IfI Press Release on the Occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on March 21, 2009

Institut für Islamfragen

Islam Scholar: Not every criticism of Islam is racist

Bonn (March 26, 2009) – Islam scholar Prof. Dr. Christine Schirrmacher from the Institute of Islamic Studies, on the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, has warned against condemning statements critical of Islam as an expression of racism. The Institute of Islamic Studies thereby reacted to a press report from the Coordinating Council of Muslims (Koordinierungsrat der Muslime) (KRM) in Cologne and from the Intercultural Council in Darmstadt (Interkultureller Rat), among others, in which, on the occasion of the “International Weeks Against Racism” ending on Sunday, March 29, it was declared that hostility toward Islam is “the most widely spread form of racism in Germany.” According to Schirrmacher, higher education, the universities, and basically all professional fields are open to those Muslims in Germany who are open to integration, in frequent contrast to Christian minorities in many Islamic countries. Any lack of success on the part of Muslims, she pointed out, is to be attributed more to the lack of achievement and to language deficiencies, which often have their cause in the non-German-speaking parental homes of the migrant children, than to racism.

Apart from this, is it incomprehensible, according to Schirrmacher, that well-founded, objective criticism of questionable developments within a religious community, or criticism of a theologically one-sided interpretation, can be termed “racism”. Islam, as she said, is not a “race”, and neither are the Muslims. For Schirrmacher, this poses the question whether an established term for a form of selective discrimination is here not being instrumentalized for a political interpretation of Islam.

Distinction between violent Islamists and moderate Muslims is important

Schirrmacher confirmed, on the other hand, that the breach between Muslims and non-Muslims in German society is becoming larger. She sees the reasons for this, above all, in a failed integration and in the continued lack of a fundamental condemnation of violence in the name of Islam against women, minorities, and in connection with suicide attacks, as well as in the policy of self-imposed isolation on the part of Islamist groups.

Instead of condemning in general all Muslims, one must differentiate precisely between Islamists, who support the exploitation of democratic means for achieving the goal of the abolition of the free, democratic basic social order, and extremists, who are willing to employ violence in asserting their political-religious views, as well as moderate Muslims who are willing to integrate. According to the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, only 1% of the ca. 3.5 million Muslims in Germany has membership in an extremist organization. But, so Schirrmacher, an open and critical discussion about violence and power politics in the name of Islam and about such aspects of Islamic law (Sharia) that stand in clear contradiction to the principles of a free and democratic constitutional state nevertheless must be conducted and also must be furthered by Muslim groups.

A general suspicion of racist hostility to Islam in the case of a critical discussion of the claims and content of Islamic law, and of the social order prescribed by Sharia, leads in Schirrmacher’s view to a deepening of mistrust and of the social cleft between Muslims and non-Muslims. To forbid this criticism would mean placing the false developments within the Islamic community under a bell jar of immunity to criticism. The more the German society keeps its distance from Muslims in this process, the greater becomes the danger of a radicalization of the non-political Muslim majority.

UN Conference Against Racism: Libya, Iran, and Pakistan lead in its preparation

The UN Conference Against Racism, planned for April 20-25, in 2009, Geneva, has been criticized sharply. The United States, Canada, and Italy intend to boycott the conference because they fear that it will be misused as a “tribunal against Israel”. Islamic states already had used the first conference in Durban in September, 2001, for anti-Zionist attacks and inflammatory speeches. In Germany, too, there is increasing resistance to participation in the conference. The charge of partiality is directed, above all, against the preparation committee, to which Libya, Iran, Pakistan, and Cuba, among others, belong. While, in a first draft of the concluding document of the conference, Israel is to be condemned as the sole aggressor in the conflict in the Near East, human rights violations in Islamic countries such as the genital mutilation of women widespread in several countries or religiously-grounded stonings of female adulterers as well as the mass murder in the Darfur region of Sudan are not mentioned at all. As a reaction to European protests, among others, the concluding document is being revised once again at the present time.

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