Criticism of a religion that goes against the fundamental principles of human rights, that negates gender equality and the acceptance of LGBTQ+ members within its communities, a belief that places religious principles above state law is commonly seen as considered backward-looking, totalitarian and extremist.
The Christian churches, still characterized as the haven of a conservative and male-dominated caste in the last century, have had to reform themselves, at least in part, from within. Critics of Catholicism, like the theologian Hans Küng, have been excommunicated by the Pope and stripped of their teaching license simply for openly criticizing the omnipotence of the Church and its representatives. The public in Europe has supported such voices, there have been protests everywhere and the debates in the media testified that institutional Christianity cannot go on like this. Even if the state rightly stayed out of the inner-religious debates, it was always clear that it advocates a constitutional state that would not tolerate any influence from a religious community. Critics like Küng were never called “Christianophobe”!
Things are different when it comes to Islam. The influence of conservative Muslim associations seems to be growing. European parties are vying to be heard in these associations without criticizing their worldview. Political institutions very often adopt the arguments of such radical Islamic associations when it comes to criticism of their understanding of religion: those who advocate a liberal and free Islam in Europe are unanimously labeled as “hostile to Islam” or “Islamophobic”. This not only applies to non-Muslim critical voices, but also critics who are devout Muslims themselves.
Only recently the German “Independent Expert Group on Muslim Hostility” (UEM) – founded under the former Interior Minister Seehofer and continued by the current Interior Minister Faeser – published its report “Muslimophobia. A German Balance Sheet” on almost 400 pages. Women who criticize the headscarf while allegedly ignoring Muslim diversity serve as an example of Muslim hostility. “The ignoring of these varying contexts leads to the generalization of Muslims and stylizes them as victims of a presumably male-dominated religious community.” Generalization is the keyword here that, according to the UEM experts, makes the difference between criticism of Islam and Muslim hostility. Because if, firstly, generalization takes place, secondly, perspectives remain one-dimensional and thirdly, pluralism is left out, there is not justified criticism of the religion, but hostility towards Muslims. “When there are no generalizations and other explanations for acts of violence are used, the discourse is dominated by negative headlines about Islam and Muslim women. In this case, the criticism may be legitimate, but the overall context must also be considered: Are diversity and other interpretive practices of Islam taken into account?”
According to this definition, any criticism of Islam, even if preceded by a lengthy treatise on Islamic diversity, becomes anti-Muslim if “the overall context,” over which no author has control, seems too negative to any panel. The problem with the report is not only the blurred distinction between criticism of religion and Muslim hostility, but also that the report itself uses the same principles above.
Because in the case study above, any criticism of the headscarf is presented as undifferentiated. What is left out, however, is that Muslim women in particular criticize the veil, since women in some countries are still threatened with death if they refuse to wear a headscarf. This overall context is ignored, as is the variety of criticism from women from Islamic countries and communities.
For this, ex-Muslim critics are branded as water carriers by right-wing extremists. One can hardly imagine more generalization, one-dimensional perspective and less pluralism. Some of the contributors to the report are classified as Islamist by the German security.
So it is not surprising that Muslim criticism of Islam is not mentioned and is therefore generally subsumed as anti-Muslim. Because Islamists fear nothing more than enlightenment.
In Western Europe in particular, the harsh criticism of Christianity by women’s rights activists has led to a loss of power for the churches. What the criticism has not led to is anti-Christianity. Nor has enlightenment led to misanthropy towards other believers or minorities. Liberal people generally have fewer prejudices than dogmatic believers. This does not prevent the exegetes of “Muslimophobia” from ignoring the overall context in order to repeatedly use Muslimophobia as a synonym for Islamophobia. After all, these “experts” know only too well that “ignoring varying contexts” could help preserve the power of a “presumed male-dominated religious community.”
Islamic scholars, sociologists, psychoanalysts, journalists, writers, philosophers, artists from the Arab and Muslim world – would, if they lived here, easily be accused of “Islamophobia”. However, with their ideas of freedom and a free life, they are closer to Voltaire than the somewhat simplistic advocates of “Islamophobia”; Without protection and almost without Western support, they stand up with tremendous courage in their homeland against religious obscurantism and for a cosmopolitan, humane interpretation of the Koran.
The “West”, as a way of life and a world of ideas – normally treated as a counter-figure to the Islamic world – is inherent in every human being, as long as “one does not drive it out from an early age”, i.e. also in Muslim-dominated societies. At the same time, here in Europe we have the talk of the jack-of-all-trades who are stretching religious freedom in order to have their peace and don’t want to see that in doing so they are giving up the freedoms of the non-subdued, especially those of secular Muslims, just like Western politicians who hinder the necessary resistance to extreme interpretations of Islam by disqualifying open criticism of Islam as xenophobic and racist. A procedure that works in the hands of Islamists like Milli Görüs and Muslim Brotherhood, because it “prevents a climate of liberating enlightenment in which the majority of Muslims could find themselves in.”
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