Integration or Emancipation? (Muslime in Deutschland brauchen Emanzipation)

Editor’s Note: In his article in  Der Tagesspiegel, Jonathan Laurence takes a look at the degree to which Muslims in Europe – many of them immigrants – have become truly emancipated. Emancipation of a minority, he argues, is different from their integration or assimilation. As political situations come and go and change daily attitudes towards Germany’s religious minorities, Germany must be careful to preserve the small steps already taken toward minority emancipation. Read the article in English or German below.

German President Joachim Gauck’s visit to the Sehitlik mosque in Berlin before Eid al Adha earlier this month heartened critics who regretted his earlier hesitation to claim Islam as an integral part of federal republic. The about-face revealed a paradox within the man – just as within the country and perhaps the continent – that is tearing at the fabric of 21st century European Islamic life. Despite enormous progress, European Muslims still do not enjoy what has historically been called “emancipation.”

No mainstream politician denies the permanence of Islam’s presence. But as Islam is more visibly accommodated in the public sphere, it elicits fiercer resistance from nativists, who want proof of loyalty and a higher tribute in exchange for admission to the nation. Islam-critical populism no longer lingers on Germany’s political extremes alone. This reopens a wound that 1999’s historic citizenship reform was intended to heal, leading to “hyphenated” Germans’ frustration with limits on religious liberties and apparent double standards in the fight against political and religious extremism.

Rooting Islamic organizations and religious observance in domestic institutions in Germany and elsewhere in Europe is undeniably underway: the Deutsche Islam Konferenz and other consultations have led to hundreds of new prayer spaces in construction, the availability of religious education, and scores of imams, teachers and theologians who are being locally trained.

The legal and political status of Islam, nonetheless, escapes easy categorization. Two trends are impeding the anchoring of Islam. Within Europe, Islamkritik has slipped from aiming to preserve the “neutrality” of the public sphere or to defend “western human rights,” and towards a basic dubiousness about Islamic religious practices in general. This in turn reinforces the protective instinct within the countries of origin, where new ministries are to maintain religious, political and economic ties with diasporas abroad.

Emancipation in the sense of the way Prussian reformers Stein and Hardenberg used the term, offers a robust and realistic way out: The mass entry of a previously excluded group into the democratic order, based on the rule of law and equal rights and obligations as citizens — including collective rights, if they choose to join a religious community or certain other types of secondary association. Of course, it has also always implied new duties, including taxation and the possibility of military conscription. Emancipation is a generational process that takes time; France’s Jews received full rights in 1791, whereas it took the 1871 Imperial Constitution (Reichsverfassung) to grant the same across a united Germany. The process has always been characterized by a “dual movement.” With one hand, the state liberates, equalizes and enfranchises, and acknowledges collective identity. While with the other, it forces adaptation and the reform of community structures.

Over the long and winding course of democratization in 19th and early 20th century Europe, Groups who were once absent from the body politic – including Jews, minority Catholics, and the working classes – gradually acquired full citizenship. And they were soon thereafter granted “group” status –in the form of central councils, concordats or trade unions — to administer institutional privileges and to anchor their organizations domestically within a constitutional framework.

But why use this outmoded expression? The word evokes the failures of German democracy, but it might as well point a way to reclaiming some of the brighter spots in the country’s democratization. Twelve years of Third Reich should not be atoned by reneging on earlier progress.

Emancipation also offers a way out of the false dichotomy of integration or assimilation. Integration cannot be the appropriate word for the millions who were born, raised and educated here, and who don’t consider themselves to be foreigners or immigrants. And to them, assimilation sounds like a euphemism for dissolution. In other words: if you uncover your hair, give up your minarets, stop your brutal halal slaughter and cruel circumcision rituals – then we have a deal: Welcome! Emancipation, in contrast, has historically meant becoming subject to the rule of law – and thus winning protection from administrative arbitrariness – and armchair theologians.

Why even bring religion into this discussion? Isn’t the focus on religion divisive and problematic and a contribution to needless communitarianism? There is no reason to pretend or to wish that Islamic identity or piety be the defining trait of the generations born here of immigrant background. Just as with “free markets”, which do not exist suspended in a theoretical space, but are regulated in myriad ways, so too is “universal citizenship” structured with many formal and informal institutions. Citizenship guarantees individual religious rights. But it is group status – usually in the form of public law – that gives meaning to those rights in city halls, government ministries, armed forces, prisons, schools, hospitals and sometimes even in public streets.

