Articles

Selected Examples

  • “Kurzinformation Religion: Salafismus”, in: Religionswissenschaftlicher Medien- und Informationsdienst e.V. (REMID), März 20, 2017.
  • Special Correspondence: De-Radicalising Militant Salafists, in: Perspectives on Terrorism (ed.), Vol. 11, No 1 (02/2017).

December 2018

Weimar Republic 2.0? – A plea for a more differentiated handling of terms in the age of ‚post-factually’

The current social climate exhibits several parallels to the Weimar Republic[1]: A broken party landscape that seems to be suggestive for many civilians that politicians mainly care for their own power and interests instead of the civilian ones and an increasing strength of nationalistic aspirations whose proponents demand a ‚hard edge‘-politics towards the ones who seem to be ‚foreign‘ to them and therefore are perceived as a potential ‘threat’ in terms of their own identity.[2]

From a religious studies scientist perspective, the most obvious point of comparison to those times is the ‘reactivated’ distinction between religious affiliation and nationality that is postulated again in many places. The argument, an individual could only possess ‘one’ of it, the religious belonging or the citizenship if this individual wants to be German, already became visible in the days of the Weimar Republic.[3]

We should be aware of this development when we have a look at the current situation in Germany in terms of our fellow Muslim.

The same argument is used in these so called ‘reinvigorated conservative’ ranks in the right-wing populist area (‘Neo-conservatives’, in German called: ‘Neo-Konservatismus’). This time it is not used in terms of the Judaism but towards the Islam. Due to the ‘unanimous’ opinion there is only one choice: To be a Muslim or a German.[4]

The representatives of this argument of the so called ‚incompatibility‘ of individual religious affiliation and a specific citizenship have been and still are not – as assumed – experts in terms of those religions that they judge to be not ‘German’. Conversely, they mostly don´t have any professional qualifications concerning the obtained religious disciplines.[5] On the contrary the volume of those speakers seems to be reciprocal to their content-related qualifications, but this fact does not interrupt the ‘successes’ of their theses.[6]

Surprisingly, this nationalistic ‚condition‘ is never demanded in terms of the religious status of a Christ, notwithstanding the above how ‘radical’ their religious interpretation or belief may be.[7] With regard to the Christianity seems to exist a (religious-related) exception. Furthermore the representatives of this argumentation refer to the Judaeo-Christian tradition, that is considered as the fundament of the so called occident (Western World ~ German: Abendland) and the civilization. Ironically this heritage is highlighted in this discriminating context that meant nothing at all during the Weimar Republic with regard to the Jews.

It might be wise to wonder in public, if these ‘fighters for the occident’ would have fought for their fellow Jews during the Weimar Republic as well or if this might have been their worst enemies under the cloak of patriotism?

History repeats itself very often and because of this the so called ‘new conservatism’ makes their examples ‘appropriate’ to their argumentation. An approximation of opinions in this field spreads to scientific terms and their careless and unilateral use, that is misleading and supports (unconscious) the strategy of generalization of the so called ‘New Right-Wing’ movement (German: ‘Neue Rechte’).

An example for the careless reuse of scientific terms is the term ‘Islamism’.[8] This term is mainly used in the public debate with its ideological meaning by many different actors and groups in Germany.

In principle, the Suffix ‘ismus’ can be used to illustrate four different dimensions like the Abstraktum, a belief system, an intellectual current in History, Art and Science as well as for an Ideology.[9] The selective use of the subject areas of the term ‚Islamism‘ constitutes therefore not a differentiated handling of this specific term.[10] In addition, Mohagheghi considers the use of the term ‚Islamism‘ to be suitable for a negative influence of the public perception of Islam and its believer.[11]

What are the reasons for this misuse of a scientific term?

The possibly answers are diverse and can extend from explicit rejection of a specific religion, a negligence towards a term and the consequences resulting of this unilateral use for the ones who were labelled by this term in a certain way to an aimed strategy of exclusion of a whole group – in the sense of group-focused misanthropy.[12]

The following incident illustrates the gradual uncertainty that the misleading and unilateral use of the term ‘Islamism’ can involve as a result of insufficient differentiation[13]:

One day I got a call from a chairman of an Islamic association X who was very indignant.

Recently he wanted to open an account with a big German bank in terms of the association to deposit the donations of the association-members in order to make the administration of the donations more visible for all of the members.

