Several Turkish and Muslim groups in Germany have condemned the violent protests in the wake of the caricatures of Prophet Mohammed. Representatives of 16 such religious, political and business organizations met in Cologne on February 8, 2006 to reject the use of violence in no uncertain terms. At the same time, they gave a call for greater respect for Muslim religious sentiment.
"Bild"-"Hürriyet" logo for the joint appeal for mutual respect
When Germany’s most popular tabloid “Bild” joins forces with the biggest Turkish daily “Hürriyet” to publish a bilingual call for more dialogue and greater understanding between the two cultures, then it’s mobilization at the highest, and at the same time the lowest level, but active as well as effective.
Since years the German Muslim associations have had to face the accusation after every major terrorist attack in US or in Europe, that they have not dissociated themselves early and clearly enough from fanaticism and violence in the name of Islam.
Many of the Muslims in Germany – most of them of Turkish origin – were taken aback, to say the least. They might differ from their German neighbours, culturally, their women might wear the chador, but a Muslim of Turkish origin in Germany would have just as little to do with the bomb attacks in London or Madrid as a German catholic with the bombings of the IRA in North Ireland. But how to explain that difference to an average German, and then explain his attitude to his Turkish neighbour?
The Muslim groups in Germany have had a lot to learn about public relations, about good publicity and bad publicity. By now, they know that by stating their position openly and clearly in the midst of the German upcry, they’re helping to improve the image of Islam in this country. It’s reached the point where the larger Muslim associations in Germany automatically denounce every major attack by Islamic militants – on their websites.
And now they have stated their position just as clearly vis-à-vis the caricatures of Prophet Mohammed: they feel insulted and that their religion has been disparaged – but they condemn violence of any and every kind and tell their supporters to take recourse to the law of the country in which they live – which is Germany. Even “Mili Görüs”, a Turkish group considered to be “Islamist” by the German secret service, joined in the appeal.
The significance of such a “signal” can neither be overlooked, nor overstated. A fair number of average Germans have little or no idea regarding the great variety that Islam and the Islamic way of life constitute the world over. And like people all over the world, they tend to take the reality-bytes presented to them on TV as the whole of reality. And the TV-screen is full of Muslims on the warpath at present.
The background to the whole situation is that the so-called “integration” of German Muslims into mainstream German society has neither failed, nor been completed, but is an on-going and perhaps never-ending process. As such we need such assurances and reference points as the Cologne declaration by the 16 German Muslim groups, or the joint call by “Bild” and “Hürriyet” against the “clash of cultures”. And it won’t come to such a “clash of cultures” in Germany so long as there are enough clarion calls.