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April 15, 2013, Monday

Authentic pluralism

Germany's current population is about 82 million. Of this, 4 million -- perhaps a little higher -- are Muslims. Thus, the proportion of Muslims is around 5 percent of the population.

Let's suppose that this rate is 10 percent. Let's suppose further that these Muslims want to ensure that Islam is adopted as the major source of legislation in Germany, that all women wear headscarves and that pork and alcohol are banned. Christians, agnostic liberals, atheists, socialists, communists, etc. would say: “We don't believe in Islam. Our religious, philosophical and lifestyle choices are different. How can you force us to believe, think and live as you do?”

This is certainly a very reasonable question. If Muslims, who are in the minority, impose their beliefs and lifestyles on the majority, then this will unavoidably be a totalitarian and repressive regime. But Muslims could opt for a reasonable way, making the following demands from German decision makers: “We are fewer in number. Ensure that we enjoy the right to cherish our religion, that we can exist in civic/civilian spheres and introduce legal and constitutional guarantees for this. Moreover, with the taxes that we pay and our allegiance to the law, we both finance and ensure public order. Ensure that we have a say in the decision-making processes and mechanisms that are related to all citizens in the public administration. Our say should be proportional to our population and the value which we add to the public budget and the overall economy.”

We know from our experience from over 50 years that Muslims do not enjoy such a right in any European democracy. They live in misery and have been made into a hate figure of Islamophobia. This is the basic dilemma the European democracies face in terms of Muslims, Roma and Jews. The fact that some special privileges are granted to Jews does not mean that the theory of democracy has systematically been internalized. These privileges represent “privileges beyond rights” due to special historic, political and geostrategic reasons, and should there be a change in conditions, Jews may find themselves in a worse situation than Muslims and Roma.

But in response to this reasonable objection which we've raised about liberal democracy, someone who can turn an existentialist eye to the fundamental problems of humankind might ask: “What are the rights and freedoms afforded to minorities in the political system that you are proposing? How do you ensure political and socio-cultural pluralism?”

We will look for the answer to these questions by turning to the authentic sources of Islam. Indeed, Islam has established the following four principles for any religion, sect or belief:

(1) Guidance to the truth is divine, so Muslims cannot force anyone to accept Islam. Every religious group is entitled to teach their beliefs, philosophical perspectives or world views to their children. The state has no authorization in this regard.

(2) Every religious group has the right to perform its religious worship and rituals. They will not be meddled with.

(3) Every religious group has the right to live and develop practices as they like.

(4) Every religious group has the right to become organized and develop a communal civilian sphere. The state cannot dominate over their civic/civilian sphere.

Each religious group will be able to have a say over the public administration and resource utilization pro rata their population and the value added they produce as long as they are peaceful. This is realistic and it represents a fair participation and authentic pluralism.

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