Saturday, October 07, 2006

Interview with Bassam Tibi

Excerpts from an interview with Bassam Tibi, 62, born in Damascus, a German citizen since 1967.

SPIEGEL: The administrator of one of Berlin's opera houses, the Deutsche Oper, has cancelled the Mozart Opera "Idomeneo" out of fear of an Islamist reaction. Is this the first sign of Germany bowing down to Islam?

Tibi: It's not the first sign, but rather a repeated one. Recently we have been seeing more and more acts of submission, the most recent case being the Pope's apology. When it comes to Islam, there is no freedom of the press nor freedom of opinion in Germany.

SPIEGEL: Many Germans believe that communities should live together peacefully without any parallel societies. Is it therefore right to compromise in order to avoid antagonizing Muslims unnecessarily?

Tibi: Quite the opposite. The Islamic officials who live here are very intelligent and view this as weakness. Muslims stand by their religion entirely. It is a sort of religious absolutism. While Europeans have stopped defending the values of their civilization. They confuse tolerance with relativism.

SPIEGEL: When something insults Muslims, we often tend to just back off -- doesn't this help defuse the conflict?

Tibi: No. That is simply giving up. And the weaker the partner is viewed by the Muslims, then the greater the anger which they express. And this anger is often carefully staged.

Tibi: Pluralism and tolerance are pillars of modern society. That has to be accepted. But pluralism doesn't just mean diversity. It means that we share the same rules and values, and are still nevertheless different. Islam doesn't have this idea. And Islam also has no tradition of tolerance. In Islam tolerance means that Christians and Jews are allowed to live under the protection of Muslims but never as citizens with the same rights. What Muslims call tolerance is nothing other than discrimination.

SPIEGEL: But what is astounding is that you see yourself also as an example of failed integration. You have been working for 30 years at a German university, you have written 26 books in German and have been awarded the Federal Cross of Merit. Why, out of anyone, are you not integrated?

Tibi: It's more to do with a feeling of belonging. In Germany it is not a contradiction to say, Mr. Tibi is Syrian and has a German passport. In France however it is. And in America it would be a reason to take someone to court, as you are excluding them from American society. Even after 40 years here, I'm still not German. I also believe that I have not progressed higher as a professor here because I am a foreigner. When I retire I will be leaving Germany and going to Cornell university...America's strength is that it is capable of accepting people into its communities.
There's that ineluctable sign of rot again: emigration.

(via Harry's Place)

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