Hans Zehetmair (Ed): Islam in Tension between Conflict and Dialogue

Judith Wanner

Hans Zehetmair (Ed). Islam in Tension between Conflict and Dialogue [in German only: Der Islam im Span- nungsfeld von Konflikt und Dialog. VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften: Wiesbaden, 2005, 409 pp., 29.90 €]

The Berlin Wall no longer exists, and Hans Zehetmair hopes that there will not be any insurmountable hindrance between Islam and Europe in the future. The chairman of the “Hanns Seidel Foundation” has edited a collection of essays, which aims at offering background information as a necessary tool for those who want to build bridges between the Orient and the Occident.

In this publication, 25 experts for media, politics and science consider problems and opportunities with regard to a peaceful coexistence with Islam. In their considerations, they often come back to three central terms: Dialogue. Dialogue should not mutate into a “dialogueritis“ (Johannes Kandel), an illness described as suffering from too much dialogue at a time. Due to wrongly understood tolerance, Islamists feel encouraged to take advantage of democratic structures for their monologue. Consequently, a few organized extremists exert pressure on the majority of Muslim immigrants and aim at a gradual „Shariatising”“ (Hans-Peter Raddatz), a movement pushing for adapting existing legislation to the Sharia. Only a critical dialogue – which needs background information as a prerequisite – can be an alternative. Understanding can only grow from knowledge. (Hans Zehetmair)

However, dialogue cannot serve as an alibi for political mistakes. Therefore, integration (2.) is important, being a process combining support and expectations, according to Günther Beckstein. Only if immigration is limited, is it possible to support immigrants fully. The expectation on the individual is a readiness to become integrated. Hindrances are the so-called “three T’s”: TV programs from the home country, as well as telephone calls and transportation to their home country. Also, Islamist organizations offer their own parallel programs for all areas of life to hinder integration.

However, in the end, it is a catalogue of values, which has to be accepted, if the cultural identity of Europe is not to be compromised. (Stefan Luft). Hence, several authors are in favor of the vision of “Euroislam” (3.), which conforms to the constitution, and which clearly distances itself from Islamism. This would definitely facilitate integration in Europe. However, essential parts of the Qur’an and of the traditions of the prophet would need to be invalidated, says Tilman Nagel, a Göttinger orientalist. Koran verses which call for violence against non-Muslims, or which concern the inferior position of women would have to give up their eternal validity without further “ifs and buts”. The 25 experts on Islam analyze the current state of Islam courageously, honestly and without illusions. Therein they do not limit themselves to Europe, but show the reader with the help of portraits from Islamic countries, how recent development in the areas of politics, society and religion appear. The last sentence of the book is a question: “How does Europe define its limits and identity?” The answer has to be found quickly. Only when European or German citizens have defined their own identity, which is based on Christian roots, will they be able to become equal partners, also in dialogue and integration.