Initially, everything seems to be ok, until he mentioned the little word ‘Islamic’ in the field: account holder. After reading this word, the bank employee became more and more reserved, but the chairman didn´t reflect too much about it, because everybody can have a bad day.

A few days later the chairman received a very unsettling call. An employee of the State Security informed him very friendly that he could open the account at the bank where the chairman has been some days before. This would be no problem.

The chairman of the Islamic association X was shocked. Since decades he paid his tax on time, didn´t receive any parking tickets and owns the German citizenship since years. What could be the reason for a call from such an official ‘authority’?

After asking him, the friendly employee of the State Security explained the reason for his call in detail: Alarmed by the term ‘Islamic’ in the subject line for the account holder, the bank employee immediately called the State Security to ask, if the religious association might be observed. He wanted to play it safe, if he would open an account for an ‘Islamistic’ association that might possibly be led by and supportive for terrorists (another scientific term that is also used quiet inflationary and not in a reflected way).

Terms can create truthfulness.

Therefore we need to use them carefully and we always need to have a look about their possibly ambiguity, their frame of reference and about the transmitter and the recipient of a specific term. Only if we inform ourselves properly about the individual intentions of transmitter and recipient firstly, we are able to classify or to reclassify their specific intentions.

Interestingly, the example of the Islamic association X illustrates clearly that very often the circle of recipients is put on the test bunch, but only occasionally the transmitter of a specific term and its intentions are audited. Here in particular, a scrutiny should be recommended in terms of the transmitter in order to see his real intensions.

Does the transmitter act due to individual or professional intentions, e.g. the imperative consolidation of its own power of interpretation in terms of the use of a specific term or phenomenon? Does he in fact care for a common good? And furthermore: Is the transmitter interested in a general scientific discourse?

If the transmitter really would be interested in a heterogeneous scientific discourse that includes the existence of more than one definition of a term, he probably wouldn´t persist on having ‘the only true interpretation’ of a (scientific) term.

Inversely, would the dominant use of only one ‘valid’ meaning of a scientific term correspond to the democratic claim of plurality, freedom of opinion and freedom of speech?

If we want to use terms in a responsible way that could mean that we should use them in a scientific manner in order to ensure a reasonable and plural intercourse with it.

Because of this we should reconsider terms and examine, if some terms are still appropriate or might lead to discrimination.

In the case of the term ‚Islamism‘ the usage of the term ‚radical Islam‘ would be more consistent, because this term wouldn´t demonise a whole religion, but only consider its radical manifestations in detail.[14] The term ‘radical Islam’ is not perfect by oneself, but it is an attempt to come closer to a more precise and less discriminatory definition.

Another challenge is the fact that there exist those radical interpretations of Islam in reality and because of this a scientific discourse about those phenomena is needed. But at the same time it is getting harder and harder to enumerate these radical interpretations in public without only being supported by representatives of the right-wing populist or Islamophobic milieu who are trying to misuse some critical points of specific Islamic groups to condemn the whole religion Islam and place its believers under general suspicion.

Due to this situation it seems to be a balancing act for a scientist to deal out criticism in terms of some religion like the Islam while it seems to be more ‘easy’ to do it in terms of other religions that aren´t politicized in the same way.

This ‘fact’ shouldn´t stop the scientists to demand a differentiated use of (scientific) terms, esp. with regard to Islam.

In the sense of the freedom of opinion and the diversity of opinion, we should rise towards unilateral usage of terms and make them binding for every serious analysis in public.

The strategy of marginalization that is intended by those who utilize only one usage of a term in order to exclude others and to dominate the discourse, should be clearly rejected, independently who is using it.

December 19th, 2018[15]

Nina Käsehage

 

Endnotes:

Citations: Nina Käsehage, Art.: Weimar Republic 2.0? – A plea for a more differentiated handling of terms in the age of ‚post-factually’, in: [http://www.salafismus-forschung.de/artikel], 19.12.2018.

[1] This approach can only be roughly outlined in this framework.

[2] Quote: „Tillschneider [delegate of the state parliament for the right-wing populist party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD)] is a habilitated Islam scientist. He´d rather defines himself as an Orientalist because, like he said in Hannover: „The Orientalist is an expert for the foreigner that requires that the foreigner stays what it is: foreign.“, in: [http://www.haz.de/Nachrichten/Politik/Niedersachsen/AfD-diskutierte-ueber-den-Islam], 24.05.2018.

