A recent survey in Germany shows that 13 percent of its citizens would welcome a Fuhrer, and 60 percent would restrict the practice of Islam. More than a third of Germans feel “overrun by foreigners”.
In this political environment German Chancellor Angela Merkel said at a weekend meeting of her Christian Democratic Union Party:
Of course the tendency had been to say, “let’s adopt the multicultural concept and live happily side by side, and be happy to be living with each other.” But this concept has failed, and failed utterly… We feel bound to the Christian image of humanity – that is what defines us. Those who do not accept this are in the wrong place here.
Joachim Herrmann, interior minister stated:
There is no reason to integrate Islam into our system of values. Germany does not want to integrate Islam, but to retain its own cultural identity.
These words have brought up two important questions: what are Christian values, and how does Islam differ from them?
Christian values have been traditionally described as worship, fidelity, renunciation of worldly goods, renunciation of violence, forgiveness, and unconditional love.
Islam shares all these values. In fact, the two faiths share so much that Richard Bulliet, history professor at Columbia University, has posited the term “Islamo-Christian Civilization” as a more accurate representation of the society we have today. A historical perspective on Muslim contribution to Western society, and how it helped Europe escape the Dark Ages, helps shed light on the shared society we have today. For example, it is widely recognized that it was Muslim thinkers, mathematicians and scientists who were the inspiration for the much needed Renaissance period of Western civilization.
In How the Arabs Transformed Western Civilization, Jonathan Lyons writes, “Today many tend to see religion as the enemy of scientific progress. Yet early Islam openly encouraged and nurtured intellectual inquiry of all kinds.”
Yet, today’s Islamophobes have attempted to, through brute force tactics, paint Islam as fundamentally against the peace, forgiveness and love of Christianity. They overlook that Christianity has also had a complex understanding around their values and needed time to develop them. While early Christians were pacifist martyrs who would rather die than raise a finger against their oppressors, modern Christian societies have found Christian justifications for the Inquisition, the Crusades, Nazism and countless modern military actions.
Case in point, Germany has up to 3500 troops taking part in the “International Security Assistance Force for Afghanistan,” who have actively engaged and participated in violence.
This process of maturing Christian understandings have allowed for violent missteps, but they have also allowed for concepts such as self-defense and justice to develop within Western societies. We now define the result as basic human rights. Islam does more than just agree with these conclusions on basic human virtues and values of forgiveness and love, justice and self-defense: Muslims helped develop them.
While using the buzzwords of religion in her party affiliation (Christian Democratic Union) and in her speech, Merkel isn’t being a Christian purist when it comes to values. These politicians are using faith as an overarching container for the trappings of German cultural expression: their specific complaints have little to do with religious or theological debates and have more to do with immigrant languages, accents, and dress.
It may be that Merkel finds that Muslims are not so easily buying into the decadence of consumption and consumerism that are representative of a culture grounded in capitalist principles more than Christian ones. In this case, German politicians may be better off looking to these impoverished immigrants, working the menial jobs that native Germans don’t want, to relearn and reaffirm Islamo-Christian principles of acceptance, tolerance, sacrifice and love. After all, multikultiis Islamo-Christian.