While not all European states have immigrant or foreign culture-oriented policies, all have religion offices and maintain some privileges, and often, a formal relationship with faith communities. State-Islam relations have begun to lay the groundwork for German Islam. Muslim students in NRW now have the option of Islam religion classes. Hamburg just concluded a historic state contract with several major Islamic federations. At eight universities, there are now centers of Islamic studies or chairs training future teachers, imams and theologians. This is still at a small scale: the cumulative enrollment is in the low dozens, while there’s an existing need for more than 2,000 imams and religious leaders in Germany.

This new institutional presence has already helped reduce tensions related to the “defense of Islam” in the public sphere and helped manage cyclical religious scandals. The YouTube user who uploaded an anti-Islamic video that went viral in September was a geistiger Brandstifter (intellectual arsonist). But the Muslim communities of Europe proved they are not a tinderbox, waiting to catch fire at the slightest provocation. Images of attacks abroad on schools, consulates, and embassies were dispiriting, yet all of the tragic violence occurred elsewhere. In Europe, the angry responses took the form of lawsuits and small demonstrations.

It’s tempting to think that nothing has changed in the quarter century, since Rushdie’s Satanic Verses. But the reaction to violent extremists should be proportionate to their numbers. The legal complaints filed against authors and magazines illustrate the power of formal institutional access that comes with full emancipation. By registering their offense, by protesting discrimination where they see it, European Muslims have begun to employ their democratic rights.

Another example of this came during last spring’s NRW elections. In the aftermath of a violent Salafist protest against the Prophet cartoons in Bonn, something much more meaningful took place. Federations representing hundreds of thousands of German Muslims condemned the violent protesters and implored constituents to express their dissent by fulfilling the civic duty of voting. As the proportion of Muslims of foreign nationality living here decreases, democratic political institutions are increasingly kicking in.

Nonetheless, the mixed experience of the current Federal Interior Minister reminds Germans of the need for non-partisan (überparteilich) consensus on Islam policy. The NSU murders and revelations of rightwing infiltration of the security apparatus, moreover, in addition to differences in counter-radicalization strategies, has broadened and deepened the sense of mistrust vis-à-vis German institutions.

Perceptions matter, and many German Muslims perceive that their community’s status shifts dramatically from one President to another, and from one coalition government to the next. The communication channels between Islamic organizations and the authorities during these crises never completely broke down, but relations have suffered. This is not unique to Germany, of course – France, Italy, Netherlands, Spain and the UK all have experienced some form of it. In the absence of that consensus, it pushes the discussion in minority communities back towards the option of dual citizenship, just in case. The loss of confidence in German or European institutions would mean a return to internationalization.

But this is also a genuine opportunity for Germany to push back. The dual citizenship battle shouldn’t be about confiscating foreign passports. It is rather about endowing the German identity card with binding commitments. Without a basic minimum set of guaranteed rights there will always be a market for protection – whether from ancestral homeland governments or transnational political movements.

This is a complex and multi-level interaction between state and religious actors within and across borders. Nonetheless, it is the nation-state that is ultimately responsible for guaranteeing the free exercise of its citizens’ religious rights. Only individual European governments can emancipate Europe’s Muslims, and the longer there is no final status agreement – in whatever form that take, whether it be Religionsgemeinschaft, Körperschaftstatus or something new – then the more fragile and reversible that progress will be. Until then, a real danger exists that the modest early accomplishments of emancipation will be undone before Muslims’ incorporation has even taken place.

Muslime in Deutschland brauchen Emanzipation

Anlässlich des muslimischen Opferfestes hat Bundespräsident Joachim Gauck im Oktober die Berliner Sehitlik-Moschee besucht. Seine Kritiker ließ diese Tatsache Hoffnung schöpfen – jene Kritiker nämlich, die seine frühere Weigerung bedauert hatten, den Islam als integralen Bestandteil Deutschlands anzuerkennen. Diese Kehrtwende legt Gaucks paradoxe Haltung offen, die in Deutschland und vielleicht auf dem ganzen Kontinent vorherrscht und die das muslimische Leben im Europa des 21. Jahrhunderts bestimmt.

Trotz enormer Fortschritte genießen die europäischen Muslime immer noch nicht das, was im historischen Kontext „Emanzipation“ genannt wird.

