Global Affairs – A Plea for Multireligious Self-Confidence

The Place of Islam in the European public sphere

The  Turkish born sociologist Nilüfer Göle, currently director of studies at l`Ècole des haute études et science social (EHESS) in Paris ist the author of a number of books in Turkish, German and French, in which she investigates the identity conflicts of young Muslims, especially women, in the European society. Several of her books have since been translated into English. Her latest book, an essay with the French original title “Interpénétrations: L`Islam et l`Europe” first published in 2005, was issued in an English version 2010 by Markus Wiener Publishers; as the title for the English editition, translator Steven Rendall and the publisher choose the phrase “Islam in Europe – The  Lure of Fundamentalism and the Allure of Cosmopolitanism”.  In a somewhat fragmentary way, the author claims for young educated Muslims in Europe to be a part of this continent, although- or maybe because –  Islam with its own value system is a basic element of their identity. The attacks of 9/11 and the subsequent debate were a decisive turning point in the consciousness of Muslims, who realized that they had to find a workable arrangement with Western modernity. The word   “Interpénétrations” in the original title was ment to should the non-Muslim majority in the most important European countries that they could no longer continue to ignore the fact that Islam had become part of their civil societies and that, instead, they would have to come to an arrangement with the Muslims living among them. Moreover, they would have to accept Muslims as European citizens with their own values and opinions that differ from those shaped by Christianity as well as those of secular-minded Europeans.

Turkeys “Third Way” between Islam and European Modernity

A main theme of Göe`s essay is the difficulty for Europeans  to define themselves and the European Union as a pluralistic  project that includes Islam in a modern interpretation. Europeans  need to rid themselves of the thought, promoted Samuel Huntington`s theory of  a “clash of civilizations”, that Islamic civilization is a hostile opponent to their own civilisation. What is needed is the realization that one can be member of the same civilization, even if one holds on to divergent religious beliefs and value categories. For Göle, the young veil-wearing Muslim women of the third immigrant generation in European cities like Paris or Berlin are constitute evidence for her thesis. On the one hand, these women identify with a conservative female role as well as with traditional ethical codes and sexual morals. On the other hand, they opt for a career of their own and pursue university diplomas and academical positions. As Göle sees it, Islam, for a whole generation of young women in Central Europe as well as in Turkey, is a means of becoming part of modernity and of finding their individual way of life in the world of modern Europe. They confront both the non-Muslim majority in Europe and the traditional Kemalist elites in Turkey with a new understanding of secularization – one does not intent to hide religious symbols, but instead bring them out into the open, without thereby forcing others to submit it.

In this context, both the ongoing tension between a (self-professed) Islamic-oriented government and the Kemalist elite in Turkey and the European debate about Turkey`s  application to join the EU, in Göle`s eyes are equally significant. Indee, with the help of Göle´s concept of “Interpénétrations”, a “Third Way” between Political Islam and Secularism may be within reach, as may be a Turkey that is a member of a truly multireligious European Union, in which Islam has long been represented by the Muslim immigrants in the Western European countries, where they share the public sphere with non-Muslim natives.

Cosmopolitanism als an alternative to radical Islamism and intellectual Islamophobia

For Göle, the Movie “Auf der anderen Seite” (English: The Edge of Heaven, 2007) by Fatih Akin, a son of Turkish immigrants in Germany, illustrates how the envisaged interpenetration of Turkish Muslim culture with Western European urban culture can work in practice, and how classic European attitudes can likewise become part of the Turkish value system. However, the best example of a modern European Islam, interpreted as a foundation for new symbiosis of Islam and Europe, are the young Muslim women mentioned earlier. Although they believe in conservative Islamic values, with many of them wearing a headscarf and  adhering to traditional sexual morals, these women, according to Göle, pose the  most formidable challenge for the radical Islamists, since their way of life is evidence of the fusion of the West and Islam – that is, of their own female individuality and religious spirituality, as well as of Oriental tradition and European modernity. Islamist terrorists are their enemies because the latter deny any possibility of finding an arrangement with Western modernity that does not require giving up  their own (“non-Western”) religion.

