Are religions attacked

Let's talk about religion

Anyone who wants to practice a religion in Germany has the Basic Law on their side. It says that freedom of belief is inviolable. And that the undisturbed practice of religion is guaranteed. But what does that mean in everyday life? Again and again there are conflicts, the trigger - not necessarily the cause - of which is religion. Sometimes it's about the ban on dancing on Good Friday, sometimes about headscarves, sometimes about a Jewish boy who is bullied in his class. The big question every time is how people of different religions can live together peacefully and in a friendly manner. Unfortunately, the big answer is still missing. But you can try to find a lot of small answers. That is why, on a late summer's day in Berlin, four people come together in whose lives religion plays a major role: a former Salafist, a Muslim, a member of the Jewish Forum for Democracy and Against Anti-Semitism, and a scientist who examines the opportunities and limits of interreligious dialogue.

A big table, coffee, two hours to talk: not much for a topic that people have been arguing about for millennia. But enough to exchange ideas. The four interlocutors meet for the first time. They examine each other curiously, a little shyly.

First of all, it has to be clarified how one recognizes religious conflicts in the first place. Because when a Christian and a Muslim or a Jew and a Buddhist quarrel about everyday things, religion often plays no role at all. It is a different matter when people get into trouble because of their religion. In the past few months there have been some explosive incidents in Germany. In refugee homes, for example, Christians were beaten up by Muslims for being Christians. Pig heads have been placed where mosques are planned, and Israeli tourists have been insulted anti-Semitically in Berlin.

The only one in the group who at first glance can be assigned to a religion is the Muslim Hawa Öruc. The 26-year-old, who comes from a Kurdish family, decided to wear the headscarf four years ago. Does she get the impression that people are reacting to the garment? Öruc says: “Yes, I feel the exclusion massively, especially since the Pegida movement emerged and since the AfD moved into 13 state parliaments.” The supporters of the Islamophobic Pegida movement have been holding demonstrations in Dresden since 2014, the AfD is a right-wing populist party which was founded in 2013.

Dispute: headscarf

The other day, when Öruc was traveling by train, she was pushed hard by a man while she was getting off. Öruc assumes that he felt provoked by her headscarf. Something like that never happened to her when she wasn't wearing one. But she also feels the exclusion from the way people talk about the headscarf in society. “Something that I use to define my affiliation is described as a uniform.” But in a derogatory way. “Everyone who feels they belong to a football club is allowed to show their colors, bawl every weekend and say: I belong to this team and I wear this uniform because I like it! You don't have that negative connotation. "

Now Dominic Schmitz steps in: “It's logical. Nobody blows themselves up for Schalke. ”Schmitz used to be a Salafist, one of around 10,000 in Germany. FC Schalke 04 is a Bundesliga team in its home region. In 2009 the club had to deal with a religiously charged discussion on the club song: "Mohammed was a prophet / who understands nothing about playing football," it says. An Islamic scholar came to the conclusion that the verses were not anti-Islamic and recommended "a little more humor and relaxation". Dominic Schmitz has already experienced religious conflicts from many perspectives and today warns urgently against Islamism. For several years it was part of his everyday life that he mistrusted others and they mistrusted him - because of the way in which he and she practiced their religion. In the meantime he describes himself simply as “Dominic - that includes being a little Christian, a little Muslim, philosophy, doubt”.

Swear words at school

A discussion now unfolds between Schmitz and Öruc, which deals with the Islamist preacher Sven Lau, art and music in Islam and the question of how some Muslims evaluate freedom of expression, for example in connection with caricatures. Conflicts between Muslims and those of different faiths are ignited again and again in the caricatures of Mohammed. It becomes clear: Schmitz sees dangers in Islam where Öruc sees none. Both speak very politely to each other, but you can tell that they are upset. Even here at the coffee table it becomes clear that religious conflicts are so difficult to resolve because they revolve around the core of what someone believes in. It's not about anything, it's about everything. When Schmitz recites a sentence that he describes as a problematic verse from the Koran, but which Öruc has never heard, the conversation comes to a standstill.

So far, Tabea Adler from the Jewish Forum for Democracy and Against Anti-Semitism has been listening quietly. She too can report a lot about religious conflicts. Your assessment is that many disputes only supposedly have to do with religion. “When someone asks a man about his kippah, there are often completely different factors behind it. The point is not that he wants to know something about religion, but that he has an image of culture in mind. ”And:“ It often happens that Jews are held responsible for Israel's politics. ”That is quite irrational.

And it is still crude. The word “Jew” is used more and more often as a swear word among schoolchildren. The point is not to designate a supposed Jew as such, but only to insult someone. A survey of teachers in Berlin on behalf of the “American Jewish Committee” showed that this speech in schoolyards is now “part of everyday life”. Many Jews in Germany are intimidated by this development, which is not limited to schoolyards. "I know people who would like to wear the kippah but don't do it to avoid hostility," reports Hawa Öruc.

The scientist at the table, Kim David Amon, knows better than many others what religious conflicts are preoccupying young people. He examines how it is talked about in religious education classes. In Hamburg, where he works, there is a special case of religious instruction in which students from different religions take part. He describes that in classes with a Muslim majority there are often a few students, "who rush ahead with a strong opinion and have something like religious sovereignty". The difference in viewpoints is “often not so present”, even if, as interviews have shown, it does exist.

Workshops and lectures

One issue over which young people of different religions conflict with one another is homosexuality. Dominic Schmitz describes that Muslim students often take the position that homosexuality is something bad and despicable. They told him that if their son was gay they would cast him out. Tabea Adler from the Jewish Forum is also familiar with this point of view. She leads workshops in refugee shelters, the main target group are teenagers and young adults between 14 and 18 years of age. "When it comes to homosexuality, many say: We don't have that. And then you start a conversation. We say: you have not seen this before because it is forbidden in your home country. But that doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. I hope that we will provide food for thought. "

Now the four interviewees have come to the question of how to resolve conflicts. Schmitz also wants to give the students food for thought. He tells them, “What you believe is your business. But your son, who is gay, does not do this to annoy you or Allah. Then they say: 'This is a test. Allah examines them. ‘Then I say: That is not just. What kind of God is that who looks at it and says to himself: Great, he'll do it for me, that's a great believer. ”Schmitz hopes that the students will start to think. He doesn't believe in being able to convince her immediately.

Interested in sharing

Scientist Amon is optimistic that students are fundamentally interested in exchanges. Adler's experience is that the young people she speaks to are not closed. Does she have problems, for example, when she comes to young Muslims as a member of the Jewish Forum? “We have never experienced a fundamentally negative attitude in the facilities. Concerns were more likely to be expressed by employees. Some are afraid that it will provoke too much. But the young people don't ask explicitly whether I'm Jewish. Very few do that. ”The question wouldn't bother her, by the way:“ I think that's quite legitimate. It bothers me more that people are so timid and so afraid, as if it were something bad to ask about it. "

Amon points out that it is not just the Muslim students who care about the exchange of religion. But: "Many young people who would assign themselves to another religion lack the ability to speak about religious matters or what concerns them at heart." There is an inhibition threshold to exchange ideas - discussing religion is also a matter of practice. Those who haven't done it often like to hold back because they don't want to hurt anyone or because they are afraid to offend. Adler, Schmitz, Öruc and Amon are practiced. They do not interrupt each other, listen carefully and explain in detail.

Talk time is up, the photographer is taking pictures. When he is done, the four participants stay and continue discussing. Some for two hours. It seems like there is at least one thing that everyone agrees on: Talking brings something.