[3] Shooman points out similarities and opposites between historic and current Antisemitism and Islamophobia. Cf. Yasemin Shooman, Art.: Islamfeindlichkeit und Antisemitismus, Diskursive Analogien und Unterschiede, in: Jüdisches Museum Berlin (JMB) Journal 2012, Nr. 7, pp. 18f.

[4] Cf.: [https://www.linkedin.com/redir/general-malware-page?url=https%3A%2F%2Fmichael-mannheimer%2enet%2F2017%2F09%2F20%2Fafd-pressekonferenz-islam-ist-nicht-mit-freiheitlichen-demokratischen-grundordnung-deutschlands-vereinbar%2F%5D%2C 02.10.2017.

[5] Cf.: [https://www.linkedin.com/redir/general-malware-page?url=https%3A%2F%2Fmichael-mannheimer%2enet%2F2012%2F11%2F01%2Fwie-moderater-und-radikaler-islam-zusammenhangen%2F], 02.10.2017.

[6] Quote: „These authors distinguish not between religion and its political misuse. In doing so they have success. With their so called Islam critique they won a business area and belong to the mostly cited ‘Islam-expert’ of Germany, although they don´t deal with Islam theologically, but sweepingly condemn it.”, in: [http://www.zeit.de/gesellschaft/zeitgeschehen/2017-10/islamophobie-mitte-afd-medien-islam-3-02/komplettansicht], 01.11.2017.; cf.: [http://www.fr.de/kultur/literatur/islamfeindlichkeit-studie-mein-feind-zeigt-euch-wer-ich-bin-a-548429], 01.11.2017.

[7] Cf.: [https://www.linkedin.com/redir/general-malware-page?url=https%3A%2F%2Fmichael-mannheimer%2enet%2F2017%2F09%2F10%2Fregensburger-bischof-warnt-integration-des-islam-unmoeglich%2F%5D%2C 02.10.2017.; Cf. Thorsten Gerald Schneiders, Thorsten Gerald Schneiders , Art.: Islamkritik – Deckmantel für feindliche Bestrebungen und notwendiges Korrektiv, Tagungsband Muslimfeindlichkeit – Phänomen und Gegenstrategien, Beiträge der Fachtagung der Deutschen Islam Konferenz am 4. und 5. Dezember 2012 in Berlin, p. 111.

[8] The different possibilities of definitions for this term are explained in-depth in: Nina Käsehage, Die gegenwärtige salafistische Szene in Deutschland – Prediger und Anhänger, Diss., 2. Aufl., Berlin 2018, pp. 60-63.

[9] Cf. Anne Wildfang, Terrorismus, Definitionen, Struktur, Dynamik, Diss., Berlin 2009, pp. 20f.

[10] Cf. Bettina Birk, Konnotation im Deutschen, Eine Untersuchung aus morphologischer, lexikologischer und lexikographischer Perspektive, Dissertation, München 2012, p. 220.

[11] Cf. Hamideh Mohagheghi, Frauen für den Dschihad, Das Manifest der IS-Kämpferinnen, Freiburg im Breisgau 2015, p. 8.

[12] Cf.: [https://www.linkedin.com/redir/general-malware-page?url=https%3A%2F%2Fmichael-mannheimer%2enet%2F2011%2F11%2F03%2Fwenn-islamismus-nicht-identisch-ist-mit-islam-was-tun-islamisten-dann-anders-als-mohammed%2F%5D%2C 02.10.2017.

[13] Quote: „That Islam shall be no religion, but an ideology and because of this Muslim cannot invoke on religious freedom. Some people would agree with this sentence. No wonder: The Germans haven´t heart it differently in the last years.“, in: [http://www.zeit.de/gesellschaft/zeitgeschehen/2017-10/islamophobie-mitte-afd-medien-islam-3-02/komplettansicht], 01.11.2017.

[14] Quotes: Nina Käsehage, Die gegenwärtige salafistische Szene in Deutschland – Prediger und Anhänger, p. 63.

[15] Originally this article was provided for the homepage of the association ‘Gegen Vergessen-Für Demokratie’. With reference to the aims of its cooperative partner the ‘Präventionsnetzwerk’ it was refused to be publish due to reputed different approaches. This is in so far surprising, because most of the Islamic partner organisation that are part of the ‘Präventionsnetzwerk’ lamented exactly the necessity of a differentiated use of the term ‘Islamism’ (due to my empiric evaluation in and my contacts with these Islamic associations). In contrast, the association ‚Gersthofen ist bunt‘ is still interested in publishing it on their homepage.