Interview with Turkish-German writer Feridun Zaimoglu

"A Muslim cannot be an identitarian"

In interview with, leading Turkish-German writer Feridun Zaimoglu is critical of the state of Germany's culture of debate. While unimpressed with Homeland Minister Seehofer's comments on Islam, he also has little time for the outrage of religious functionaries

Seehofer's statement that "Islam is not part of Germany" has been the subject of controversial debate. While some welcomed his comments, others reacted with outrage and criticism. How do you perceive the various knee-jerk responses – and the Islam debate as a whole?

Feridun Zaimoglu: Well, it's not the first time that a politician has stood up and shown his true colours. I'm not a fan of confessions and hollow phrases. Seehofer may be a repeat offender, but I nevertheless remained calm. It really would be better to forget these rituals of horror and indignation. But one thing I have realised is that there is, unfortunately, a nationwide penchant for immediate escalation and expressions of outrage. Those who behave in this way are not doing themselves any favours. People aren't actually engaging in a debate, they're just hysterical individuals claiming this or that. For example, I'd really like to see Horst Seehofer open the Koran. In it, he would repeatedly come across the following sentence:  "Have you lost your mind?!"

It's not the first time there's been a public discourse on the question of whether Islam or only the Muslims are a part of Germany. And it feels as though we're in some sort of continuous loop, because it is a debate that crops up time and again. The arguments presented by each side are mostly the same; there doesnʹt appear to be any real progress....

Zaimoglu: The question I'm left asking is: have they nothing new to say? If flogging a dead horse is a demoralisation tactic in this tedious game, then the players have succeeded. But it needs to end now. And because this is my nation, where I live, I have to speak my mind. There's a serious bout of navel-gazing going on in Germany right now. We need to talk less about the democratic culture of debate and do more to actually stick to it. And we need – once and for all – to drop the cheap slogans. Perhaps it would be more advisable to engage with real-life concerns for once?

Germanyʹs Homeland minister, Horst Seehofer (photo: Andreas Gebert/dpa)
Horst Seehofer, Homeland Minister, repeat offender: "I'd really like to see Horst Seehofer open the Koran. In it, he would repeatedly come across the following sentence: "Have you lost your mind?!"

As far as my fellow Muslims are concerned, I would like to say that they shouldn't waste their time focussing on the tired old slogans of people who may not be in office tomorrow. Statements such as these are not new and if you focus on them too seriously, they'll turn your hair grey. It's my view that what we're dealing with here is a clinical anxiety neurosis – and this applies to most of those involved in this game of conceit.

As far the Muslims associations in Germany are concerned, thereʹs not much evidence of them finding their niche...

Zaimoglu: Forget it! There's nothing to be gained by seriously believing association representatives and religious functionaries will having anything really scintillating to say on the subject. As far as I can see, they've organised themselves as groups of people who've been driven from their homelands. In my opinion, they contribute absolutely nothing to German life and German Muslims. Whatʹs more, they allow themselves to be swept along on a ritual tide of affront. All I hear is a lot of shouting. They have yet to realise that we are here in Germany, not do they really want to. But life is very brutal. What'll happen is – and I'm already seeing the first signs – that these functionaries, who are always ready to bleat their indignation, are being overrun by the phenomena themselves. As far as I'm concerned, they're phantoms. They don't relate to this country, to our country, they relate to an imagined realm somewhere out there. There are many new Muslims around the country who have no desire to adhere to such illusory thinking.

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