Germany: "When it came to the subject of Islam, something was festering that had escaped our notice"

Germany: "When it came to the subject of Islam, something was festering that had escaped our notice"

Via Spiegel, an interview with German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich. On the one hand, Friedrich thinks there's a problem when certain issues aren't addressed in the public discussion. On the other, he doesn't see a reason why bloggers should be anonymous.

SPIEGEL: Have politicians paid too little attention to the extremist anti-Islamic scene that has developed in Europe in recent years?

Friedrich: There are always defensive reactions against what we perceive to be foreign. We have to incorporate these defensive reflexes into a rational discussion process through prevention and education. In Germany, so far, we have been relatively successful at this. We are a cosmopolitan and open country.

SPIEGEL: And yet there is also a growing movement in Germany that inveighs against Islam, especially on the Internet, and warns against the supposed threat of foreign infiltration. Breivik is apparently not alone with his ideas.

Friedrich: It's a long way from the crude political theories that certain Islamophobic blogs disseminate on the Internet to the mass murder Breivik committed. But you are, of course, right: There are certain political views in this scene that we find shocking, because they are unconsidered and full of prejudices. But we also have to realize that the abuse of Islam by Islamist extremists has contributed to this.


SPIEGEL: Where is the boundary between legitimate discourse and racist or right-wing extremist agitation?

Friedrich: The boundary is set by our constitution. There can be no justification for violating the dignity of other human beings, irrespective of whether it has to do with a political or a religious view. That is the underlying consensus of our constitutional state.

SPIEGEL: Do you feel that this boundary was crossed in the debate over the ideas of Thilo Sarrazin, the German politician and banker who criticized Islam in a best-selling book?

Friedrich: The Sarrazin debate showed that when it comes to Islam, there is a certain mood and need for discussion that is reflected in neither the public discussion in the media nor in politics. We did not take this sufficiently into account in the past, which is why this debate became necessary. We cannot allow something to smolder underneath the public discussion, so that there are people we can no longer reach in the end. We have to talk about issues like the ones that were discussed in the Sarrazin debate, even if it clashes with notions of political correctness.

SPIEGEL: In other words, Sarrazin did not radicalize the debate in an objectionable way, but was in fact a necessary outlet for public opinion?

Friedrich: Sarrazin did radicalize things, but he was merely an indicator that, when it came to the subject of Islam, something was festering that had escaped our notice. It's a discussion we need to have.