News Overview 2015

A Call for More Civility in Religion

Radical Islamists have obviously declared war on the West. Just a few days before the discussion entitled "Kampf der Werte" (Battle of values) took place, which forms part of the Theater × Reality series, terrorists opened fire on scores of people at a hotel in Tunisia and a mosque in Kuwait – all in the name of Allah. "The event had a very sad topicality about it," noted Rainer Pörtner, host and political editor at Stuttgarter Zeitung.

"I knew that the world would be caught up in this development," said Mr. Fatah to introduce the discussion at Stuttgart’s Schauspielhaus, which was organized by the Robert Bosch Stiftung and Stuttgarter Zeitung. The author, originally from Iraq, reminded the audience that radical Islamists had unleashed fear in the world roughly a decade earlier with kidnappings and beheadings. Mr. Fatah: "We simply suppressed the whole thing."

At the very beginning, Mr. Pörtner put forth the question that dominated the discussion: "How much of it has to do with power and how much with religion?" Philosopher Julian Nida-Rümelin explained that in this debate we must not forget that it is also a question of values. The values of the West are challenged by people, who cite the Koran as the basis of their actions. However, he refused to reduce everything to a battle between religions. "What are at issue here are the foundations of a civilized world order."

In the same breath, he warned the West not to be arrogant. "It is worth having a look at our own history," he said. The religious wars of the 17th century could have led Europe to teeter on the brink of collapse. "The distortion of religion and world views was what made this conflict so infinitely cruel." Only once the influence of religion had been suppressed was it possible to put an end to the Thirty Years’ War. He called for the following: "We should not discuss passages from the Koran or the Bible. The challenge here is to bring civility to religion."

Mr. Fatah also expressed his hope for a separation of politics and religion. "This is the central failing of Islam," said the author. He did not, however, want to relieve the West of its responsibility. The reason for the rise of Islamist militants also lies in the weak government systems of the countries in this region, but modern industrialized nations are also to blame. Mr. Fatah reminded everyone of the United States’ involvement in the war between Iraq and Iran.

Host Stefan Kister threw another aspect into the discussion by saying that the jihadists are not motivated to fight just because of religion; they are also waging a war against modernity. Mr. Fatah countered by saying that we must put ourselves in the situation of the people in Iraq or Syria. "The United States declared that they wanted to firmly establish human rights in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan, and then they proceed to kill people with drones." For the people, the military objective was completely abstract, and others deemed it a concerted murder campaign. According to the author, these grand words did not match up with what was happening on the ground.

Mr. Nida-Rümelin warned against the West being viewed as the "inventor" of universal human rights. The reason why Great Britain fought against a declaration of human rights after World War II was because London wanted to prevent its empire from collapsing. Again, the philosopher warned the West against arrogance and topped off his statement with an example. In the face of resistance, the Basic Law of Germany established equal rights for men and women in 1948, but this was incompatible with family law, which was only changed decades later. At that time, women were not allowed to conclude many types of contracts. Mr. Nida-Rümelin: "When someone says that human rights are not compatible with the Koran, then we approach it the same way."

(Knut Krohn, Stuttgarter Zeitung, June 2015)

Picture Gallery

Photos: Lichtgut/Max Kovalenko 
About 400 guests followed the third edition of "Theater x Reality" in the Stuttgarter Schauspielhaus about  a "Battle of Values".

Audios (in German)

Julian Nida-Rümelin about the separation of politics and religion
Origins of human rights
The irreconcilability of Islam and Western values
Sherko Fatah about Western values in the Arab world
The war methods of the West
The Western understanding of freedom as a threat to Islam

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