Kein demokratisch gesinnter Politiker in Deutschland leugnet, dass die Präsenz des Islam in Europa von Dauer sein wird. Aber während der Islam in der Öffentlichkeit demonstrativ willkommen geheißen wird, löst er zunehmend heftigen Widerstand bei den Nativisten aus, die von Muslimen einen Loyalitätsbeweis und mehr Integrationsbemühungen als Gegenleistungen für ihre Zugehörigkeit zur Gesellschaft einfordern. Islamkritischer Populismus ist längst nicht mehr nur an den Rändern des politischen Spektrums zu Hause. Dieser Populismus reißt eine Wunde wieder auf, die 1999 durch die Reform des Staatsangehörigkeitsrechts geschlossen werden sollte. Die neuen „Bindestrich-Deutschen“ sind frustriert angesichts der Grenzen, die ihrer Religionsfreiheit gesetzt werden und angesichts der Bigotterie im Kampf gegen den politischen und religiösen Extremismus.

Die Einbindung islamischer Organisationen und auch ihre Einbettung in bestehende gesellschaftliche Strukturen in Deutschland und Europa funktionieren zunehmend besser: Die Deutsche Islamkonferenz und ähnliche Gipfeltreffen von Politikern und Verbänden haben zu Hunderten neuer Gebetsräume und Gotteshäuser geführt, auch wenn viele davon noch im Bau sind. Ebenso positiv anzumerken sind die verbesserten Angebote religiöser Erziehung in Schulen und die immer größere Zahl von Imamen, Lehrern und Theologen, die im Land ausgebildet werden.

Der rechtliche und politische Status des Islam in Europa hingegen entzieht sich trotz aller Bemühungen einer Einordnung. Zwei Entwicklungen behindern seine Verankerung: Die Islamkritik in Europa verschiebt sich von der Betonung der Neutralität des öffentlichen Raumes und der Verteidigung westlicher Menschenrechtsvorstellungen hin zu einem generellen Unbehagen gegenüber allen muslimischen Glaubenspraktiken. Das wiederum ruft in den Herkunftsländern Beschützerinstinkte hervor, Ministerien werden geschaffen, um die religiösen, politischen und wirtschaftlichen Bande mit der Diaspora zu erhalten.

Das ist der Ausweg aus der falschen Dichotomie von Integration und Assimilation

Die Emanzipation in dem aufklärerischen Sinn dieses Wortes, den die preußischen Reformer Stein und Hardenberg meinten, bietet einen sicheren und realistischen Ausweg aus dem Dilemma: Den Eintritt einer zuvor ausgeschlossenen Gruppe in eine demokratische Gesellschaft, basierend auf bestehenden Gesetzen, mit den gleichen Rechten und Pflichten für alle Bürger. Emanzipation umfasst auch Kollektivrechte, falls diese Bürger sich entschließen, einer religiösen oder einer anderen Art von Gemeinschaft beizutreten. Natürlich waren damit immer auch Auflagen verbunden, wie solche zur Steuer- oder zur Wehrpflicht. Emanzipation ist ein ungleichmäßiger Prozess, der sich über mehrere Generationen hinzieht. Die Juden Frankreichs erhielten bereits im Jahr 1791 gleiche Rechte, wohingegen jene in Deutschland bis zur Reichsverfassung 1871 warten mussten. Ihm eigen war dabei schon immer eine Art doppelter Handschlag zwischen Staat und Religionsgemeinschaft: Mit der einen Hand sorgt der Staat für Gleichheit und erteilt Rechte. Mit der anderen erzwingt er Anpassung und eine Reform der Gemeindestrukturen.

Auf dem langen und schwierigen Weg der Demokratisierung im Europa des 19. und 20. Jahrhunderts wurde von der politischen Teilhabe ausgeschlossenen Menschen – Juden, Katholiken, die Arbeiterklasse – nach und nach das volle Bürgerrecht gewährt. Ihnen wurde auch der Status „gesellschaftliche Gruppe“ zugestanden, sie konnten sich in Verbänden, Interessengruppen und Gewerkschaften organisieren, um institutionelle Privilegien wahrzunehmen und ihre Interessen innerhalb eines gesetzlich verankerten Rahmens zu vertreten.

Aber warum sollten wir heute noch den überkommenen Begriff „Emanzipation“ verwenden? Das Wort beschwört die Misserfolge der deutschen Demokratie herauf, dabei könnte es auch die lichten Momente des deutschen Demokratisierungsprozesses beleuchten. Zwölf Jahre „Drittes Reich“ sollten nicht die schon zuvor errungenen Fortschritte negieren.