The announcement of a „panel discussion with the human rights commissioner of the federal government Markus Löning“ intrigued me. I noticed positively that representatives of Syria and Tunisia would be part of the discussion. Next to Markus Löning, Matthias Katzer (Amnesty International), Dr. Sadiqu Al-Mousllie (member of the Syrian National Council) and Chaouki Ben Attia (Head of the Tunisian academic union) participated in the panel. A discussion „about the impact of the so called Arab Spring, possible ways towards democracy and about the future of the region” was promised, which turned into the usual “Islam-discourse” shortly.
Löning gave a brief introduction into the topic by describing his experience gathered upon visits to Egypt and Tunisia in 2011. The people’s courage and readiness to assume a risk made a big impression on him: „The acceptance of the risk, to be beaten, tortured or even murdered by the regime moved me the most.“ Löning talked of an obligation of the Germans to support the people in the Arabic countries. Answering the question what the inhabitants themselves call the „Arab Spring“ Löning was told that the fight was for „democracy and dignity“. „You must understand“, one of his interviewees appealed that not everybody who goes to the mosque also throws bombs”. The election of religiously aligned parties (such as in Tunisia and Egypt) reflects the people’s free will and is essentially comparable to the formation of Europe which also based on conservative parties the human rights commissioner reminded.
Individual reports are, especially in times of Web 2.0, an inspiring variety of the everyday political verbiage of public discourse. However, Löning opened – maybe unknowingly – with the description of this impressions and the final appeal immediately Pandora’s box. Moderator Holger Flöge, who belongs to the FDP-party alike Löning and the event’s initiator, congressman Florian Bernschneider, instantly spoils my evening completely with his first question: „What kind of understanding do the local people have of Islam?“ Without much thinking at least five useful question come to my mind which could be posed towards the panel’s participants. Exemplarily I would like to mention the question about the current situation of the people in Syria, especially in the city of Homs, or about the concept that could be presented by the government explaining how people can be supported effectively on their way towards democracy.
Personally I dare saying that I do not only consider this first question of Flöge insensitive in view to the current situation of the people, but even for counterproductive in a way. What can be gained if we discuss this question for the one hundred thousand time, whether all muslims are Islamists and whether the region from North Africa to the Near East will be a single islamistic theocracy? Al-Mousslie pledged in a first statement that in times of despair people look for footing in God and that one should differentiate between Islamic and islamistic. I sense it as an imposition that Al-Mousslie has to deal with such a question in this discussion at all. A longer explanation given by Ben Attia follows that the adherents of Ennahda were oppressed, pursuited and tortured among Ben Alis rule. It is said that the citizens are fed up with the ancient regimes and are now willing to elect people who were not allowed to rule for centuries and that one should be patient with the new statesmen.
Is it really necessary to discuss such matters of course at length for a whole evening? Is the audience really only interested in checking whether they will be threatened somehow by the Near East soon? According to Al-Mousllies more than a hundred people are being killed daily in Homs by warlike attacks of the Syrian army and at that time we grant ourselves the luxury to debate for hours whether „Al-Qaeda“ gets into the Syrian case or not? How ethnocentrical can one be? For centuries one clamours, slags and laughs about the disability of the Arab people to get rid of the despotism (mostly financed or tolerated by the West) in their countries. But when it happened there is suddenly no other topic than the “Islamic fear”? It simply drives me nuts! We are still talking about human lives which are acute endangered, aren’t we?
In course of an aimless debate Löning interposed: „Common sense and that people will act reasonable in their own interest should be assumed in the first place“.
Suddenly Flöge blasts the next senseless question (one can only assume that it is due to unthoughtfulness): „Is the German or Western democratic system transferable to the Arab World? “ Strike! The question could have been as well: „How likely is it that communism will displace the democratic system in Germany within the coming years? Or „will the next chancellor be a muslim?“
A true ray of hope was the request to speak by somebody out of the audience who pointed out that the debate about religion is counterproductive at this stage. Thank you!
At a later date the discussion fortunately accelerated when somebody asked what practical support could be given from Germany to the local people in the troubled areas. Ben Attia answered the question mentioning three points:
- Direct investment to support the economy
- Creation of jobs
- Support of people’s dignity
Al-Mousllie further substantiated these statements:
- Support of the 5000 refugees at the Lybian-Tunisian border to disburden Tunisia
- Unbureaucratic acceptance of Syrian refugees
- Medical provision of Syrian injured refugees in Germany
Thereupon Löning reported on the latest decision of the German Ministery of the Interior that 900 out of 5.000 refugees camping at the Lybian-Tunisian border will be accepted in the next three years. Above that, Al-Mousllie wished for the installation of huminitarian corridors and safety zone within the troubled territory as well as for the remittance of electronical device (such as mobiles), in order that Syrian activists can film the incidents and broadcast them to the world.
It is just simple things we can to ease those peoples situation. It is a pity that once again an opportunity has been wasted to find out more about the environment and the motives of the people in the contested areas and discuss meaningful ways how to form the future instead of clinging to old-fashioned stereotypes of radical Islamists.