The accelerated migration of Muslims to Europe and the natural spread of Islam through offspring will deeply change the once Christian societies. It seems that spiritual or theological differences between devout Christians and devout Muslims are then less problematic than the ideas about the role of religion in state and society. The real "clash of civilizations" happens between the illusion that public life was a religion-free sphere and the realization that this is not true anywhere. What and how people believe or do simply not (no longer) believe has the highest importance for the political, economic, social and cultural order.
The powerful omnipresence of Islam, from its sometimes provocative young women wearing headscarves in the street scene up to the representative mosques, makes the long-established population feel unsure. For what is it ready to stand up, if need be to fight vehemently by using only the weapons of the spirit, the argument, and of law? And how do the Europeans deal with the legacy of their own religion, with Christianity? Why do they thoughtlessly allow its falling into decline? In the end, the normative power of the de facto situation will always win. Minorities can become majorities, if they develop intellectually and spiritually "power". And majorities will become minorities, if they are no longer able to offer something. Whether a religion, and with it a culture is strong or weak depends solely on the innovative intellectual weight. It shapes being and consciousness of a res publica, also when faced with Islam: "Now tell me, where do you stand in terms of religion?" And in what believe those who do not (no longer) believe?
The in the West by the new Muslim self-confidence caused inferiority feelings, which are sometimes covered up by militant anti-religious arrogance and distance, give a deep insight into our real fears and insecurities. They could be a salutary signal that at the end it does probably matter to people what becomes of their common weal in the course of a religious transformation. Without a guiding culture most people cannot and do not want to live. But which dominant culture should and can it be? And what kind of tolerance?
Popular Initiative Ban on Minarets
In Switzerland's grassroots democracy, which has often been presented us as a role model, a popular initiative against minarets was launched. Pursuant to the request of the initiators a sentence is to be added to the Federal Constitution: "The construction of minarets is forbidden." After parliament and government the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Confederation has vehemently spoken out against such a "religious exemption clause". A ban on minarets would be a hindrance to "go the road of integration in the spirit of mutual respect and dialogue," it says in a statement. "Fear is also in this case a bad adviser." Minarets, like bell-towers, are a sign of the public presence of a religion. But religious freedom is religious freedom. It applies to all equally. After bad experience in history this achievement must by no means be given up, not even partially, not even when, as the bishops emphasize, religious freedom and freedom of worship is denied to Christians in Muslim countries.
In the canton of Lucerne the Muslims are already aiming at the public recognition, as it applies to the so-called territorial churches as corporate bodies under public law. The Muslims want to "be part of Lucerne's society and not act in the backyards," said Petrit Alimi, Vice President of the Islamic community, which represents about 13.000 Muslims in the canton. That means transparency through publicity, inculturation through legal equality.
What in this respect happens in the small "neutral" Switzerland as in a laboratory is of great interest for the neighbours. Throughout Western Europe there is currently worry about the path of Islam. Is it possible that a Euro-Islam with a liberal, enlightened character develops? Or is such a hope nothing but an illusion?
Dubious Idea "Euro-Islam"
The "Frankfurter Allgemeine" (September 9) has published an article by the Islamic scholar and political scientist Ralph Ghabdan, which has caused severe irritations because it accuses a mastermind of the so-called Euro-Islam of deceiving us. This article deals with the social philosopher Tariq Ramadan, who is characterized as "ambivalent personality" by Ghabdan. Ramadan was "adored as most elegant appearance of Muslim intellectuality neither prone to fundamentalism nor secularism." But according to Ghabdan's assessment the supposedly liberal Islamic scholar is pursuing Islamist goals. His Euro-Islam was not at all interested in adapting Islam to Europe, but he wanted to lead Europe into Islam. Anything would be justified, and the Islamic law - with some slight adjustments to local conditions - was the mean.
The Rotterdam University has just divested Tariq Ramadan of a visiting professorship. As reason for dismissal was given that Ramadan worked as a presenter for a London TV channel funded by the Iranian government. That means that the professor was biased and dependent. This was contradictory to his lectureship. Ralph Ghabdan, however, sees a much wider context. Ramadan followed the tradition of an Islamic school of thought that attempts to develop Islamic law for Muslims in the West. The basic position of this Islamic legal approach meant "that Muslims are to avoid the integration into Western society and to create their own communities, on the basis of Sharia law. On the basis of religious freedom in the West they demand their right to an Islamic way of life and hope on a fairly long-term basis to achieve the transformation of our secular laws into Sharia-compliant ones."
For it exceptions have been created, e.g. for the matrimonial and divorce law. A wife that converts to Islam had normally to get divorced from her husband if he does not follow her step. For the West one has provided an exception: The wife is allowed to stay with her husband in the hope that he will also convert. This is in Ghabdan's opinion "an opportunistic attitude aiming at missionizing the West." Mission was the "principal justification for the Muslims' staying in the West." But can we reproach a convinced Muslim with trying to win others for his religious convictions?
