At the international conference "Give Peace A Chance: Säkularismus und globale Konflikte" ("Secularism and Global Conflicts") in May this year, Michael Schmidt-Salomon gave a lecture titled "Secularism is the Solution! - On religion and violence". Today's publication of the lecture text on the website of the Giordano Bruno Stiftung gave the gbs spokesman the opportunity to comment on the current debate on refugees.
In his lecture Schmidt-Salomon explained that "without secular social norms, without consistent separation of state and religion, there can be no peace, freedom, and justice anywhere". At that time he did not explicitly address the treatment of refugees, the gbs spokesman explained that the consequences are obvious: "The current debates have shown that Europe needs a clearer secular profile in order not to break apart politically and to reach a humane treatment of men, women, and children who flee to us in greatest need."
Schmidt-Salomon fiercely opposed the Hungarian right-wing conservative Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who declared his country's massive policy of deterrence against refugees to be a measure to stabilize "Europe's Christian culture". "Orbán obviously has no idea of the roots of European culture," Schmidt-Salomon said. "It is quite clear that the freedoms we enjoy in Europe today are not based on 'Christian values' but on the almost complete emancipation from these values."
"False, ideological identity politics" intensify group conflicts
In this context, the gbs spokesman referred to the foundation's brochure "The Legend of the Christian Western World", published in June, as well as its preceding brochure "Selbstbestimmung statt Gruppenzwang - Gegen Islamismus UND Fremdenfeindlichkeit" ("Self-Determination instead of Peer Pressure - Against Islamism AND Xenophobia"), published by the Giordano Bruno Stiftung "not least in view of the expected influx of refugees": "Both brochures criticize false, ideological identity politics that inadmissibly lump people together, create abstract concepts of the enemy, and thus increase the danger of religious or ethnic group conflicts. What we need today is politics that breaks through such group norms, that focuses on the individual person - not his or her origin. We need politics that can overcome traditional resentments and that can be guided by the secular traditions that have truly brought strength to Europe, namely the guiding ideas of humanism and enlightenment".
If this is taken to heart, Schmidt-Salomon said, the influx of migrants could ultimately even result in a strengthening rather than a weakening of Europe's secular profile: "It should be clear that it is deeply inhumane to deter refugees by NATO barbed wire, unworthy housing, and inadequate care. Such measures, as they are currently being taken, especially in Eastern Europe, cannot be legitimized by anything! However, it would be legitimate and politically sensible if Europe - and particularly Germany, which is especially popular as a destination for refugees - were to communicate its secularity much more clearly to the outside world. Refugees should be aware even before entering Germany that Europe (or Germany) follows the principle of an open society, that religions here have to subordinate to the law, that men and women, heterosexual and homosexual people have equal rights, that children must not be beaten and that the worship of the Prophet Mohammed or the Christian Messiah does not have a higher social reputation than the worship of Borussia Dortmund, Monty Python or Dolly Buster! Anyone who does not want their children to grow up in such a free society will voluntarily seek exile outside Europe. On the other hand, those who seek such a place of freedom for themselves and their families should be welcomed with open arms by Europeans - not only for reasons of humanity, but also in their own interests in the face of the impending ageing of the European nations - and should be given all the opportunities for social participation as soon as possible.
Bodo Ramelow's reactions to the riots in Suhl were "grotesque and irresponsible"
Schmidt-Salomon described the reactions of the Thuringian state premier Bodo Ramelow (Linke) to the events in the refugee camp Suhl as "completely grotesque and politically irresponsible". A month ago, twenty Muslim refugees there had tried to lynch a man from Afghanistan who had fled the Taliban, after it became known that he allegedly had flushed pages from the Quran down the toilet. In a Tagesschau interview, Ramelow commented on the incident as follows: "There is no right to tear up a Quran and throw it into a toilet. There is no right to stain the Bible. But there is also no right for those who feel hurt to believe that they can simply lynch the other."
"I'm used to some grief because of German politicians," Schmidt-Salomon explained, "but by no stretch of the imagination I would have expected a state premier - and a nominal leftist at that! - on television to equate the 'staining' of a religious text with an attempted lynching! Ramelow should have resigned immediately after this catastrophic lapse! It goes without saying that it is the right of every person in Germany to do with the Quran or the Bible whatever they want - provided they own the respective book. If they want to dispose of the Quran, they should probably use the paper bin rather than the toilet, but of course the latter is not forbidden either. Neither is it forbidden to defile the Quran or the Bible, really or virtually, by making fun of the alleged 'Holy Scriptures'. All this is not only allowed in a free society for good reasons, it is even expected from good cabaret artists, cartoonists, artists who are at the pulse of time! But it is not allowed at all to use violence because one feels hurt in one's 'religious feelings'. By blurring the line between what is allowed and what is forbidden, Ramelow tarnished our society's secular profile and created an ugly justification for future acts of violence. Militant Islamists are certainly not deterred by such statements from coming to Germany, they are rather invited to "push the boundaries of the constitutional state."
Further gbs opinions on the refugee situation to follow
In the coming weeks and months, the Giordano Bruno Stiftung will take a stand on the causes of the refugee crisis and the serious problems in addressing it. Here you will find the lecture text by Michael Schmidt-Salomon (German) from May 2015, which highlighted the necessity of a secularist positioning. You can also download the PDF versions of the foundation brochures mentioned in this press release here: Brochure "Selbstbestimmung statt Gruppenzwang – Gegen Islamismus UND Fremdenfeindlichkeit" (December 2014, German) / brochure "The Legend of the Christian Western World" (June 2015, English).