Islam critic Hamed Abdel-Samad on New Year’s Eve in Berlin

Islam critic Hamed Abdel-Samad on New Year’s Eve in Berlin
Islam critic Hamed Abdel-Samad on New Year’s Eve in Berlin

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Riots in front of the Reichstag: “We need a democracy with teeth,” says Abdel-Samad.

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Reza RafiDeputy Editor-in-Chief SonntagsBlick

SonntagsBlick: Politicians of all stripes are appalled by the incidents in Berlin. How about you? Were you surprised?

Hamed Abdel Samad: Why should one be surprised? A few years ago we had something similar in Cologne.

You mean New Year’s Eve 2015/16…

At that time, young migrants and refugees who had only been in Germany a few months used excessive sexualized violence, they celebrated their masculinity, their alleged superiority by humiliating and sexually molesting women.

In Berlin it was not about sexual violence. Where’s the commonality?

Even then, the state and the media failed. At first they didn’t want to talk about it, but when more and more victims came forward and the numbers literally exploded, they were forced to do so. Since then, six years have passed, there have been almost a thousand victims, and I ask myself: what about the perpetrators? How many were fined? Has anyone been deported? That’s what really makes you angry. Even now there is talk again of deterrence and that something like this should not be allowed to happen again. Nothing happened. The only measure taken after Cologne was to increase security in the event of large gatherings of people. The real problem was not even touched upon.

What’s the real problem?

The problem is young men with a migration background who despise the German state, who accept no authority other than their own family, their own imam or their Arab clan. The events in Berlin are just the tip of the iceberg, there is a slumbering potential for anger that is not caught anywhere, least of all in the family – there, I claim, hatred of Germany, of this society, is even fueled. This low frustration tolerance is looking for an outlet. And she looks for the weak points of society and democracy. These men realized very quickly that the state was toothless, that they might spend a day on guard duty, but then they would be released. We lost control of a certain group.

You talk about hate. Where is he from?

If I live in a society where I’m not well integrated, where I don’t have a good job and no prospects, I get angry. This also applies to welfare recipients: the receiving hand is often more rebellious and less satisfied than the giving hand. Whoever receives develops a mentality of entitlement, but also a helplessness that leads to frustration. I don’t want to rule out the possibility that many of these young men experience discrimination in everyday life, which is certainly also a factor. The mixture of powerlessness and fantasies of omnipotence creates the violence that we saw in Berlin.

In other words, someone with a name like Mohammed or Abdullah has fewer chances of getting a job than someone with a Western European name.

Then there is the narrative these people hear about Europe at home. The problem with migrant children from the suburbs exists throughout Europe. Like in December in Paris, when the suburbs burned after an attack on three Kurds, or in Brussels after the Moroccan World Cup victory against Belgium. There is always talk of youth violence afterwards, but not a single politician takes the word migrant children into their mouths. Neither does most of the media.

Why is that?

Because otherwise it would be racism. That’s the crucial mistake: How can you solve a problem if you don’t even want to name it?

And what is your solution?

As mentioned, the first thing to do is identify the problem. After that you have to do something. But the state currently has no options for action because it has tied its own hands.

What do you mean?

Permanent residence permits and even German passports were issued very quickly without making sure that these people even identified with their new homeland. There are integration offers, but no bids.

Aren’t you reducing the problem too much? Many Germans were also arrested in Berlin.

I’m not saying that there weren’t any young Germans there. Neukölln and Kreuzberg are very left-wing districts of Berlin. And we know how contempt for the police is widespread among left-wing extremists. I don’t want to rule out the possibility that right-wing extremists were there either. But: When a group of young white Germans attacks a migrant, all media address the origin of the perpetrators and the victims – rightly so, because then it is obviously right-wing extremism. But if it’s the other way around, the origin of the perpetrators and the extent of the violence are covered up.

Franziska Giffey, the Governing Mayor of Berlin, has announced a “summit against youth violence”.

The same happened after New Year’s Eve in Cologne. Then there was silence again – because people are afraid of the rise of the AfD. And with whom do you actually want to enter into a dialogue, as the saying goes? It is just as impossible to enter into a dialogue with violent young people as with neo-Nazis. You need deterrence, we need a democracy with teeth. If we have to protect ourselves from people who have taken shelter with us, it is a world upside down.

Aren’t you underestimating the socio-economic level now? Many politicians and experts point to the problem of parallel societies and call for more equal opportunities.

What a surprise! For 40 years people have been talking about the danger of ghettoization and Islamization. But how do you solve a problem by silencing the critics? The same relativization always follows. The danger then suddenly lies with people like Ahmad Mansour or Seyran Ates, who draw attention to such abuses. The violent youths then become victims who have to be protected from Hamed Abdel-Samad.

You generalize.

Most Muslims and refugees in our country are peaceful and capable people. But there is a violent minority that not only endangers internal security, but also the coexistence of different cultures and ethnic groups. If we criticize this group, it is not a general suspicion against migrants, but necessary to solve the problem. Just as criticism of right-wing extremists is not a general suspicion against white Germans.

You mentioned Islam several times. What significance does religious culture have for incidents like in Cologne or Berlin?

My new book will be published this week: «Islam, A Critical History». It is about how Islam is expanding in Europe, in different guises. We certainly have the peaceful, apolitical Muslims, we have young, liberal Muslims who are trying to develop an Islam for Europe. But there is also a conservative, reactionary political Islam that is growing in power in Europe. The danger is that European politics will promote this Islam the most.

Indeed? You have to explain that.

The state makes these organizations socially acceptable by establishing them as partners and making them even more powerful through funding. One example is the Turkish organization Ditib, which clearly pursues political goals in Germany. Such associations reach people in mosques run by other states and through satellite channels in which the West is constantly attacked as the enemy of Islam…

… which hinders integration even more?

The upbringing brought from the Middle East and North Africa makes the western way of life – sex without a marriage contract, alcohol consumption, pork – appear immoral. The woman must stay at home or wear a veil when she is not at home, and the man is not allowed to have sex before marriage. If the man with this character can’t find a job because he doesn’t have the social skills or speaks bad German, he’s left with frustration, a lot of testosterone and anger. He has to let that out somehow. The state doesn’t have a prescription for this because it misdiagnoses the problem.

The article is in German

Tags: Islam critic Hamed AbdelSamad Years Eve Berlin