I spent all day yesterday pouring over the news, following every detail of the massacre in Paris, horrified and sad that these acts continue last year’s trajectory (2014 was one of the deadliest years for journalists). I grew up in Germany, a young democracy, and the fragility of our freedoms was imprinted in me early on, together with the vigilance and the effort it takes to be a good citizen and to live in a truly free and open society.
I just read an “Interview with a Muslim” at religion dispatches here. And I feel for Haroon Moghul. He concludes with “I condemn violence against the innocent. I think what happened in Paris was horrible. Do I need to say more?” No, yes, maybe?
I hear the “where are the Muslim mass demonstrations against this in Saudia” around me quite a bit as well and they remind me of the collective questions I often receive. Why did we bomb Gaza? Didn’t we know there were small children? Why are we not taking better care of Holocaust survivors? How can I justify the Occupation? — all this because I am a Jew teaching Jewish Studies in the US (which also means I am co-responsible for NSA listening devices but that’s a different story). I am still looking for a satisfying response that doesn’t fizzle, but it usually takes longer than anyone wants to listen.
Yes, these idiots in Paris could interpret something in their tradition to justify their murders and to scream God is greater while shooting people. Wrong? For sure. Was that Islam as I see it? No. Were they Muslims? Yes, and worse, killing in the name of religion! This, I imagine, must be difficult to square for Muslims because saying “they are no good Muslims”–which Haroon Moghul is explicitly not doing in his very brief remarks–is not enough. And, of course, most victims of extremist Islamist violence are Muslims. But, just as people such as Yigal Amir, the assassin of Prime Minister Rabin in 1995, or Baruch Goldstein, were terrorists who instrumentalized religion, they were was ALSO religious Jews who are still seen as heroes by some today. As someone who is somewhat connected to Jewish tradition, this is a bitter pill to swallow but YES, there are people who abuse ideas in religion and yes, they might be my co-religionists, nothing I can do about it.
Furthermore, and making this a bit more complicated for the west: these idiots, like earlier terrorists and no doubt future ones, are also products of the west. Most are born here, they speak our languages, study at our schools (maybe they don’t hear the message but they were there at some point), dance to our music, eat our food, they sound and look like us. What is wrong in our societies that we create such monsters? Because this is not just “a Muslim” problem, it’s a western problem. It will be a challenge to figure out how to deal with these events because there will for sure be more.
Many fear that Muslims live in closed societies but a recent study in Germany has shown that in fact Muslims integrate — but most Germans are not in the least interested in having them integrate. You can read more here. Instead, the idiots at Pegida in Dresden can complain about the Islamization of German cemeteries. Some findings of the study that stood out to my mind: 40% of all Germans said that the very presence of Muslims makes them feel like strangers in their own home. 24% think that there should be no future Muslim immigration. 61% of all Germans believe that Islam does not belong to the west, that’s 9% more than a few years ago. And this although Salafis make up fewer than 1% of all German Muslims.German Muslims do not live in a parallel society, this study shows. 58% agree with gay marriage – this is not the image of a closed-off conservative society cherished by so many. And where do people reject Muslims particularly vehemently? Right, in areas where there is virtually no Muslim presence. Sounds familiar…
Islamfeindlichkeit (great word, depressingly) is alive and well in mainstream society. What does that tell teenagers?
Image by Reda Philippe El Arbi