The recent interview with the sociologist Necla Kelek showed a little bit about how she approaches Islam. The interview below is more self-conscious, giving us — among other things — some idea of what she thinks about the more strident bleeding hearts. The reporter quotes one phrase that the PCers like to aim at Kelek: “fundamentalist of the Enlightenment.” It betrays their frustration that their posturing, name-calling and shouting are simply answered with deadly logic.
And the translated interview from Die Welt:
“Muslims are not self-critical”- - - - - - - - -
by Andrea Seibel
January 27, 2010
Turkish-born German sociologist and author Necla Kelek on criticism of Islam, on Muslim officials, and on overcoming sharia.
A debate has broken out in the German media about the limits of criticism of Islam. In the course of the debate, an “Islamophobia” is asserted, which many consider to be just as fundamentalist as Islamic fundamentalism itself. Henryk M. Broder (January 13), Hamed Abdel-Samad (January 19) and Thierry Chervel (January 23) have all written here on that subject. One of the Islam-critics attacked is sociologist Necla Kelek. She defends her position in a conversation with Andrea Seibel.
Welt: You are considered an Islam Critic. What is that, exactly? Kelek: Those who call me that can certainly answer that better, and they do not mean it positively. I have studied sociology and economics, earned my degree in “Islam in Everyday Life,” and am working on the social dimensions of this religion. I am a Muslim who is grappling critically with my religion and wants to open Islam up to civil society. Welt: How did you arrive at this theme for your life? Kelek: When I first began my studies, I was happy to have escaped the Turkish-Islamic community, and concerned myself exclusively with Western philosophy and methodology. But as an immigrant, you can’t escape your socialization. I studied the situation of Turkish women in a foreign country. Sometimes it seems to me as if this subject chose me. At some point, I could no longer look the other way. What goes on in the Turkish community is very different from the concentration of prevalent immigration studies. Welt: Why does criticism repeatedly rage around you and other Islam critics?
Kelek: It is not about me, but about reality. It is because so few other Muslims look at things critically. I have been living with criticism since the publication of “The Foreign Bride,” and it will start up again in a few weeks when my new book on Islam appears. At first I was interesting for some journalists, because I had broken a taboo by discussing “coercion to marry.” However, perhaps because I am not satisfied with the role of instigator, but am trying to illuminate structures and backgrounds, I am becoming burdensome for some of them. I interpret and insist on a change in thinking. Many of those who study and do research on immigration are strongly disturbed by me. For decades, it was clear who played what role: the Muslim immigrants were the wards who had to be saved by social work. Welt: In German editorial pages now, you are called a “preacher of hate.” You are equated with the radical Islamists. Kelek: Sometimes an editor cannot do anything about a hasty headline. I understand that. However, this shows me that a number of intellectuals in this country are deeply insecure. Instead of taking a close look at who is arguing and how they are doing it, they swing the verbal mallet. My opponents seem to be dealing with the ancient German guilt complex. Anyone who seriously maintains that interceding for human rights is just as fundamentalist as the call to holy war is withdrawing from factual discourse. Welt: Critics call you a “fundamentalist of the Enlightenment,” because you are not tolerant of others. Kelek: The biggest problem is that Western individualists cannot comprehend what Islam is. They think it is just a variant of their own faith, but with a hijab. However, Islam is a system that sees the person as part of a social system and not as an individual. It emphasizes the collective. The Christian world was not de-Christianized by the Enlightenment and Muslims will not become worse Muslims by dropping sharia. They must become secularized. They must lay aside the political and ideological character of Islam and reflect on (its) spirituality. Welt: Do you believe that there is any limit to the criticism of Islam, for the sake of inner peace? Kelek: By “inner peace,” do you mean — we should let the pashas pray in peace? Read my books, my articles, my interviews. Before I criticize, I observe, and I try not to injure anyone, nor do I question his belief. I analyze structures and connections. This culture of being insulted shows the inability of Muslims to deal with reality and accept constructive criticism. Welt: Well then, what is Islamophobia? Kelek: The concept is supposed to express the idea that criticism of Islam is irrational and therefore baseless. It was introduced by the Islamic foundations in Saudi Arabia and is now making the rounds here. In the debates, one detects a masculine resentment of those women who criticize certain excesses of Islam: Seyran Ates, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, also Irshad Manji. But do not underestimate the resentment of women against other women. The most illogical slanders come mostly from women, with and without an immigrant