Opinion: No alternative to a Europeanized Islam | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 13.01.2015
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Opinion: No alternative to a Europeanized Islam

Since the terrorist attacks in Paris, Islam's alleged affinity to violence has been widely debated. But DW's Loay Mudhoon says it distracts from what Islam has already achieved in Europe with regard to integration.

The malicious attacks in Paris have, understandably, led many to once again raise the already familiar questions about whether Islam is inhuman and glorifies violence. Is there any justification in the scriptures of this global religion that would legitimize the violent orgies of the jihadists? And, possibly even more importantly, has the integration of Muslims failed in Germany?

These questions are justified, but they miss the point, meaning we should ask ourselves if Islam is compatible with the achievements of our modern world and the values of our liberal and democratic societies.

It should be well-known by now that there is no such thing as Islam as a static, fixed entity. Muslims do not constitute a monolithic block anywhere in the world.

Loay Mudhoon

Loay Mudhoon

In each Muslim country, Islam takes on a different form. The strictly Wahhabi Saudi Arabia is worlds apart from the mostly Shiite Iran, for example. Many Muslim countries that have been successful economically, like Turkey and Malaysia, have been dominated by a conservative, but pragmatic Muslim mainstream.

So, Muslims decide for themselves what they define as "Islamic," regardless of where and when they live. The majority of Muslims are Sunnis, whose religion knows no hierarchies and no central figure of authority, like the pope in the Catholic Church. Which leads us to the question we should be asking in the wake of the attacks in Paris: what kind of Islam would we like to see in Europe?

Achievements so far

The rather emotional and controversial debate we've seen recently means there is a danger we will ignore the achievements of the last few years. The German Islam Conference, which was set up in 2005 to foster the integration of Islam into our free and democratic system, has led to a sea change in Germany's interpretation of what constitutes the state.

Despite all the criticism and ructions surrounding the conference, this process of open debate between Muslims and the state has led to a fundamental change in each other's perception. It has also made Islam more visible in Germany.

Even though populist groups are increasingly using and misusing Islam as a vehicle to voice fears that are hard to grasp, the achievements of an active policy of integration cannot be dismissed.

We have seen the introduction of Islamic theology in schools in some German states as well as degrees on the religion at some universities. Both will surely contribute to the establishment of a genuinely European version of Islam that is compatible with a democratic system and that would make "imported" interpretations of Islam obsolete.

Because Islam has always been a child of its time and because Islamic theology is a product of political power, governments and society should do everything they can to speed up the Europeanization of Islam. The terror attacks in Paris show that there is no alternative.

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