Dr. Sami Alrabaa
While I was in Hamburg, Germany last week attending a conference on “Islam between Dogma and Reform” at Hamburg University, I went with some colleagues to dine in an Oriental restaurant. The restaurant was crammed with people of all ages. After dinner my colleagues and I were involved in interesting conversations with our neighbors on Shisha and sweet tee at close tables. They were interesting folks. Omar, 32 from Lebanon, Uthman, 47, from Sudan, Sameer, 46 from Syria, Nawal, 25 from Iraq, Mahmud, 27 from Iran, Salem, 41 from Yemen, Zainab 21 from Morocco, Ali, 43 from Kuwait, Amina, 37 from Egypt, Javed, 39 from Pakistan, Dilara, 35 from Turkey, and others I cannot remember their names. All of them are Muslims, Sunni and Shiite. I asked them if they check out websites, pro and anti-Islam. They replied, yes they do, but they do not agree with everything they read and see. They have their own views about Islam and other religions.
Omar, who has been living in Germany for 10 years, said, “Once in a while I watch those video clips by Rosanna Rocco. The woman is nuts, she divides the world into Muslims and Christians. She talks as if all Muslims were extremists. She attacks the Koran and Muslims using very obscene words. She is not one of those Christians I know. I was brought up in Lebanon in a neighborhood where Muslims and Christians live peacefully next to each other and respect each other. We have always said, everyone of us have their own religion, but God is for all of us. Rosanna and her ilk fan the fire between Muslims and Christians.”
Zainab, who was born in Germany, interjected, “Most of my neighbors and friends here in Hamburg are Christians and Jews, and we have no problem what so ever. They know I’m a Muslim because I wear a headscarf, but they respect me and I respect them.”
I said but the Koran instructs Muslims not to take Christians and Jews for friends (Sura 5, verse 51). “One should see this in a historic perspective. Zainab added. “At the time, Jews and Christians fought Muslims, therefore the sura. But Allah also instructs us to be peaceful if the others are, and He is merciful and forgiving. As a Muslim I stick to the good teaching of the Koran. Suras like the one mentioned I leave to theologians to interpret. I read in Al Ahram Weekly that theologians at Al Azhar University in Cairo/Egypt are re-interpreting this sura and others. By the way, the Bible as well the Old Testament also advocate negative things and people simply ignore them.”
“Tell you what,” Salem said, “there is no war among the majority of Christians, Jews, and Muslims nowadays. It is simply a war between radicals on both sides; between the Islamists and their radical counterparts in the Christian and Jewish camp.
“Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Robert Spencer, and all the others, whose books I read, have discovered a good source of income and fame in attacking Islam. Not all Muslim women are oppressed as Hirsi Ali maybe was. I’m a Muslim woman and I have never been oppressed, neither by my father nor by my Muslim husband. And I know many Muslim women who can tell you the same.” Said Amina, who has been married for 13 years.
“Believe me Sir. It is a propaganda war between two extremist minorities with whom the majority of Muslims, and Christians, and Jews have nothing to do. I despise those who are fanning the fire.” Said Sameer.
Mahmud said, “I think the media and some PR agencies have made of Hirsi Ali a prominent star. A couple of months ago she was here in Hamburg. She was flanked by body guards like Bush or Putin. Those body guards are paid by the Dutch taxpayer and certainly cost thousands of dollars. And what for is all that? To protect someone who shamelessly attacks Islam? Since Hirsi Ali and the so-called Mohammad Cartoons things have calmed down. A case in point is Rosanna Rocco. Every body knows where she lives in Recklinghausen/Germany and nothing has happened to her, nobody has protested against her, although she calls the Prophet Muhammad a ‘crazy’ man and ‘Islam is a violent religion’ and other things worse than that. I’m sure she would love to be assaulted by fanatic Muslims so that she becomes a hero, famous, and makes money.”
“Certainly, Muslim terrorists have tarnished Islam. They also kill innocent Muslims in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and elsewhere, which is forbidden in Islam, check out sura 4, verse 93 which says if a Muslim kills another innocent Muslim, it is as if he had killed the whole mankind. We Muslims also condemn killing innocent people whether they are Muslims or not. Terrorists are murderers, regardless if they are Muslims, Christians, or Jews.” Salem said.
“The media, in particular in the West, mix up things. When a Turk kills his sister to allegedly protect the honor of the family, the media rush to blame it on Islam. In reality, Islam has nothing to do with all that, it is a cultural practice in the Turkish society and other Middle Easter countries. When, however, a Christian kills another person, nobody mentions his religion. Also, when a black man kills another person, his skin color is highlighted. The media love such stories. It is high time that the media left out religion when a murder is committed. No religion on earth approves of killing human beings. I’m from a Turkish descent and have a Christian German boyfriend. My Muslim Turkish parents know that and tolerate it. They would never kill me for that. ” Dilara said.
Sameer, who has been living in Germany for the past twenty years, said, “Islam is still a new phenomenon in Germany. 20 years ago, the right-wingers in this country campaigned for cleansing Germany from foreigners. After 9/11 they realized that they also had Muslims, 3 million of them. The campaign, spearheaded by the media and some politicians, turned attention to Muslims. The point I want to make here is that the media here talk about Muslims and not with them. Once in a while some German TV channels invite chairpersons of dubious Muslim organizations who defend weird positions; conservative, dogmatic positions. They actually represent themselves, at best, but not me and other ordinary Muslims.”
“What strikes me is the reaction of some Germans, I’m not saying Christians, to the construction of a mosque in Cologne. Even liberal secular thinkers like Ralph Giordano fell prey to the propaganda of Islamists. They are made believe that the Caliphate is coming to Germany and will soon introduce the Shari’a and rule. This is rubbish. The majority of Muslims living in Germany believe in the German Constitution and abide by its rules.” Uthman argued.
“Eventually the key to peaceful co-existence among all religious groups in Germany is actually in the hands of the German majority. If they succeed in integrating German Muslims – by the way most of us here have the German nationality, some of us have even been born here – in the German society, or at least do not antagonize them, I think, there will be no room for Muslim extremism, and we will all live in peace.” Said Javed, who was also born in Germany to a Pakistani physician and a German mother.
Ali interrupted, “Still there are German politicians who try to blame the failure of their politics on non-native Germans, on the Turks, for instance. Two weeks ago, the Minister of Education, Barbara Sommer, in the federal state of NRW, stated in several interviews that there are too many Turkish and Arab students at German schools. She also said that these students are spoiling the quality of “our education system’.” Ali added, “First of all, this not true. Secondly, this is music to the ears of Muslim extremists. They would go around arguing, ‘you see, they don’t like you. So let’s fight them’.”
Frankly, I was thrilled by the above discussion. I learned much more about ordinary Muslims in Germany than over a three-day academic debate based rather on theory than on practice. Undoubtedly, Islam, through the Muslim colony in Germany, has established itself as a religion like all the others. Besides, Muslims in this country, and for that matter across the globe, are as religious, more or less religious, like all other people. Most of them reject extremism.
I am also pretty sure that we are all going through a cultural shock triggered by an unprecedented wave of violence led by Islamists. Before 9/11 the Germans and all Europeans divided the world into the Christian Occident the Muslim Orient. After 9/11 they realized that some of the 1.3 billion Muslims across the globe are living amongst them. The above discussion has proved beyond any doubt that the Muslim neighbors are not more religious or less religious than the Germans themselves. They are ordinary people like you and me. They are simply peaceful Muslims.
Sooner or later the heat of the cultural shock will calm down, and people like Hirsi Ali and Spencer will be completely ignored. No body will buy their propaganda.