Opinion: No Need to Panic in Holland | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 16.11.2004
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Opinion: No Need to Panic in Holland

Despite simmering tensions in Holland, a clash of civilizations won't break out in Europe if people maintain their cool, writes Deutsche Welle's Peter Philipp.

Attacks on Muslim institutions, like this school, have taken place

Attacks on Muslim institutions, like this school, have taken place

You would think Europe is about to break out into war. Just as the murder in Sarajevo once began WWI, so has the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh been depicted by self-described terrorism or Islam experts (the two fit together so wonderfully nowadays) as the first shot in the so-called "Clash of Civilizations". It is a clash that will no longer be waged with words, but with weapons, and where the future power structures in Europe are at stake.

A writer in the conservative daily, Die Welt, writes that fundamental Muslims "strive for the reestablishment of an Islamic order in accordance with the original Islam of the 7th century which, according to them, is the only legitimate state and society. This should replace other systems."

In the same newspaper, the Islam critic Hans-Peter Raddatz writes that "the state allows extremists to create networks under the protection of the so-called dialogue, the beneficiaries of which have only one goal: to live in accordance to their own rules and cancel out the constitutional state."

Fanatics are everywhere

Just as bad, if less so, was the opinion of other "experts", who have been calling for tolerance and liberalism since the Amsterdam murder while at the same time saying that a reason for the violence is that Holland let in too many Muslims -- with a little less than a million, still a higher per capita count than in Germany.

Can you declare liberalism and tolerance for dead just because one fanatic committed a ghastly murder and because he became a fanatic in a radical Muslim community?

As unsatisfying as this sounds: things like that can happen -- in every country. There are fanatics everywhere; especially in these times, where religion is increasingly being misused for political purposes.

Differences should be respected

In opposition to the rhetoric since the Van Gogh Murder the only solution can be the continued integration of those of other faiths -- and not just Muslims. Integration also should not mean giving up one's identity.

Differences should be respected. But they should align themselves under the still-generous European constitutional system. Those that want to live here need to obey the societal and democratic system otherwise they will continually be out of place.

But this system needs to deal with "the others" with as much freedom, liberality and tolerance for which the pessimists are criticizing Holland.

Art has its borders

These critics don't address the fact that the director, through a well-intended but visually provocative film, deeply hurt the feelings of faithful Muslims. It is no justification for violence, but as the worldwide debate over the Jesus film (Mel Gibson's "The Passion") and other cases showed, art can and isn't borderless, because it always finds its border with the other person's freedom.

If liberalism and tolerance have failed anywhere, then it is here.

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