on the Germans' View on Islam
From: Herder-Korrespondenz, 2006/6, P. 274
webmaster's own, not authorized translation
Many Germans have difficulties with the presence of Muslims in their country and the attitudes towards Islam shifted in the past years into the negative sector. This is the result of an investigation made by the Institute for Demoscopy Allensbach some weeks ago. (See "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung", 17 May 2006)
In view of the atmosphere in the German population Allenbach's findings do not surprise. They confirm the impression suggested by many everyday discussions about the topic 'Muslims'. But at the same time you can only shake your head when you e.g. read that 40 per cent of the asked people agreed to the statement: "To prevent that in Germany too many radical Muslims live who are ready for violence, the religious practice of Islam should be strongly curbed in Germany."
Quite a lot of Germans were therefore in favour of granting only to a reduced extent Muslims the fundamental right of freedom of religion guaranteed in the Constitution. Just the 'button' "Radical Muslims Ready for Violence" lights up, and all at once many people are ready to establish for Islam in this country something like a 'Second-class Freedom of Religion', whereas at the same time one stands up for the free practicing of Christian faith in Muslim countries.
56 per cent of the people asked by Allensbach voted for the statement: "When the building of churches is forbidden in some Islamic countries, it should also be forbidden here in Germany to build mosques." Such an argumentation, as you find it time and again also beyond this current inquiry, misunderstands the fundamental- and human right to freedom of religion. A democratic constitutional state is on principle not allowed for that reason to limit the freedom of religion for certain groups within its own territory, because other states strikingly offend against this right. And the West can with good reason be proud that it guarantees Islamic dissidents freedom of opinion and freedom of the press, which they do not enjoy in their homeland.
Since in the sixties above all Turkish Muslims came as "immigrant workers" to Germany and so the number of the here living Muslims strongly increased, the Muslim minority and the majority of Christians, unbelievers and people of different faith live on the whole peacefully together, even though they to a large extent know little about each other. Really serious conflicts between Muslims and non-Muslims in Germany have up to now not yet occurred. In the Allensbach inquiry now 58 per cent nevertheless stated that they expected for the near future tensions with the Muslim population in Germany. Of course, such a thing can never be excluded with certainty. But the present living together of Muslims and non-Muslims in Germany could rather suggest the hope of mastering the inevitable points of friction than a "Clash of Cultures" after which was also asked in the Allensbach inquiry.
Islam is already for centuries part of Europe's religious and cultural reality, think only of the Muslim population in Bosnia and Albania. With Bulgaria's probably in 2007 forthcoming entry into the European Union for the first time a country with an indigenous Muslim minority will belong to the EU.
But also the Islam in Western Europe, which is the result of migration, for instance in the Netherlands or in Austria, in Belgium or in Italy, in Germany or France, will remain in its variety. In the meantime many Muslims became citizens of European states, even though they at the same time maintain the connections to their countries of origin.
By the way, the development of Islam in Europe is not detached from the movements and moods in the world-wide Islamic community with its at present strong anti-Western resentments and religious-political arguments about the Muslims conception of themselves - up to Islamist terrorism. But this context should neither here nor elsewhere in Europe be misused by reviving crusade ideologies, by talking of the nightmare of a creeping Islamizing of Europe, or by seeing in each Muslim a potential terrorist.
In contrast to this it is necessary to continue the small steps which were attempted in the Federal Republic in the last years in view of the Muslims' place in society. The efforts for Islamic religious education as school subject as well as the discussions between representatives of the Islamic community and representatives of the Christian churches or Christian-Muslim local contacts belong to them, as laboriously as they turn out to be.