Politicians need to think before they speak

“Islam does not belong in this country, Germany is shaped by Christianity,” the newly appointed German interior minister, Horst Seehofer, recently declared. His comment, factually debatable and politically inappropriate, drew harsh criticism from the country’s multiculturalists, and was eventually contradicted by Chancellor Angela Merkel. She stated: “Muslims belong to Germany, and also their religion of Islam belongs to Germany.” Nevertheless, the extent to which Muslim immigrants are accepted in Western nations will continue to be a subject of debate for years to come. 
Merkel also said: “We must do everything to ensure that religions successfully coexist.” Nevertheless, the clear majority of Germans — and perhaps white Westerners in general – probably silently favor the departure of non-Westerners from their countries. Too many Westerners’ belief in equality and tolerance applies only to those of Western national origin.
As usual, international media highlighted the German interior minister’s initial provocative remarks. However, when his superior tried to mitigate his statements, her remarks were less prominently featured, — similar to the way in which Islamist terrorists’ threats to destroy the West capture the media’s attention while the true values of Islam (or any other religion) are often deemed less newsworthy. 
Culturally, Western citizens perceive their society’s shortcomings as “natural errors” that they tend to acknowledge and that some are attempting to rectify. The most recent school shooting in Florida, when a 19-year-old gunman killed 17 students, was a horrifying incident for Americans, but it was not a shocking one; despite the mass demonstrations in the US at the weekend calling for tighter gun-control measures, school shootings are in many ways a “culturally tolerated” phenomenon, to the extent that many Americans believe schoolteachers should be armed, turning schools into well-balanced battlefields.

The German interior minister’s remarks about Islam were factually debatable and politically inappropriate; they may increase his popularity, but make life more challenging for millions of Muslims.

Mohammed Nosseir

Meanwhile, Islamophobia is spreading rapidly in Western nations, intensely affecting their governments and citizens. Given the disparity between the publicity given to the arguments put forth by a few Muslim terrorists, compared with the media coverage given to the views of the 1.8 billion Muslims who want to live in peace, it is no wonder that terrorist attacks by Muslims are perceived to reflect an obvious defect in our religion, Islam.
Many of us universal citizens have become more tense, and some are more prone to engage in violence. Nevertheless, before we rush to blame ordinary citizens, we need to look at whether our political leaders have attempted to calm things down — or whether they are working to inflame conditions further. While I don’t see any direct link between the German interior minister’s comments and potential terrorism, his declaration, and many others like it, are certainly stoking social tensions and increasing intolerance.
For a few days, I wondered whether the German minister (who was fairly elected in the latest parliamentary elections and eventually selected by Chancellor Merkel to join her new government) was speaking only for himself, or whether his words reflected German society’s views and behavior. Then I learnt about a survey on this matter in which 76 percent of German citizens endorsed the minister’s declaration. So his remarks may increase his popularity among Germans — but they certainly serve to split the world further and to make life more challenging for millions of Muslims.

  • Mohammed Nosseir, a liberal politician from Egypt, is a strong advocate of political participation and economic freedom.

Twitter: @MohammedNosseir