„Islam means peace“ vs. „Islam is the greatest threat to the free world“. Between these two extremes a hot debate is developing for years, in which left and right wing, populists and scientists, do-gooders and racists place their arguments. Thorsten Gerald Schneiders, a German Islam and political scientist, made the honorable attempt to create clarification with the book project „Glorification of Islam versus Emnityof Islam“. And he failed in a splendid way.
End of 2009 the first volume was published under the title of „Emnity of Islam. If the limits of criticism become blurred.“ On nearly 500 pages mainly scientists analyze historical and current, institutional and personal hostility towards Islam. Without exception, all authors refuse the criticism of Islam – if it is not limited to theological arguments. For them, any rejection of the ideology of Islam or Muslims means racism and xenophobia.
Of course, the editors found here well-known representatives, whether this is Kai Hafez, Siegfried Jäger and Sabine Schiffer with their studies about the picture of Islam in the media and the Internet, or, for example, Jürgen Leibold from a research project on „group-focused misanthropy“ and his contributions on Islamophobia. The core argument, which underlies all of these contributions is, that one could not speak in such a general way about Islam and Muslims, not that shortened and simplified. However, this would correspond to the processes of prejudice and stereotyping, the construction of bogeyman’s and ultimately racism. Last not least, such an argument serves the devaluation of the alien and the superelevation of oneself, the authors argue.
Most authors misdo in three ways, caused by their XXX: First, no one dares even to undertake consideration, that for example the negative reporting about Islam has something to do with the social reality. Or that the ideological system of this religion perhaps could be the cause of the many problems, which is, actually, proofed by integration studies, migration reports and crime statistics every day. Instead, reference is made to alleged socioeconomic factors, again without asking for their causes.
The second error results from the political and ideological self-conception of the authors. Thus, some contributors consider it already questionable, if the host society calls Muslim migrants calls to adapt to the local social system and to acknowledge our legal system. The idea, that we as a host society have the right to make rules, is for some of the authors already racism. As with the first misconception, they are not willing to make an evaluative distinction between cultures.
Third, is a mistake that probably comes from the constant analysis of the prejudices of others: Some of the researchers themselves generalize and draw such unscientific and irrelevant comparisons themselves that the reader’s hair stood on end. If today’s mosque protests are compared, without further comments, with the opponents of the synagogue about a century ago, this is neither scientific nor helpful in any way.
Ultimately, the book focuses on phenomena such as the website Politically Incorrect (PI-News), but which represents the ideologically right margin or the populist formation of the critical of Islam people in Germany. However, that is, as one would equal the German right-wing newspaper “Junge Freiheit” (young freedom) with the whole conservative scene. Large parts of those who comment critically on Islam and the integration of Muslims do this factual arguing and becoming ever better informed. Therefore, it makes no sense, to speak about enmity of Islam or even about Islamophobia, therefore unfounded fear or a general rejection of Islam. The focus of the book follows its title, so much so right, but is ultimately only about a small part of the Germans.
All the more interesting was the following second volume „Glorification of Islam. If the criticism is taboo“, published in spring 2010. Now, the other side would be addressed, those who glorify Islam would be criticized. But far from it! With the completely inappropriate title, instead, the contributions explore what an appropriate criticism of Islam could look like – according to the anthologist. Most authors therefore belong to the fields of Islamic and religious studies and the first ten items are purely theological treatises and source studies. There are quite substantial contributions, such as the credibility of the hadiths-tradition, to more recent biographies of Muhammad in relation to classical sources, and to reason in the question of faith context. Even a solid theological justification for the abolition of the Islamic headscarf is part of it.
But once the perspective turns to social science the quality decreases rapidly. Once again – as in the first volume – the authors seek strange and far-fetched arguments to suppress the one fact: among migrants Muslims are mainly, indeed almost exclusively, the ones, who provoke social evils. In his introduction, Anthologist Schneiders brings this even to the point, but without taking any consequence for the selection of its authors, or contributions from it:
„The situation of many Muslim citizens in Germany is not rosy. Educational deficits, unemployment, poor housing situations and so on lead to upbringing problems, limitations of the personal individuality […] or high crime rates. Although this has nothing to do with Islam directly, but according to several studies in recent years, people with a Turkish or Arab family background in Germany are significantly affected or involved. Now, since most of them understand themselves primarily as Muslims […], the situation is in fact after all a problem, which the believers – above all the religious dignitaries and officials – must pay attention.“
Altogether, the book project „glorification of Islam versus enmity of Islam“ remains lackluster and has at most a documentary character. Contentwise, only a small part of the spectrum between multiculturalist leveling down and populist enmity is addressed. Moreover, the selection of authors is very one-sided, which leads to the fact, that the two anthologies don’t have any argumentative punch. This is really a pity, because there are such good arguments as well as interesting actors on all sides. Just remember the 2007-debate on „Islam in Europe“, published by the editor in chief of signandsight Thierry Chervel as a book. Or the current debate on Islam on the comparison of anti-Semitism and criticism of Islam.
Which kinds of criticism of religions in general and Islam in particular, are admissible, is one of the major issues at all – not only since the Muhammad cartoon crisis in 2006. But the two books published by Thorsten Gerald Schneiders offer only a limited insight into the topic. And while the anti-Semitism and prejudice researchers trying to reach the prerogative of interpretation in the discourse about criticism of Islam with more and more publications about Islamophobia and enmity of Islam, there are few books, such as soon published „enemy stereotype: criticism of Islam,“ which offer a broad analysis of possible forms of critique.
This is a translation of the German review. So far, the two books are only published in German:
Thorsten Gerald Schneiders: Islamfeindlichkeit. Wenn die Grenzen der Kritik verschwimmen. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften 2010, 483 pages, 49.95 Euro.
Thorsten Gerald Schneiders: Islamverherrlichung. Wenn die Kritik zum Tabu wird. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften 2010, 401 pages, 39.95 Euro.
(Please see also the German review at BuchTest.
Thierry Chervel, Anja Seelinger (Hg.): Islam in Europa. Eine internationale Debatte, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp 2007, 227 Seiten, 10 Euro.
(This debate is online available in English at signandsight.com. For the German review of this book see BuchTest.)
Hartmut Krauss (Hg.): Feindbild Islamkritik. Wenn die Grenzen zur Verzerrung und Diffamierung überschritten werden. Osnabrück: Hintergrund Verlag 2010. Read an excerpt in German.