Tolerance.. A double entendre?
(picture: Jananne El-Ani)
Are we living a universal Nazi regime all over again?
Nazism is pathological aberration of German romance. The romantics opposed to the idea of the universal man and they favored not the abstract human being but the tradition and the race. As a result to that, man has become labeled by his culture and his origin and background became like a second skin that could be a prison. The map of the world became a mosaic that kept people separated as opposed to the melting pot that it should be and human interactions through out the world now consist of North-South leaving out the East-West.
Multiculturalism is about the inter-cultural relationships. It is about learning from each other and it becomes a challenge when there is no understanding of what the culture is. It is similar to the fanatic modesty of the French population that leaves immigrants clueless as to what constitutes being French. Nowadays the Western intellectuals are posing an atheist monoculture which could be the reason behind the persecution of Muslims in Europe. In the United States, Islam is not considered a threat to multiculturalism and that could be a reason why Muslims are left to their practices in the US more than Europe. Berlin is considered the 3rd largest Turkish city for example since 25% of the population is Muslim. The population of Muslims is France is larger than the population of Libya.
It seems that the solution posed today to the Islamic presence in Europe is to encourage secularism, or modern Islam. Nilufer Gole in her book "Interpretations: Islam and Europe" explains the effect of the transition between old and new Europe on the integration of Islam in European countries. The debate about Muslim immigration, Islamic headwear in public schools, the terrorist attacks in European cities, and Turkey’s membership in the European Union all indicated the ways in which Islam was entering the public sphere of Europe. The term secular Islam is just a term to describe non-practicing Muslims by birth who have adopted the ‘western way’. I find it hypocritical to expect those Muslim immigrants to leave their culture behind in order to integrate in the European culture. I also think this contradicts with the term multiculturalism and defeats the nature of the argument.
I attended one of the lectures at the New York Public Library as part of the PEN organized New York Festival of International Literature presiding Salman Rushdie (whom I had the chance to meet). The discussion entitled “The limits of tolerance: Multiculturalism now”. During which and on the subject of Islamic culture in Germany, Necla Kelek said “Turkish men made a journey 40 years ago to Germany and despite the years, the Turkish Muslims are not integrated in the German culture. They kept their Islamic traditional beliefs. They live in a world where they are supported by a bigger Islam. The way women wear the veil reflects the level of fundamentalism and the black chador for example is a sign of organized religion. The women only exist in the shadow of their husbands and that is the basis of the religion”.
I disagree almost entirely with the previously stated view on Islam in general and Islamic women in particular. The scarf that Muslim women wear, which is not mandatory in Islam, is in no way an indication of weakness or being subjected to the man.
I came across a very nice view on the Islamic veil in a piece done by Jananne El-Ani, who is a Palestinian artist whose work is currently shown at the museum of modern arts as part of the "without boundary: seventeen ways of looking" exhibition of Islamic arts (a term invented in Europe in the 19th century, to describe the art of a vast region stretching from Indonesia to Morocco). In her photograph, she depicted 5 women in various stages of veiling giving the room to the viewer to interrupt the process and disrupt a very private journey. The faces are very confrontational despite the normal cliché of the veil subjecting the women. The cover could be very powerful. Her portrayal of women contradicts expectations rejecting conformity to any dress code.
I do not understand why the head scarf is even an issue. Maybe the declaration of one’s religion makes people more uncomfortable. I have said it before and I will say it again. The head scarf is not obligatory in the Islamic religion. Islam does not give an inferior position to women but men give an inferior position to women given the chance in any religion. This is strongly manifested in some Islamic countries nowadays for the fact that these are impoverished countries due to wars which leads to ignorance and misinterpretation and misuse of religion in the name of power.
The European countries that Muslims migrate to should practice what they preach and be, themselves, tolerant to the manifestation of the Islamic religion and open to other cultures. Westernizing Islam through the creation of the secular European hidden and shy Islam is not the answer.
I have to say that I personally hate the veil. I do not hate what it represents though and I can not judge people who wear it or try to impose my sense of culture or fashion on others. Freedom includes the freedom of speech, writing, thinking, wearing what you want and practicing your religion in any shape or form it entails.