Earlier this week, Dutch state media ‘revealed’ that mosques in the Netherlands are partly financed by oil dollars from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. They tweeted: “That means bringing in a fundamentalist variant of Islam: Salafism. Followers reject democracy.”Followed by hashtags like #mosques #Gulfstates #radicalisation and #extremism it was clear that the facts had finally found its way to the mainstream daylight. A few journalists, academics and bloggers however had been reporting about the issue for at least a decade, while being ridiculed on the networks for ‘stretching out their right arm’ (in stead of opening both of them to newcomers).However, the latest news did in fact disclose three lists of names of Dutch mosque organizations that have requested funding in Gulf countries. Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have managed to keep their correspondence with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs confidential since 2010. One of the lists contains concrete payments to mosques with amounts, accurate to the decimal point.
In short, an estimated 10 percent of all Dutch mosques have asked for money or actually received funding from these Gulf countries. Financial and moral meddling from the Middle-East is a threat to our free society and democracy – to non-believers and muslims alike.
I spoke with political scientist and writer Hamed Abdel-Samad in Berlin recently, after reading his new book: ‘Integration, ein Protokol des Scheiterns‘ (Integration, A Failed Project). I won’t go into the details of the book here, but limit myself to his solution. ‘The only possible solution,’ Hamed Abdel-Samad says. ‘If politicians were in fact able to stop avoiding reality.’ In Germany the problems are similar, the influence of conservative islam on the youth, women and migrants is deepening and making it increasingly difficult to ‘choose Germany’ – western values – over medieval tribalism and inequality.
‘The integration of muslim minorities has failed. Were it did not fail, it was because of individual efforts. For example from parents who fearlessly guide their children into a life of opportunities. Or children who fought coercion and tradition and left their communities to find their own way. The keys to integration are always: freedom, self-determination and responsibility. The economy, the welfare state and its beneficiaries, the churches and their privileges, the islamic organisations and their agenda, they all interfere with integration and create a parallel society instead. Een mixture of conservative Islam, Turkish nationalism, and criminal clans have prevented muslims from integrating successfully. Schools have failed to protect children against fundamentalism and have concealed problems out of misplaced tolerance and fear of being called ‘racist’. Money, courage and new laws are necessary to help everyone co-exist. The state should:
- Retrieve the ‘Gewaltmonopol’ – the capacity of the state to control violence. Especially in no-go areas where clans control large areas. Zero tolerance policy for radical islamists, all networks, regardless of their background. Within the boundaries of the Constitution new laws should be enacted, or existing laws more strictly enforced.
- Criminal money flows should be stopped by installing a special commission of secret services, justice departments and real estate experts. This way we can free the ‘Migrantenviertel‘ from clans. This will send off a positive signal to the rest of society. The end of intimidation is the beginning of freedom.
- Create new allies. For example: muslim academics, intellectuals, artists, athletes and human rights activists – that work for the community and not solely represent minority groups.
- Prohibit a parallel justice system that is being installed through so called ‘Friedensrichter’ (judges of peace) and ‘sharia practice’.
- Recognise that islamic organisations are not religious entities, but political and ideological, patriarchal structures that march through institutions, funded by the state. Religious communities will only be recognised as such, when their goal is solely the unhinderd exercise and expression of faith – not spreading reactionaire ideology across German territory.
- Integration is not a voluntary assignment without responsibilities. We need concepts and incentives, but also sanctions, tax- and control mechanisms.
Islamverbände sind verfassungsrechtlich keine Religionsgemeinschaften. Jetzt müssen alle Bundesländer, die mit… https://t.co/ijEYmWwTEX
— Hamed Abdel-Samad (@hamed_samad) 9 november 2017
The justice- and schoolsystem should:
- Create more capacity – staff and resources. At the heart of a functioning democratic state lies a system that people can trust and that protects them from those who break the law.
- More pressure should be put on countries of origin that refuse to take in rejected asylum seekers. Often these countries receive financial aid or have other ties to the European Union.
- The Constitution serves the people not the other way around. We need mandatory equal rights for men and women. Not only the state should guarantee these rights, but civilians in daily life as well. It should be possible to hold fathers that forbid their daughters to play sports or take part in schooltrips accountable.
- Personal freedom should take precedence over the needs of the collective – islam. The boundaries between religious rights (prayer, fasting, pelgrimage) and other aspects of religions should be divorced. Freedom of thought, speech, the welfare of animals and the equality of the sexes should not be jeopardised.
- Political groups can no longer claim the same privileges as religious groups. Islamist groups use the semi-secular state and grey areas in the law to expand their power structures. This makes religious reform impossible.
- The police should work on their image. Better payment, better conditions and training will make the profession more attractive.
- Teachers must be better prepared for potential conflicts. Open discussion about what young people experience must be possible. Sensitivity and fear of conflict just further suppresses important debates. Teachers can present Western values as freedom and democracy as alternatives.
- Children are born into families not by choice, so schools have to make very clear that education is for everyone, just like self-determination and freedom. Nobody can be excluded from it.
- Teach children that origin, culture and religion is a building block for building your identity, but not a wall which separates you from the rest.
- Have a new debate about values to prevent further polarization. The debate should not turn against Muslims, against the left, or the right, but be an opportunity for everyone to discover a common identity, a basis. We are a long way from there, given the erosion of values. It would be a strong signal to everyone who despises our freedom and abuses it to implement their own ‘concept of freedom’. Participation instead of tolerance. We must stop seeing Muslims as a uniform collective. Muslims are versatile and have many different backgrounds and interests. We must first see them as individuals, then as equal citizens, then as German citizens as soon as they are.
- The debate should not be left to the moralising left or demagogic right. Perhaps extreme positions can help us decide where the middle lies.