Sunday, May 06, 2012

The German political system's bizarre state of affairs on offended Muslims

A remarkable article in the German news magazine DER SPIEGEL reports an incident in the German state of North Rhine Westfalia. A bunch of radical rightwingers and a bunch of fundamentalist Muslims ran into each other during a demonstration. The rightwingers clearly intended to provoke the Muslims by showing a Danish cartoon depicting the religious figurehead of Islam in a not particularly favorable pose. As you might recall, when a conservative Danish broadsheet published said cartoon there was a big outcry amongst Muslims (they don't like any depictions of their prophet, neither positive nor negative ones). A lot of people were duly killed by enraged Muslims (including, not unexpectedly, many Muslims). So, when in Germany the rightwing activist group Pro-NRW announced its demonstration and its intention to display the Danish cartoon it knew that its favoured enemy, enraged Muslims, would show up and make complete and militant fools of themselves. and so they did. - Between the two of us, without the help of radical Muslims and anti-Islamophobia leftist counter demonstrators, nobody would have taken notice of the 30 or so pro-NRW demonstrators. But hey, like bulls don't take lightly to red sheets of cloth neither do Muslims or leftists in Germany take kindly to a tiny rightwing group trying to look like they actually have the people on the ground to organise a serious demonstration. Fun was had by all involved: The end result, a whole bunch of seriously injured people, including police officers trying to keep the peace between the two sides.

None of this is terribly newsworthy, of course. Rightwingers (especially rightwing Christians) and fundamentalist Muslims love having goes at each other in Western societies, because the rightwing Christians mistakenly believe they own these places and need to defend them against Muslims wanting to establish Sharia law. It's of course a good idea to defend the secular state against any kind of religiously motivated legislation (lest you want to live in failing states like Iran or pseudo-outfits like the Vatican).

Here's the odd bit. The interior minister of the state where said demonstration took place wants to place restrictions on future demonstrations by the extreme rightwing group. A prohibition on showing the offending Danish cartoon during public demonstrations is in the making. Here is the tortured logic: The Islamic fundamentalists count about 1500 members according to the German security services. There is about 4 million Muslims in Germany that want to have little, if anything, to do with their violence. In order to protect German police officers from their violence it is necessary to prevent the extreme rightwingers from showing the cartoon during their demonstrations.

I have no sympathies for the rightwingers here, but it seems to me as if the German state is caving in to Muslim fundamentalists.  German citizens would - in future - be prohibited from doing things that could offend members of a Muslim fundamentalist sect in the country, lest the Muslims would otherwise go on a rampage injuring police officers and other demonstrators. Freedom of speech is subjugated to concerns about security of the security forces (whose job, among many other obligations, ironically, is to uphold German citizens rights to express even harsh criticism of religious ideologies). I can't wait to hear how the German courts will respond to this interior ministerial edict.

Interesting parallel:  in Jamaica, a Caribbean island state known for its large number of militantly anti-gay Christian citizens, we see the police routinely prohibiting demonstration by gay civil rights groups. Their logic also is that there are so many enraged Christians out there that they couldn't guarantee the safety of the demonstrators (at least - unlike in Germany - they're not concerned about the security of the security forces). Another example of a democratic society caving in to religiously motivated militancy.

The trouble with religious freedom is that it is all too frequently misunderstood as the unrestricted freedom of the religious to run roughshot over everyone else.

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