The "Clash of Civilizations" in the Media

Suspension of Reason

After a Frankfurt judge supported her ruling with a reference to Islamic law, the German media prophesied the infiltration of the legal system by the Sharia. In his biting commentary Robert Misik takes a look at the German media landscape and warns against overall hysteria

Cover Der Spiegel
The Turkish crescent hanging menacingly over the Brandenburg Gate – Robert Misik looks at the German media's Angstlust

​​No, it is not true that there are only negative headlines in the clash of civilizations. Last week it was announced that Asterix and the Magic Carpet will soon be published simultaneously in Hebrew and Arabic. Herds of wild boars will be consumed as usual in the translations, although pigs of any kind are regarded as unclean animals by Jews and Muslims. The publishers want to "build bridges" between people. They say earnestly that it is a contribution to "international understanding."

The Gauls are a little crazy anyway, but in this case they are in good company. When it comes to the clash with the dangerous Islam, suspension of all reason has long been routine. In a recent edition Der Spiegel delivered a new dud – the cover carried the glaring headline: "Mecca Germany – The Silent Islamization." A Turkish crescent hung menacingly over the Brandenburg Gate. Remember, four percent of Germany's resident population are Muslims.

It was prompted by the bizarre decision of a Frankfurt family court judge who dismissed the petition of a German woman of Moroccan descent to obtain a fast-track divorce from her husband. Because he had beaten her, the woman argued, she did not want to be forced to comply with the mandatory one-year separation period.

Referring to the man's "right to use corporal punishment" in the Koran, the judge ruled that the beatings were not such an "undue hardship" for the woman that they would make immediate dissolution of the marriage necessary. To make a long story short, the woman will not be granted a divorce until May.

An incredibly stupid ruling. The reaction was unanimous: politicians on the left and right condemned the verdict, there was an outcry in the press, the judge was removed from the case and sent on vacation.

The message was unambiguous: the rights to liberty and equality guaranteed by the Constitution apply to everyone, regardless of which esoteric religious or traditional notions of honor someone subscribes to. All more or less the opposite of "silent Islamization."

Not to mention the fact that the Muslim wife not only threw the abusive pasha out of their apartment – she also took legal action against him. And, faced with an eccentric judge, she also knew how to enlist the aid of the media. Obviously, integration works very well after all.

The Spiegel's cover feature, an absolute panic attack ("Do we already have the Sharia here?"), is admittedly only the symptom of a trend in cultural life: the Muslim is regarded as dangerous. Angstlust (excitement combined with fear) is rampant.

In view of the international antagonism between "Islam" and "the West," ethnically segregated immigrant communities in large cities, Anatolian pashas, Turkish youth gangs, and headscarf wearers, even in intellectual circles people have begun imagining that the West is threatened. Even some erstwhile left-liberals now occasionally sound as though they were in the NPD (Germany's nationalist, far-right National Democratic Party).

There has long been a committed community of warriors against "Islamization" in the Internet. They warn against "Eurabia," grandiloquently call for a powerful state ("Islam should be banned"), debate the "dangers and secondary effects of Mohammedanism," and talk about praying with "bottoms in the air" and "immigrant trash."

All of this emanates not from an obscure Internet forum of drunken backwater skinheads, but from commentaries in the popular weblog "Politically Incorrect," which reports 25,000 visitors on peak days. That the powers behind PI are not lumpish Nazis from the corner bar is clear only from the programmatic header: "Pro-American – Pro-Israeli – Against the Islamization of Europe."

The saviors of the West had occasion to rejoice recently. "Finally," they wrote, "an anti-Islamic party" is going to be established. Nonfiction writer Udo Ulfkotte, the notorious former "secret service expert" of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and author of Heiliger Krieg in Europa (Holy War in Europe) wants to turn his association, "Pax Europa," into a party and run in Hamburg's state election.

Ulfkotte continually rails against developments such as the introduction of polygamy in Germany. The reason: a higher administrative court ruled that a refugee who fled to Germany with two wives may include both of them in his insurance coverage with the social security office.

The funny thing about all of this is that "foreigner" is replaced by "Islam," resulting in a modernizing tendency in the line of reasoning. Unlike the old German nationalists, the Islamophobes are not anti-American but believe that they are with the US in a front of "liberalism" against Islamic "totalitarianism."

They have replaced the virulent anti-Semitism traditional in right-wing circles with unconditional solidarity with Israel – of course, since Israel is literally surrounded by Muslims. That opens up possibilities for the most unlikely alliances.

Veiled woman (photo: AP)
According to Robert Misik, the so-called "Islamophobes" are not anti-American but believe that they are with the US in a front of "liberalism" against Islamic "totalitarianism"

​​During his most recent trip to Vienna, the tough polemicist Henryk M. Broder ("equal treatment of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam is tantamount to equal treatment of police and gangsters") met with Salzburg's Christian ayatollah, Andreas Laun, who calls for "bringing Christian immigrants into the country" because otherwise "the Muslims will turn Europe into a completely Islamic land."

FPÖ (Freedom Party of Austria) right-winger Heinz-Christian Strache, on the other hand, recently availed himself of Broder's journalism network "Axis of Good" during the presentation of his anti-Islam association "SOS Abendland" (SOS Occident).

"What exactly is going on in Europe, in the free West?" Strache read from a page out of Broder's scriptorium. "In Great Britain, piggy banks are removed from the banks because they might hurt the religious feelings of Muslims, who regard the pig as an unclean animal."

Silly, except that the whole thing was fabricated. The bank in question, Britain's Halifax Bank, declared that "we did not banish piggy banks from our branches – we haven't used them for years."

One of the sadder secondary aspects of the case is the fact that within Jewish communities in Europe an increasingly sharper conflict is raging between left-liberal Jews on the one hand and the rightists and radical right wing on the other – Jews who do not want to join in the "Muslim bashing" are summarily condemned as "kosher anti-Semites."

A more amusing aspect is the fact that the defenders of the West are wholeheartedly convinced that, in the struggle against multiculturalism, they are on the side of American-style liberalism. Yet even Bush's America will have nothing to do with such dubious friends.

Daniel Fried, Assistant Secretary of State in the US State Department, recently warned, "There is a bizarre climate in Western Europe. Panicky fears, such as 'Immigrants do not accept our values here; they represent a threat to our lifestyle,' pervade the atmosphere there."

The US wants to counteract this atmosphere. For America's admirers from the political lunatic fringe, the news is bound to be nothing short of a shock.

Robert Misik

© Robert Misik/ 2007

Translated from the German by Phyllis Anderson

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