Ein Vortrag in Budapest an der Central European University (Workshop „Liberalism after Neoliberalism), 6. Juni 2008
“We cannot excuse hostility against any religion under the pretense of liberalism“.
These words of President Obama – spoken in Cairo two days ago lead right to the center of my daily struggle. As a journalist and a blogger, I cover issues like immigration, integration, Islam in Europe, terrorism, xenophobia, islamophobia and occidentalism – the hatred of the West.
My daily bread is hostility towards religion – mostly Islam – under the pretense of liberalism. And at the same time: hostility towards the western liberal order under the pretense of religion.
We have to face both sides of the equation.
This is one of the most threatening tensions in our societies in Europe these days: the need to reconcile the secularist liberal order of postwar european countries with the advent of a new religion on the continent.
A mutual stress is felt all over Europe: accommodating Islam as a part of our social fabric and our legal framework brings out fears about the sustainability of our (widely varying) models of secularism on the part of the majorities.
And on the part of the newcomers who have decided to stay for good, it stirs fears about loss of identity and “assimilation”.
Many are trying to capitalize on this situation, and politically, it seems to be quite promising business in some european countries – among them the small ones that pride themselves to be especially liberal like Denmark and the Netherlands (an interesting fact that might deserve some discussion).
The dutch populist Geert Wilders – famous for denouncing the Quran as “Mein Kampf” for our days, just finished first in the European elections if we can believe the exit polls. He claims to be a liberal, in fact the last liberal left standing on the Continent.
His main point is the danger the immigrants of muslim origin pose for the liberal order of postwar Europe. He is very vocal in denouncing the “appeasement” of the well-established political forces in the Netherlands and beyond towards the Muslim’s illiberal lifestyle. Headscarves, forced marriages, genital mutilation against girls are the well known symbols for the perceived threat of islamization. Take the demographic changes within our societies into account, and “Eurabia” is dawning.
Of course there is reason to worry: Many immigrants are lagging behind in schools, they are isolating themselves in their communities instead of intermarrying and mingling, they are failing in the labour market and so on. And there are disturbing pockets of islamist radicalism in all European countries. The attacks of 9/11 were prepared in Hamburg. In Germany, would be-terrorists gathered in a place called “Multikulturhaus” – as if to mock the German approach to multiculturalism.
But this is actually not what drives people to support someone like Wilders. The emotional core of the anti-muslim-immigrant populist surge in Europe is the perceived threat of a liberal lifestyle by a wave of immigration and demographic change. This is why mosque-bulding projects in European cities are sure to draw such controversy.
And this is not a completely irrational fear. The question boils down to the subtitle of a very lucid book on the issue (Caldwells “Reflections on the Revolution in Europe”): Can Europe be the same with different people in it?
It is no longer just a debate between minority and majority, insiders and outsiders, migrants and natural born Europeans. Many of the most vocal critics of the consequences of muslim migration to Europe are themselves immigrants: Turkish, Iranian, Somali or Arab feminists for example, who have fled their home countries to Europe because of the lack of basic freedoms and who now face the undermining of those very freedoms by their own compatriots and coreligionists.
In Germany we have not just imported guest workers and their offspring – we have also imported the Turkish debates about secularism, religion and the nature of the modern state. Kemalists and Islamists slug the old battle for Atatürk’s heritage out in Berlin, Bonn, Cologne and Munich.
It is sometimes very hard to tell who are the true liberals in this fight: Those who say they want to preserve the liberal achievements of modernity often resort to authoritarian means. (Take for example the well known Dutch critic of Islam Ayaan Hirsi Ali. She wrote a comment about Turkey’s AKP government last year in which she sided with the Generals against the elected turkish government.)
Weiter„Liberalism and a „new“ religion in Europe“