Bassam Tibi was born in Syria and now lives in Germany. He remains a Muslim, but has come to adopt “European” values, which he feels no longer survive in Europe.
The article was originally in German before showing up in J-P in Danish. Here’s Kepiblanc’s prefatory note:
His ideas aren’t very clear to me. But maybe that’s due to the journalist from Jyllands-Posten — who knows? — I have not been able to find the original installment in German.
Considering the discussion on the very elusive ‘moderate Muslim’ it may be worth the effort to publish this in order to get some opinions from the readers and commenters here.
My own first response is: if he admires European culture (Leitkultur) how on earth can he still be a Muslim???
And now the article itself:
German Intellectuals Betray Europe- - - - - - - - - -
Bassam Tibi is Germany’s most renowned expert on Islam and the inventor of the term “European Leader-Culture” [German: Leitkultur, a common term in Germany — tranlator]. In this installment he explains his decision to leave Germany.
Germany’s intellectuals are leaving Europe. I say that as an Arab who came to Germany from the Islamic Orient — loaded with admiration. Not as a guest worker, but as a descendant of one of the oldest aristocratic families in Damascus and having the good fortune of being able to study in Frankfurt with two survivors of the Holocaust, Horkheimer and Adorno. Here I adopted a European mindset, something which no longer exists in contemporary Germany.
It was Max Horkheimer who taught me to acknowledge Europe as “an island — in space and time — in an ocean of despots “ I was impressed with Horkheimer’s request not only to be critical towards Europe, but to defend it against any form of totalitarianism as well: “It is right and a duty for every thinking man”. I miss that spirit in Germany today.
When Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh — being accused of non-belief — was executed in the streets of Amsterdam by a global network of Islamists (not a solo perpetrator, as German cultural authors so claiming reported) his executioner stabbed a note onto his body with a warning: “Europe, it’s your turn now”.
The whole of Dutch society woke up and changed its prior ethics of multiculture and tolerance. And in Germany?
One year after the murder of Theo van Gogh the Dutch government took over the presidency of the EU and at the occasion asked the Nexus-Institute to sponsor a research project titled “Europe — A Beautiful Idea?”
I was hired to take part in that project, and my task was to figure out what was needed within the framework of a more European version of Islam, in order to make European ideals more digestible to Muslims. Horkheimer had told me that the idea of Europe is based upon a perception of man as a citoyen (not in the narrow judicial meaning of the word “state citizen” or passport owner).
A citoyen is a member of a values-based community, and thus independent from religion and ethnic heritage.
In that respect I perceived myself as a German citizen and a European. My old Jewish friend Dan Diner used to taunt me with the words: “You can’t become a German, because here the citizen is substantial”.
Only after 44 years in Germany have I started to realize that the country of poets and thinkers — and especially its intellectuals — is an ethnically-exclusive club with no room for us foreigners.
The German press accuses me of being “hard to integrate”.
Is it true?
Am I a difficult, unique case? — My problem is that I believe in the European idea and take it very seriously.
To me free thinking is a blessing to the cultural modernists — and not negotiable.
Out of this the German intellectuals create a postmodern censorship and denial of the works of inconvenient dissidents. Journalists accuse me of being semi-scientific and others ignore my publications.
My books on the Islamic and Islamistic challenge which Europe faces aren’t read anymore because the cultural writers suppress them.
Just like the citizen only exists within the law, so does German freedom of thinking only exist on paper, not within the political culture.
In this respect I’ll tell two little stories: In Switzerland they have an institution that honors whomever defends European values. In 2003 they chose a European Jew, Michael Wolffsohn, and a European Muslim, Bassam Tibi, unable to find an ethnic European who did so.
One year later — as part of the project “Europe — A Beautiful Idea?” — European intellectuals were asked if they were prepared to sacrifice themselves for Europe.
Nobody answered ‘yes’ but the Jewish Holocaust-survivor Fritz Stern and the Arabian immigrant Bassam Tibi.
Since the 1980’s I’ve been fighting for cultural integration (not assimilation), since 1992 for a European Islam and since 1998 for a European leading-culture [Leitkultur].
The term “leading-culture” was adopted by politicians from CDU, and after that was considered politically incorrect, and perhaps now I’m — at the Integration Summit with minister of the interior, Wolfgang Schaeuble of the CDU — persona non grata.
It was I who founded Islamology as a study at the University of Goettingen, and now it is being shut down with the approval of state governor Christian Wulff.
Those CDU-politicians aren’t better then the leftist intellectuals who silenced me as an author. I was the first Muslim to get appointed to CDU’s Commission on Values. After a few disappointing experiences I wrote a letter of resignation to chancellor Merkel.
Is it really true that not only am I hard to integrate, but ungrateful as well? I’m grateful for my job and the protection given to me by my German passport towards my totalitarian native country, Syria. But is that the only dream of a citizen? As a citizen I want to belong to a society, get a cultural membership without denying my many identities, and not die as a stranger “with immigrant background”.
We strangers, whether professors or unskilled workers are, however, always outside the door in Germany. Defenseless toward our enemies, defiant towards our friends: that’s not what Europe promised.
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The author is professor of international relations at the Georg-August University in Goettingen, Germany. His latest book Mit dem Kopftuch nach Europa? — Die Turkei auf dem Weg in die Europaeische Union (Towards Europe with the headscarf? — Turkey on the Road to the European Union) has been published by German publisher Primus.