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'No tolerance for jihadists'

Kersten Knipp / rcAugust 9, 2014

As a new home to many migrants, global conflicts are increasingly being played out in microcosm in Germany itself. That is something that poses certain questions, says DW's Kersten Knipp.

Friedenskundgebung für Gaza in Bremen 23.07.2014
Image: N.Steudel/DW

Yazidis living in Germany took to the streets of the Westphalian town of Bielefeld on Saturday (09.08.2014) - primarily to voice anxiety over the extremist militant group, "Islamic State" (IS), and its hounding of non-Sunnis across northern Iraq.

Where the IS holds sway, those who refuse to convert to Sunni Islam face being driven away, or killed.

Members of the Iranian-origin Yazidi community have suffered most notably of late, with hundreds of thousands driven from their homes and dozens murdered.

However, the Yazidis are also protesting for their right to freedom of expression in Germany itself. When, earlier in the week in the nearby town of Herford, they first demonstrated against the actions of the IS, some of those taking part were set upon by IS sympathizers and injured with knives.

The incident shows, only too well, that conflicts across the globe can be fought out in those countries to which migrants from such hotspots move. Migrants bring with them more than simply their labor skills a need for protection. Along with their suitcases, they might also carry political convictions.

Some, like the IS sympathizers in Herford, have an extremist ideology that they are prepared to openly endorse - that non-believers should be put to death.

Their presence in Germany raises certain questions. Is the model of democratic society really enticing enough for every newcomer, without exception, to become integrated? Is Germany's power to integrate strong enough to convince immigrants of the principle of peaceful conflict resolution?

In the past, Germany has tended to overlook the philosophies of many of its migrants. Out of a fear of being considered racist and in the name of a supposed tolerance, many have remained in denial about the radical ideas of some - a few - migrants.

A higher level of debate

Such an ill-conceived tolerance is irresponsible for it appeases those who should not be appeased. In Herford, it became apparent, where that can lead. It also underestimates the intellectual level of those countries from which the migrants come. There are acrimonious debates in the Middle East about the principles of coexistence. The question of what sort of society people want to live in is subject to a debate as passionate as it is rigorous.

There is a clear distinction between the supporters and the opponents of an open society. A misplaced permissiveness is something supporters of an open society cannot allow under any circumstances.

Developments in Syria, Iraq and, increasingly, in Lebanon, show what it is that jihadists are willing and able to do.

Deutsche Welle Kersten Knipp
DW's Kersten KnippImage: DW/P. Henriksen

In Germany, in large part because of the language barrier, much of what is discussed in the Arab-speaking world is barely perceived. Much could be learned if it were.

For instance, opponents should be taken seriously. This is something that is only decided gradually in Germany. As long as fundamentalist views or practices do not turn violent, then, in Germany, one is inclined to indulge them as a cultural difference, if not excuse them.

Whether it be Salafist preaching, the full-face veil or demands for the introduction of Shariah law - all of these are things that many prefer to see as a part of Islamic culture, something that fundamentalists carry with them as an heirloom.

The hope is that, once these people have lived in Germany for long enough, their world view would become one better suited to a modern, pluralistic society.

'A product of modernity'

It is only just becoming clear that fundamentalism is not something that can be explained by Islamic culture. The culture is itself highly pluralistic and there are many ways to interpret it. Fundamentalists are the last people that should be relied upon to do so.

Extremism is a product of modernity. It is the handiwork of ideologues who understand one thing: that nothing - be it political or divine - can compete with the absolute doctrine of salvation. The "culture" of extremists is nothing more than a refusal to question their own world view. Nor do they respect the rights of others.

Extremists should be given no let-off. Not even if they come from abroad. To decisively confront them is no form of racism. No-one knows that better than the Yazidis protesting against the murders of their fellow believers by jihadists. The true racism would be to stand to one side out of a false sense of tolerance.