German Turk takes on 'anti-Semitic Islamic propaganda'There are three points on which I'd like to comment:
By Ofri Ilani
BERLIN - When Aycan Demirel looks out his office window onto the main street of the Kreuzberg neighborhood, center of the Turkish community in Germany's capital, he is unimpressed by the diverse human mosaic for which "Little Istanbul" is famous. Businesses along Oranienstrasse are populated by young Germans eating shwarma to the sounds of Turkish music, but Demirel pointedly recalled the darker side of the neighborhood experience. "The residents here love to treat this neighborhood as a model of multiculturalism and tolerance, but that image is fraudulent," he said.
"The Jews have no place in this multiculturalism," Demirel said. "If you wear a kippa or a Magen David, there's a big chance you'll be cursed at and even assaulted. Anti-Semitism is rearing its head in Germany, only now the anti-Semites are young Muslims."
Demirel, 38, is not Jewish; he emigrated from Turkey 16 years ago. In today's Germany, his decision to confront radical Islam places him on the frontlines of one of the stormiest social debates the country has known.
Last month, a storm erupted over statements about Islam made by the pope, himself a German. Conservative politicians hastened to his defense in what was presented as a struggle over freedom of expression. Shortly afterward came the controversial cancelation of a Mozart opera because of a scene in which the severed head of the Prophet Mohammed is displayed. This self-censorship due to "fear of Islam" aroused protests across nearly the entire political spectrum.
According to Demirel, the recent expressions of anger by radical Muslims in Germany are just the tip of the iceberg of what he terms the "culture of hate" in Muslim communities. Daily exposure to a "barrage of anti-Semitic Islamist propaganda" led him two years ago to found KIGA (Kreuzberger Initiative gegen Antisemitismus), whose local activists - of German, Turkish and Arab origin - work with schools and youth centers to fight anti-Semitism, primarily in Muslim communities.
Some say criticism of immigrant communities is too harsh, and connected to essential hostility toward the Muslim faith. "I actually think this phenomenon should be examined within a more defined context, of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and not seen as ingrained anti-Semitism," said Tzafrir Cohen, an Israeli journalist and founder of the Berlin Jewish Film Festival, who has lived in Kreuzberg for 20 years. "To say that there is a racist atmosphere in Kreuzberg is an outright lie. It's true you see graffiti here along the lines of 'Fight Zionist Fascism' and similar slogans, mostly among Palestinians who live here. But I never heard of a Jew being attacked for being a Jew, and if such incidents occur, they come from the radical right."
Oguz Ucuncu, Secretary General of Milli Gorus - a major Islamic organization that runs 300 mosques in Germany - denied allegations of anti-Semitism in Muslim communities. "We do not have hostility toward the West, nor hostility toward Jews," he said. "But there is of course frustration with the international community's double standard when it comes to Muslim countries.."
Dr. Juliane Wetzel, chair of the Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism at the Technical University of Berlin, agreed that anti-Semitism among young Muslims in Germany has been rising in the past five years. "Since the Muslim community in Germany is largely of Turkish origin, there is a lot less hatred toward Israelis and Jews than in comparable communities in Europe," she said. "But in recent years, the youth here have apparently been influenced by Islamic Internet sites and satellite channels, and absorbed certain anti-Semitic stereotypes that they did not have in the past."
The first is that the cheek of the Islamists will never cease to amaze me. Milli Görüs, a group active in the Netherlands and Germany, control roughly 500 mosques. The group is under observance in Germany since as early as the Eighties and has been defined by the Verfassungsschutz (the federal domestic intelligence agency) as a "foreign extremist organization". In 1996 already, a German court described the group as a "threat to the democratic order in Germany". The fact that they are still allowed to operate, and legally for that, is a shame and a scandal and there is a "double standard" indeed, but I doubt that is the one which sets Milli Görüs' knickers ablaze.
The second one is the fact that I happen to know records of personal experiences where Jews in Berlin (make that Jews who were identifiable as such by kippah or Magen David) have been bullied or denied to be served. I have no idea what makes a man like Tzafrir Cohen tick. If it is the wish for a window seat on the next train to Auschwitz, he won't get it. Those trains have no windows.
However, the next point, namely the fact that the violent antisemitic streak described in the article above seems to be a relatively recent phenomenon, complies with my personal observations. We are now paying the price in Germany (It IS a price, isn't it???) for our idiot, guilt-and-shame-driven kumbayah-and-all-cultures-are-equal lack of integration efforts and have handed the Turks over to the Islamists on a silver platter.
Of course, the fact that it hits mainly the Jews now doesn't disturb all that many Germans. A welcome thing at worst and a please-dear-crocodile-eat-me-last symptom at best.
It won't work.