background. Welt: Would you call yourself a feminist? Kelek: Without the women’s movement and personalities like Hildegard of Bingen or Alice Schwarzer, I could not stand up publicly for the rights of Muslim women. They were and are my models, and the Islamic world also needs women like that. Welt: Is the women’s question the central question when it comes to developing and freeing societies? Kelek: Definitely. The unveiling of the woman, that is, personal and social equality, would completely transform Islam. That would be the true revolution. Without women’s equality, Islam will remain an apartheid system. Welt: People who make sweeping criticisms of Islam often forfeit a happy life. Think of Rushdie, van Gogh, Westergaard, Hirsi Ali. Kelek: Since criticism was banished from Islamic thought almost a thousand years ago; the society hinders its own progress and punishes dissidents as traitors. Doubt as a motivator of insight has been lost to Islamic thinking. It is noteworthy that all critical Islamic thinkers live in the West. Welt: Have you been threatened? Kelek: No. Welt: Do you feel alone — sometimes even standing at a forsaken post? Seyran Ates, who was writing a book on the necessity of a sexual revolution, is presently silent. Kelek: It might seem as if Seyran Ates, Hamed Abdel-Samad and I were unique when it comes to criticism of Islam, but we are the tip of the iceberg. I have many German and Turkish friends and acquaintances. I say what many of them unfortunately only dare to think. The debate shows how impoverished in content and argumentation political Islam in Germany is: it cannot produce one person who will convincingly represent the Islamic societies to the outside world. It also shows that people like me, who have neither institutional power nor a universal network, are able to initiate a debate with only facts and arguments. That is what distinguishes our civil society. Welt: How is sympathy for you expressed? Kelek: I have a circle of multicultural friends and acquaintances who discuss and argue energetically. Agreement comes to me in e-mails; I am invited to meetings. I study, read, discuss and give talks. At first, it was mostly interested German audiences. Now many Muslims and immigrants come. They want to discuss, argue, be heard. Even if someone wants to work on me, I have the feeling that much has changed in the course of recent years. The silence is broken. Many Turkish women tell me: “If we didn’t have you…” That gives me hope. Welt: How do you perceive everyday life between Muslims and non-Muslims in Germany? Kelek: The parallel society is functioning. There, almost exclusively newspapers from home are read; the Turkish TV program is tuned in. The debate which is now going on in editorial pages reaches only a very small number of Muslims. Debating is not allowed in the mosques. Islamic functionaries are not interested in that. They wall themselves off, want to be left in peace. They only emerge when they think they have a claim to make. Welt: How can we change the atmosphere? How can we criticize and still be constructive? Kelek: Articles like “Preacher of Hate” in the “Süddeutschen” (newspaper) are destructive, because they are trying to question the legitimacy of critiquing religion. The Islamists and Islamic functionaries are holding their hands up in innocence. I am for openness and impute base motives to no one, so we can see even an attack like this in a positive light, because it offers the chance to shed some light on how we intend to live together. Muslims must themselves take the step into an open society. They must create a forum for their problems, worries and suggestions through self-criticism, not as “victims.” That is the only way to establish trust. Unfortunately, we can only hope that this will happen. Welt: Islam conferences, certified immigration TV, disputes among mosques, are supposed to have a positive effect, Have they? Kelek: A society must be clear about how it will deal with foreign religions and different social models. For that, it is necessary to have an understanding about rules, also sometimes about limits. The Islam conference began hopefully, but since the government apparently sees no solution to problems, it is settling for the lowest common denominator. In the coming months, we will have to deal with a cover-up in things relating to Islam. Welt: How do you visualize an open society with a Muslim minority? Is there a moderate, friendly Euro-Islam and we just don’t see it because we are focused on the downside? Kelek: Organized political Islam in Germany and Europe is predominantly conservative to reactionary. Turkish Sunnis are the majority. There is the large group of Alevites, who have completely different religious rituals [because they are Shi’ite — translator] and are excluded from the other groups. Only 10 or 15% of citizens counted as Muslims are organized. Most Muslims live Islam as a culture — some according to archaic tradition, others secularly, and want nothing to do with political Islam. These people are mostly moderate. They have no voice, no representation. No, there is no Euro-Islam as Bassam Tibi envisioned it. Welt: Are there societies that are broader and fairer than we Europeans have? Kelek: Our make-up as a social and democratic nation of laws is a great good fortune. Welt: What do you wish for Germany and yourself? Kelek: More sun.