Aren't Seehofer and some of the association functionaries that express such indignation at his statement to a certain extent similar? Anyone describing themselves as a "German Muslim", as you do, gets irritated looks from both sides. One side views something foreign in Islam per se, the other side automatically perceives the self-positioning as "German Muslim" as a rejection of Turkish identity. What's your view on this?
Zaimoglu: They are indeed brothers in spirit, because they're identity-hawkers. A German Muslim, as long as he opens his eyes and doesn't hide himself, certainly won't make the effort to fight for an outdated identity. Basically, the buzzword of the moment is conceit. After all, these squabblers are essentially just people whose arguments have been overtaken long ago. We really shouldn't allow ourselves to be misled, but unfortunately many do.
Out on the streets, votes and souls are being haggled over. But what we really need to do now is turn our backs on this racket. Many people are doing this, but unfortunately some Muslims still cling to a reactionary concept of homeland attachment. What is the most important thing to me as a Muslim? Dedication to the one God. In the past, the loss of reality and delusional entanglement has meant that Muslims didn't progress an inch. But this loss of reality, this delusional entanglement was not imposed from outside, it wasn't the evil Europeans...
We've experienced innumerable Islam debates in recent years, the political landscape has changed with the AfD, but also the Turkish-identity body of thought has become more visible over the past few years in particular. In your view, what perspectives do Muslims living in Germany have in the highly-charged atmosphere of today?
Zaimoglu: A Muslim can't be an identitarian. Period. A Muslim can't feel the need to be part of an ideological concept. In the past, I've repeatedly said that these days, it's certainly not about giving an identity greater definition by declaring oneself to be a spectre of the past. We're not ghosts. I do indeed see an upsurge in preoccupation with identity, incidentally not just in the case of the Turks, Kurds and ethnic Germans, but also Russian-Germans and ethnic Poles. All these groups have succumbed to a syndrome of idiocy and with that, I mean the mania of seeing oneself as diaspora. For God's sake! A German of Turkish heritage, born and raised in Germany, shouldn't be so cowardly as to evade reality. All he really needs to do – and this is something that doesn't take much courage – is understand his own circumstances. Escaping from reality only results in people turning into pillars of salt. What happens when you close your eyes to the facts can be seen in the ʹpickledʹ homeland constructs that exist in some parallel societies.
In recent years in particular, there's a sense that in view of right-wing populism and currently, increasingly frequent attacks on mosques and Muslims, Muslim associations are resigned to a certain marginalisation, with some also accepting it.
Zaimoglu: Isolation is deadly. Anyone who ethnicises himself has a problem. Anyone who doesn't accept responsibility, but says society is at fault, has a problem. This is about maturation. The way immature personalities function is to seek fault in others or put the blame on others. In this context, what applies to the individual also applies to an association of people, regardless of whether they cling to a religious or identity-defining image. We need to get away from this. And this is by no means a call to endure at all costs. That would be to encourage further entrenchment and paranoia.
Incidentally, I also observe this burgeoning paranoia in many self-ethnicised men and women who are actually ignoring their own self-made misery. So once again: go out, wise up and perhaps rediscover some of that much-vaunted German sobriety.
Interview conducted by Eren Guvercin
© Qantara.de 2018
Translated from the German by Nina Coon