In summary, one can state that Göle´s Essay shows, at many levels, what cosmopolitanism amounts to and in which direction lies the future of a Europe where Islam is a basic ingredient. The book is a stimulating read and presents a wealth of new aspects in the debate about integration of Muslims into European society with its Christian roots and its basis in secularism. What is missing, unfortunately, is a common thread that would to connect the various theses discussed – one that  would offer  a coherent answer to the question of how how all these different aspects might be integrated. Nevertheless, Göle´s essay is recommended reading for anyone in search of a dissenting voice to the image of Islam and Muslim immigrants conveyed by such authors as Ayan Hirsi Ali, Oriana Fallaci, and, most recently,  the former Bundesbank boarder member Thilo Sarrazin. Göle´s essay in no way glorifies Islam – least of all of political Islam, which she characterises as a very real danger; instead, she offers the prospect of an Islam that has arrived in the modern world: an Islam that is compatible with European democratic pluralism.

Mohammed Khallouk

Dieser Artikel wurde am 21.07.2011 bei http://berlinbooks.org/brb/2011/07/a-plea-for-multireligious-self-confidence/ veröffentlicht.

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Über mohammedkhallouk

Herzlich Willkommen auf dem Blog von Mohammed Khallouk. Auf den folgenden Seiten erhalten Sie einen Überblick über meine publizistischen und akademischen Aktivitäten: Ich bin Politologe, Arabist und Islamwissenschaftler. Schwerpunktmäßig beschäftige ich mich mit dem Verhältnis von Religion und Politik sowie zwischen Westen und Islamischer Welt. Ich habilitiere über die jüdische Minderheit in Marokko an der Universität der Bundeswehr München. Außerdem bin ich Beauftragter für wissenschaftliche Expertise des Zentralrats der Muslime in Deutschland (ZMD). wissenschaftliches Profil: • 1993-1997 Studium der Arabistik und Islamwissenschaft an der Mohammed V. – Universität Rabat/Marokko • 1999-2003 Studium der Politikwissenschaft mit den Nebenfächern Französisch und Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft an der Philipps-Universität Marburg • 2004-2007 Promotion in Politikwissenschaft an der Philipps-Universität Marburg • Seit 2009 Habilitation im Bereich Internationale Beziehungen an der Universität der Bundeswehr München • 2008-2011 Lehrbeauftragter im Bereich Politische Theorien und Ideengeschichte an der Philipps-Universität Marburg • 2010-2011 Lehrbeauftragter im Bereich Staat, Religion und Geschichte an der Universität der Bundeswehr München Forschungsschwerpunkte: • Das Verhältnis von Islam und Moderne • Kulturdialog zwischen Westen und Islamischer Welt • Lösungsstrategien zu Konflikten der MENA-Region • Das arabische Judentum in Historie und Gegenwart • Integration der muslimischen Minorität in Deutschland • Der deutsche Mediendiskurs über Islam ausgewählte Beiträge und Publikationen: • Der Nahe Osten am Scheideweg – Haben Israelis und Palästinenser noch eine Chance zu friedlichem Zusammenleben; LIT-Verlag, Münster 2003 • Islamischer Fundamentalismus vor den Toren Europas – Marokko zwischen Rückfall ins Mittelalter und westlicher Modernität, VS Verlag, Wiesbaden 2008 • Die Orientierung am Wort Gottes als Fundament unendlicher menschlicher Kreativität, lamed, Zeitschrift Stiftung Zürcher Lehrhaus, 5 6, Februar 2010 • Franz Rosenzweigs jüdischer Existentialismus als Vorbild für den interreligiösen Dialog, Information Philosophie 2/2010, Mai 2010 • 1001 Fremder im Paradies, Mediterranes 2/2010 • Die deutsche Orientalistik der Gegenwart – Vermittler gesellschaftlicher Erkenntnis oder Instrument wissenschaftlicher Bestätigung islamfeindlicher Ressentiments? Ein Dialog mit Udo Steinbach, Aufklärung & Kritik, Heft 39, Juli 2011 Informationen über meine Lehrveranstaltungen finden Sie auf der Website der Philipps-Universität Marburg http://www.uni-marburg.de/studium und auf der Website der Universität der Bundeswehr München http://www.unibw.de/startseite/ Kontakt: mohammed.khallouk@yahoo.de Die Links in diesem Blog geben nicht die Meinung des Betreibers wieder. Sie werden zu wissenschaftlichen und Informationszwecken publiziert.
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