Rafik Schami on integration

″To the haters, they′re all faceless Muslims″

In this article, the Syrian-German writer Rafik Schami outlines his idea of integration and hospitality.

The Germans, according to Schami, are strangers in their own land. But it didn′t take foreigners and refugees to create this situation: many Germans already had a dysfunctional relationship with their country.

Being afraid of what is foreign isn′t a sin itself, says Schami – and it certainly isn′t racism. You just have to talk openly about the fear. The racists are the people who stigmatise foreigners.

The cloak of invisibility

The professional scaremongers use Islamophobia as a cloak of invisibility to hide their racist attitudes. The aim of the word is to stoke the hatred of foreigners – most recently refugees, Muslims. No matter whether they are first, second or third generation immigrants, or have been living in Germany for 50 years, peacefully contributing to the civilisation of this country; whether they work down the pits, on the production line, cleaning buildings, or if they design and build houses, work in front of or behind the camera, sing, paint, compose or tell stories; whether their work takes them on stage or to patients′ bedsides.

To the haters, they are all faceless Muslims. Now let′s take just five minutes to put ourselves in the position of a peace-loving person in this country, who just happens to belong to the Muslim minority. Despite all the decades he has spent here, he is treated to a defamatory slap in the face, whether it be a silly cartoon that shows his Prophet with a bomb in his turban, or the tirades of Thilo Sarrazin and his defenders Udo Ulfkotte and Peter Sloterdijk.

The haters′ constant defamation of Muslims is increasing the number of Muslims who don′t feel accepted in this country. It is a bitter feeling to be publically defamed after so many years, without a judge bringing charges against those unleashing the tirades of hatred. So what does the average Muslim, who has never been an Islamist, do?  He becomes defensive, uninterested in German society and prepared to adopt a fundamentalist philosophy, thus helping him to understand in a fairly cool and pseudo-rational way why the Germans hate him.

The headscarves are less a success on the part of the fundamentalists than a failure by our society to protect and integrate this minority. For more than 20 years Turkish and Arab women in Germany didn′t wear headscarves, or wore them only occasionally. The foreigner is not to blame for xenophobia; the blame lies with the people speculating about mistakes he hasn′t made yet.

We could garner huge support from our Muslim citizens in helping to integrate the refugees who have been granted asylum here. But no, that′s too complicated for the old rabble-rousers. Foreigners out! That′s their facile conviction. The hater of Muslims and the anti-Semite are both striving for one goal: the exclusion of a heterogeneous group from ″respectable society″ which is under threat, as if they were dealing with a vicious mob. The anti-Semites use the Talmud and the Muslim-haters use the Koran as a witness to their wickedness.

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