Necla Kelek is a sociologist, and, like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, she wrote a biographical reflection on her life as a Muslim. She was born and lived in Istanbul until
19961966, when she was nine, and then emigrated to Germany. Her family had been living a Western, secular lifestyle as members of the minority ethnic group collectively known as Circassians. [Update to correct erroneous date 1-31-10]
She appears to be a respected voice in the dialogue surrounding Islam in the West. She has written opinion pieces for, among others, the nationally influential Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Unlike Hirsi Ali, she has not entered politics, nor has she been subjected to the ghastly treatment given Hirsi Ali by the pusillanimous pipsqueaks who control the government of the Netherlands.
Below is JLH’s translation from Europe News:
Sociologist Necla Kelek: “Islam Has a Problem”- - - - - - - - -
Merkur online January 7, 2010
After the attempted assassination of the Danish caricaturist Kurt Westergaard, Berlin sociologist Necla Kelek talks about moral cowardice in the face of Islamic violence.
The women’s rights activist and winner of the 2005 Munich Geschwister-Scholl Prize* ( for The Foreign Bride, Kiepenhaauer & Witsch Publishers) calls for Muslims to pledge themselves to citizenship: “There is no other way — unless you are determined on confrontation.”
Question: Thus far there has been little public reaction in Germany to the assassination attempt on Kurt Westergaard. How do you explain this silence?
Kelek: People just seem to be happy that the bombs didn’t explode and that Danes build ax-proof doors. There is a “duck and cover” mentality concerning Islam, as there once was during the Cold War. At that time, the public was advised to hold their briefcases over their heads, in case of an atomic strike.
Q: No clear positions are taken?
Kelek: The writer Salman Rushdie, who was threatened with death for more than a decade by Islamic leaders, remarked: “It is entirely appropriate that Muslims — that all people in a free society — should enjoy religious freedom. It is entirely appropriate that they protest against discrimination, wherever and whenever they encounter it. On the other hand, their demand that their belief system be protected against criticism, lack of respect, ridicule, and derision is not at all appropriate.”
Q: Do you fear that the attack could serve to objectify the fears of Islam many Germans have? How should Islamic institutions react?
Kelek: Islamic organizations always talk about “Islam” when it is a question of the right to religious instruction, the hijab, halal butchering of animals, and minarets and mosques, in other words, what they call their “religious life,” their symbols. They like to compare themselves with the Jews and their persecution and, with the help of Islamist sympathizers, they like to denounce critical voices as racist. That is pure diversion, and absurd. But when terrorists set bombs or attempt assassinations in the name of religion, when fathers kill their daughters in the name of “honor” propagated by tribe and religion, then according to those same people, “that has nothing to do with Islam.” That is bigotry.
Q: Do you condemn Islam as a whole or fundamentalist Islam?
Kelek: In the January 5 edition of Tagesspiegel, the political scientist Hamed Abdel-Samed aptly compares Islam with the drug alcohol. Enjoyed in small amounts and reasonable quality, this drug can be helpful, even illuminating. Consumed with abandon, it causes insanity, addiction, and is a poison.
Q: In your opinion, how will the attack on Westergaard be received by Muslims living in Germany: with shame and anger at what was done in the name of Islam, or with quiet satisfaction?
Kelek: The majority of Muslims have nothing to do with Islamists and Islamic societies. They are not organized, and they detest its actions and ideology. They have broken away from what is being propagated as Islam. Their Islam is a cultural identity and possibly a faith.
Q: And the minority of Muslims?
Kelek: The conservatives build mosques and run Koranic schools in which they do more than learn the Koran by heart. This is no more than 10% of Muslims, but they are well organized and receive money and direction from abroad. These groups represent political Islam. They are mostly conservative, they propagate sharia — the Islamic way of life, and in principle want a different society. Not every Muslim is a terrorist, but the perpetrators we are talking about call themselves Muslims. Most of them come from the environment of the mosques and Islamic societies. That is a serious problem for the Islamic community that cannot be brushed off with: “We have nothing to do with that,” since all (Muslims) invoke sharia — the path of guidance.
Q: Does the West have an obligation to be more understanding of Islam, and does the Islamic world have an obligation to outlaw the fanatics?
Kelek: Islam has a problem. It wants to be the dominant culture and not just regulate the lives of Muslims but also tell the rest of society how to act toward Muslims. Furthermore, Islam does not separate religion and politics, and is therefore not secular. It has this view of life and yet no unified theory of what this belief constitutes. It is everything and at the same time nothing. A ghost. In this sense, Islam is without responsibility, because the believer is committed only to Allah.
Q: What conclusions do you reach?
Kelek: Because of all this, civil society with its laws and values must set boundaries for this movement. One of these is: religion is part of our freedom, but it is not above the constitution. Muslims have to separate themselves from sharia. They must reject political Islam and unconditionally commit themselves to citizenship. There is no other way, unless you are determined on confrontation.
* Siblings Hans and Sophie Scholl were university students in Munich and members of the resistance group White Rose during WWII. They were apprehended distributing anti-Nazi literature, condemned to death and guillotined, all on the same day. The Scholl prize is awarded to a recent book which exhibits intellectual independence, is likely to further civil freedom and moral, intellectual and esthetic courage, and encourage a contemporary sense of responsibility.