The Return of Religious Identities
As paradox as it may sound: all was still right with the world 11 September 2001. And even the attacks by Osama bin Laden's murderous sect did not completely upset the world order.
For some time afterwards, it was still possible to agree that a new totalitarianism, "Islamism", had made the free world its target. There was no clash of the civilisations. It was a clash of liberty against the powers of anti-freedom.
Seven years later, we live with a daily petty clash of the civilisations – with all kinds of tensions, but also with attempted murder, such as the most recent knife attack on a rabbi in Frankfurt. An isolated case? Isolated cases don't come out of the blue.
Deep-seated social pathology
One can still pussy-foot around the issue, one would almost like to say. Maintain that it's simply the pathology of radical Muslims alone. But all the talk of the "civilisations", the "identities" and the "return of the religions" has long since resulted in a far deeper-seated social pathology.
Gone are the days of the post-modern ideas of patchwork identities and self-determined life stories. People, no matter how complex their lives may be, are once again rendered first and foremost the product of their religious origins. They are categorised – and categorise themselves – on the basis of cultural fractures.
Progress of civilisation against the will of the churches
Muslims are under general suspicion. The Christian churches see differentiation as their chance – and maintain in the same breath that even the Enlightenment is a result of the "Judao-Christian heritage".
That is not only abstruse, as every single element of progress in western civilisation had to be wrested from the churches, but has a fanatical subtext: "the others" just don't belong to "us".
An echo of the fanaticism that has always been a part of the great monotheisms, despite the secular guise. Even in its attempt to tame the passions, society places hope at the door of religion: there is no round table on integration policy without imams, bishops and rabbis.
That's what signifies 9/11 syndrome: the return of religious identities to public discourse.
© Robert Misik 2007
Translated from the German by Katy Derbyshire