For it is a similar attitude of Christianity from the beginning, in competition with the pagan world, to make people sensible for the "unknown god" whom they already worship, as it were, without knowing him, and to instruct them to follow Jesus Christ. On that occasion the good of the Hellenistic culture was to be adopted and at the same time to be purified, cleansed of weaknesses and mistakes.
Islam without Theology
For the author of the FAZ-contribution with Tariq Ramadan, however, everything it aiming at creating a "Sharia in the West", which is self-sufficient and rejects any theological innovation. According to Ghabdan's view Ramadan rejects any Islamic theology. Any interpretation of the doctrine was out of place. It was formulated clearly, definitely; God's absolute Oneness was clearly expressed. God had revealed his name in the Quran. God does not depend on human interpretation or philosophical ideas. Ralph Ghabdan said, "That's why Ramadan is against freedom of thought, which he regards as the greatest risk to free, self-responsible people, when they 'think' they were able to read and to understand the world by means of their intellect alone." In Ramadan's view faith thus appears to be made absolute. It does not need the rationality of free thought, in order to justify God's existence and to recognize God. A kind of Islamic fundamental theology is out of question for Ramadan. The Islamic scholars have to content themselves with deducing by analogy their juridical orders from the one true Muslim faith in which alone salvation is to be found.
But Ramadan's derogatory view of reason does certainly not apply to all Islamic schools. His pessimism as regards reason certainly confirms that problem which Pope Benedict XVI accurately addressed in his Regensburg lecture. For this he earned much criticism in the Islamic world. And for the sake of peace he was forced to certain excuses in favour of the Christians in Islamic countries, though he was right with his critical inquiry into the role of reason in the Islamic understanding of revelation, in the knowledge of God, and the violent spread of Islam. So what about the rational justification of God's existence and of faith in Islam? And how is in the interplay between faith and reason not only reason but also faith under pressure to be justified? How has the understanding of God time and again to be reformed and corrected according to our world-perception? However, one has to admit that in this field not only Muslims with their religious scholars but also Christians with their teaching authority have still to cope with huge challenges.
Ralph Ghabdan finally describes how Tariq Ramadan assumes a global universality for Islam. "The Muslims are admittedly numerically a minority in the West, says Ramadan, but with their universal values they are a majority in the world. The universality of Islam, he is convinced, is its ability to integrate all societies." Ramadan thus represents almost something like the Islamic reversed theory of "anonymous Christians." That would mean: In a way, all human beings were "anonymous Muslims", they are just not yet sufficiently aware of it. The Islamic mission has one objective, Ramadan says, "The path of faith, the path to the source, the Sharia law teaches us to integrate everything that is not contrary to a well-established principle of our religion, and to regard it as belonging to us. It is finally the true universality of Islam." For it a kind of "intellectual revolution" has to be promoted among Muslims, so that they become aware of the universal dimension of their religion.
In Tariq Ramadan's view the West is actually long since the Muslims' home. They do not need integration. Controversial issues can be regulated solely by Islamic law, a kind of Euro-sharia law for all. Ramadan: "The application of these legal instruments should ... be in the centre of a global vision that integrates the West and converts it into an appropriated territory, a land for Muslims." Ralph Ghabdan draws from it the conclusion, what Ramadan suggested "did not mean the peaceful conquest of the West by the Islamic world ... but the integration of the West into the Islamic world." The Muslims' integration into the West is therefore unnecessary.
What does this mean for Islam and for its missionary presence in the West? Even if Tariq Ramadan sticked to strictly Islamist ideas, this does not mean that all Muslims in Europe think in this way. Besides, enlightenment, demythologization, secularization and individualization, which have severely affected Christianity, could be so powerful that they subjugate Islam, too, and cause also an erosion of its faith landscapes. Or are you rather to expect the opposite: Islam's self-isolation and sealing-off together with an increased tendency towards fundamentalism, traditionalism and hostility to reason? To what will the much-invoked integration of Muslims boil down: to their integration into the Western guiding culture or to a transformation of the West, pursuant to Islamic traditions, dependent on the regional population growth of Muslims?
At present, the Islamic world does by no means prove to be uniform. Not a strong Islam with missionary intentions, which basically only lays claim to what Christianity has once intended as well, is therefore the problem, but our very own religious lethargy, coupled with political and cultural naivety, and a weak Christianity without serious missionary intentions and activities. Mission means that you persuade people of the better by life and argument, by faith and reason. To do that, you are first to convince yourself (to allow to be persuaded) of the forgotten, suppressed, betrayed and thoughtlessly thrown away own riches. The better choice is not religious indifference, called secularism, but the imitation of Jesus Christ, a new Christian life in a new Europe, religious and sensible, critical and loyal.