very different - in their habits as well as their cultural horizon - from the Bedouins of the 7th century. We should acknowledge that as well.
The change we are about to see can be very fruitful. It is only starting now: Islamic clerics are being trained at German universities. Islam is included in school curricula. Mosques are being built and Islamic cemeteries are emerging. When we continue the rhetoric of exclusion, we are throwing a stick into the wheels of societal change.
In the end, the whole country benefits. Of course we must make it clear what is possible and what is not. Of course we must stress that the Islamization of Europe is not an option. It should be non-controversial that radical and reactionary imams are exiled from Germany. But who wouldn't think that the silent majority of Muslims agrees with these voices of unreason? That might be the biggest task ahead: to regain the trust of Muslim youths, to prevent radicalization by offering acceptance into German society.
In a movie about the life of Gustav Mahler, the composer is quoted as follows: "Baptism is the ticket stub of European society." Over the centuries, countless Jews abandoned their faith and sought Christian baptism to be able to participate in culture, science and society. And now we praise an alleged Judeo-Christian tradition?
Only when we accept law-abiding Muslims as citizens and as equals can we claim to be a great Christian, democratic and liberal society. The liberal ideology has the power and the claims to truth that will eventually break down any rigid and reactionary ideology - including Islamic fundamentalism. That is the Germany that Mr. Wulff invoked when he welcomed Muslims into our society. Our Germany can become their Germany as well. They must embrace it, and we must allow them to part of it.
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