Muslim Integration Eyes Wide Shut

In an interview with DER SPIEGEL, German feminist publisher Alice Schwarzer discusses the difficulties Germany has in dealing with its Muslim women and the growing influence of Islam in Europe.


For decades, people have looked on without doing anything as some of Germany's Turkish women were stripped of their rights. Why has this stirred so little resistance in German society?

Schwarzer: Because every denunciation of this abuse is immediately branded as racism. But common sense is never wrong: A women, who stumbles about beneath a mountain of cloth while her husband strides around in jeans or a girl who is supposed to enter into a forced marriage? That's a scandal no matter what culture you belong to.

SPIEGEL: Well, you wouldn't hear any accusations of racism from the political right.

Schwarzer: Do you consider all conservatives to be racist? The left, especially, has appealed up till now for a "tolerance of differences." But really, people who make that argument think that Turkish women are a different type of people in another culture whose rules must be accepted -- even if they're misogynist and misanthropic.

SPIEGEL: What have your personal experiences in the fight against the oppression of Muslim women been?

Schwarzer: Intimidation! It all started with my Iran trip in 1979, two weeks after the seizure of power by Ayatollah Khomenei, as I wrote about this new variant of fascism in "Emma." They certainly didn't make any secret of their intentions, just like the Nazis in 1933. People pegged me as a "racist" and "friend of the Shaw." And even today in Germany, no one wants to note that the so-called rebels in Chechnya have practiced (ultra-orthodox) Sharia law since 1994! I haven't heard any human rights activists protesting about that.

SPIEGEL: How do you explain this reaction?

Schwarzer: It's naked contempt for women, but also self-hatred as well as this German desire for beliefs. After the Nazis condemned everything foreign, the children now want to love everything foreign, with their eyes closed tightly. After their left-wing gods went into decline, they want to believe in these new gods.

SPIEGEL: Wasn't it the leftists who took up the issue of foreigners?

Schwarzer: Yes, but often under the mantel of the multicultural ideology, which I consider to be dishonest. They veil the fact that we don't treat others with a basic attitude of equality, but rather in a patronizing manner. This special kind of love of things foreign is just the flip side of contempt of things foreign. We've just seen in the Netherlands what direction a wrongly understood tolerance can take us in. These self-righteous fanatics believe they have the right -- even in our democracy -- to butcher non-believers in order to muzzle any criticism of their delusion.

SPIEGEL: In Germany, the recent headscarf ban has drawn attention to the living conditions of Muslim women. Marieluise Beck, the federal commissioner for integration policy, believes that women wearing a headscarf can be more easily integrated -- especially because they're allowed to leave the house.

Schwarzer: By so frenetically supporting the minority of Muslim women who demonstratively wear the headscarf, she's also stabbing the majority in the back who deliberately don't cover themselves. Does the integration representative even know what kind of moral pressure a headscarf-wearing teacher can exert on a Muslim school girl and her parents? After all, the Islamists consider an unveiled woman to be a whore.

SPIEGEL: But don't basic rights include freedom of religion?

Schwarzer: That has nothing to do with religion, it's politics. Add to that the fact that a teacher's job isn't self-fullfillment, but rather to represent democracy. If an Islamic headscarf is permitted, then why not a (full-body covering) chador or a burqa? In Swedish and English schools, girls have already shown up in burqas.

SPIEGEL: The courts have been dealing with suits from Muslims who want to assert their ideas in this country. How does Islamic law influence German legal practices?

Schwarzer: Insidiously. The Islamists have been conducting targeted propaganda in Germany since the mid-1980s. Their primary offensive is the social infiltration of their own people. Their second is the undermining of the democratic educational system. Their third is the infiltration of the constitutional state. In concerted actions they have, in the past several years, attempted to infiltrate the Sharia law into the German legal system. The flag of this crusade is the headscarf. Professor Mathias Rohe, a judge in the Nuremburg higher regional court who is active in this area, said very openly when asked in 2002: "In Germany, we are applying Sharia law every day. If a Jordanian gets married here, then we marry them under Jordanian law - including the "right" to polygamy.

SPIEGEL: You want to ward off Islamism using the constitution?

Schwarzer: Of course! We fought arduously for our freedoms, like enlightenment and democracy, and we can't allow ourselves to fall back from what we have achieved. Human rights are universally valid and indivisible, regardless of culture and religion.

SPIEGEL: What policies do you expect in order to protect women's rights and to counteract the influence of Islamists?

Schwarzer: There's much to be done because everything has been neglected. Mastery of the German language and the acceptance of our legal system has to become part of the criteria for naturalization. In the affected neighborhoods in the cities, youth programs and contact with the youth need to be actively pursued so that girls and boys are no longer so alienated from each other and so they are not open to incitement by mosque associations that are enemies of democracy. In these neighborhoods and at the university level, we need to actively and constructively put up resistance to the rat-catcher propaganda of the Islamists. And we have to give concrete aid to the acutely threatened women and girls.

SPIEGEL: Shouldn't the affected also raise their voices -- also in the fight against radicals?

Schwarzer: The silence has ended. The most courageous are already starting to raise their voices. And they're paying dearly for it. Following the murder of Theo van Gogh, the name of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Dutch member of parliament of Somali-Muslim origin, has been on the death lists that have been found. She's gone into hiding. Should we all now remain silent out of fear? No. It's time to ask for a little bit of solidarity from democratically minded Muslim women and men.


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