First of all, I would like to clarify one thing. I am a Muslim but Salafists are not my brothers and I am not part of fictitious, globally suppressed Muslim community – the so called Ummah. Salafism does not represent me, either as an individual or as a human being. They do not represent Islam as I understand it. In contrast to them, I believe that freedom of speech, democracy, human rights and tolerance are not one way streets or instruments to spread hatred in Europe.
Much has been written and reported on Salafism. In current debates there is an unfortunate marked absence of Muslim voices. (Click on Read More below for the rest of the article)
Even though the Salafist community is very divided, and even though the so-called Jihadists who either call for outright armed Jihad or who seek to legitimise it remain a minority, I remain convinced that Salafism as an ideology stands in stark contrast to constitutional democracy. Violence doesn’t just begin when people shoot at each other people in the name of religion. In my opinion, polygamy, gender segregation, a claim to a monopoly of the truth, the rejection of democracy and the belief in the need to “save” people from their godless and miserable lives are already forms of violence which must be stopped.
To halt the spread of Salafism we must look at the reasons for the rapid spread of such an ideology in order to understand the excessive violence during the last few weeks. In the last couple of years more and more people who are prepared to use and propagate violence have joined this movement. Salafism offered them a platform from which they can act out their political and religious aggression.
Many of its followers were only too happy about the provocations by Pro NRW (a right-wing, anti-Islamic group in Germany). For them it was the perfect opportunity to corroborate their world view, one which is based on the idea of “victimhood”, with the provocations giving them yet another reason to rebel against society.
We also must understand why this ideology holds such a magnetic appeal, particularly among adolescents. The reason lies not only in failed integration, which some claim is the case in order to remove the responsibility from their own community. Instead, we should look for reasons within the community. Salafists did not invent anything new but merely moulded a common understanding of Islam into an extreme form.
Exclusion, alienation, the cultivation of a victim mentality, the support for their own followers and depreciation of others, the claim to the absolute and only truth, the ban in questioning religious declarations, the rejection of new and modern interpretations of Islam, the taboo of sexuality, intimidating teachings which put the fear of hell above everything else, the claim to have an answer for everything and the pressure to copy the life of the Prophet – these are all things that appeal to adolescents and that give them a clear orientation of right and wrong.
Additionally there are other issues that play a central role for “Mustafa-the-average-Muslim”. Namely, control-orientated methods of bringing up children that focus on collectivism and respect for authority, and that function as amplifiers and foster weakness among adolescences for the arguments of the Salafists. With their clear codes of conduct, they offer stability and appear to make life easier.
To counter such an ideology we need strong and convincing Islamic role models, who are capable of leading a debate on Islamic values beyond the ideas of discrimination and the victim mentality. We need a courageous and contemporary interpretation of Islam with clear positions on our democratic values and our constitution. We need a subtle interpretation of Islam, which is able to take criticism and is capable of theologically justifying a democratic Islam.
Where are these role models?
 At a rallye “Pro NRW” followers showed “the Danish“ Mohammad caricatures