Differentiating with Markus Lanz

Dear Markus Lanz,

If you ever invite a guest who was once abused at a young age by a Catholic priest, then please make sure no one is present, who tells the victim, despite all his suffering, how he should differentiate in order to avoid insulting Christianity. The same holds true for a Muslim woman, also!

Sabatina James was invited as a guest on Markus Lanz’ talkshow. She related her life as a Muslim, how she was forced into marriage in Pakistan and about the violence Muslim women experience in similar situations. A few years ago, Sabatina James converted to Christianity, which entails a death sentence. Since then, she has become a fugitive with no permanent address. Body guards accompany her when she dares a single step outside her door, because she can be executed anytime, anywhere. Sabatina James is a permanent internal refugee in Germany.

Despite all the threats and danger, Sabatina James leads a non-profit organization that helps refugees escape the hell of domestic violence. Her commitment derives from her own experiences.

„I moved to Germany in order to exercise my human rights as a woman. But now I see that won’t work here either, since Germany is welcoming perpetrators. At German railway stations, Islamists threaten me. A police officer remarked recently that they are reminding me that they can get me anytime they wish. And I do get death threats. In one recent threat I was warned, ‘Watch your head and see that your house is placed under police protection.’ That was not addressed to me alone, but also to my organization workers who are involved in educating about Islam. This is reality in Germany and I’ve come to the conclusion that freedom of expression is, de facto, no longer guaranteed. The problem is that we’re importing with anti-democratic Islamism a racist and sexist ideology.“

Former Middle East correspondent, Ulrich Kienzle, was also a guest on Marcus Lanz’ talkshow. His task was to play down Sabatina James’ experiences.

Kienzle: „This is exactly where I disagree. You can talk freely here; that contradicts what you just said.”

James: „I can only speak freely here, because I have a bodyguard.“

Kienzle: „You can say what you want here. No one can forbid you to talk.“

James: „I am here with an armed bodyguard. I can no longer go out alone in public in Germany. I’m in a victim protection program and am amazed at how Islamists are defended with such passion. There is not as much engagement for the victims!“

With these words, Sabatina James hit a nail on the head. Again and again, when violence is committed in the name of Islam, the victims are ignored as much as possible and the debate immediately evolves into a debate about Islam, which then largely consists of the mantra that the terrorists don’t understand Islam. Markus Lanz reflexively played down the debate by stating: „We’re confusing terminology. We have to clearly differentiate between Islam and Islamism.“ Kienzle chimed in: “There is not a singular Islam.” Markus Lanz seconded with: “Exactly. No one said, you can’t insult or slander something that doesn’t exist. Ms. James, please continue.“ Instead, Ulrich Kienzle continued:

„There are incredibly different tendencies in Islam. There’s a dangerous Islam and there is also a peaceful Islam. For example, democracy functions in Indonesia. It is the largest Islamic country in the world and it works there. But, I say, what you experienced is terrible, but …“

At this point, I’d like to emphasize there is a „but“ that simply doesn’t work. Ulrich Kienzle could have simply said, what she experienced was terrible. Period! Instead, he reprimanded Sabatina James:

„That gives the impression that you are, so to speak, always in mortal danger, which is something I think just shouldn’t be in our society. We should indeed confront certain tendencies that do exist.“

I’ll translate what he just said: Listen, Ms. James, if your experiences create an impression that there are women being oppressed in Islam, you should just shut your trap!

I know this attitude only too well! In my childhood I was an altar boy in the small village of Haren-Erika. I absolved the entire Catholic Church program: baptism, confession, communion, confirmation, abuse. At the time, abuse scandals were known throughout Germany. In 1996, it was reported in the German magazine, Der Spiegel:

„In the village of Haren-Erika near the Dutch border, the streets are straight as an arrow. Residents tolerate no weeds in their flower beds, and ornamental fencing in front of their houses is always freshly painted.

Another striking feature is a crucifix out of solid rock, which rises in front of Josef Bonnarens’ farm. Bonnarens is a sturdy early fifties guy in a plaid cotton shirt. He is one of the village patriarchs in Haren-Erika. He is one of the key figures of a tragedy that was kept under wraps for nearly ten years, but has now hit the 1,000 Erikaner full force.

For years, the village priest of St. Mary’s Church sexually abused first communion children and altar boys. And Bonnarens knew.

But the man said nothing. And he remains silent. The entire village remains silent.

The citizens of Haren-Erika wish that these terrible events were not true, despite the confession. They don’t want to believe what had happened, that what their former parish priest, Alois Bruns, 64, who was sentenced last Wednesday, did. His was sentenced lightly to two years imprisonment on probation. From 1987 to 1995, the priest sexually harassed 14 local boys on 227 occasions, by stroking and touching them inappropriately. From the indictment, it was clear that was not all that had happened.

At first, there were more than 20 victims, but then some of the parents were suddenly „no longer interested in law enforcement,“ say the police. The religious citizens of Haren-Erika respected their church who saw need to protect the clergy, declared Friedrich Lücken, lawyer for the parents. Finally, the general attitude led to a feeling that the whole ordeal was „exaggerated“.

It all began in April 1987 when the news reached Bonnarens, who at the time, was the deputy chairman of the Church Council. A relative of an eight-year-old boy had called and reported that the boy had been abused by the priest of St. Mary’s Church and that he was very distraught. The priest kept the child in the church after communion classes, sat him on his lap, pulled his down pants and underwear and touched his genitals.

„Rethink your accusations well, if you want to continue living peacefully in Erika“, Bonnarens and the parish council chairman advised the parents unequivocally.“

I’m reminded of Mr. Bonnarens whenever anyone, who relates sexual violence within the family or in religious circles, is told he or she shouldn’t generalize. Therefore, I was happy to hear Sabatina James’ response to Ulrich Kienzle.

James: „Tell that to the victims who come to us, who, like me, can’t live freely, because we’re constantly on the watch. A family relative could be nearby who may want to terminate my life. That’s the problem! If you’re not in conflict with Shari’a law, you can do the talk.“

Kienzle: „But that story about your wedding has nothing to do with Shari’a.“

James: „Tell that to my father and convince him!“

Thus Sabatina James hit the second nail on the head. Far too often, victims of religious violence – rather than the perpetrators – are lectured on what is religion. Why should a woman on a talk show, who is a victim of fundamentalist Islam and is now a permanent fugitive from Islamic terror in Germany, be lectured on what true Islam means? If Islam is so important for Ulrich Kienzle, then he should speak with those who misinterpret Islam. They are the culprits! Not the victims. Perpetrators excuse their inhuman acts in the name of Islam! Whoever doesn’t like that and wants to save Islam, should talk to the perpetrators and tell them what Islam means. It is tasteless to tutor victims of religious fanatics in religious doctrine. Sabatina James knows what she’s talking about, from her own share of experiences!

„You tell us foreigners: ‚Integrate yourselves!‘ There are those who try to integrate and get heat for it in their parallel societies at home. And then a girl is murdered for living like a German!“

Markus Lanz, the know-it-all, replied:

„It’s so incredibly difficult with the truth at the moment, since Mr. Kienzle is absolutely right. There are a lot of rumors and everyone can very easily cobble together their own truths. A certain impression is made. Mr. Kienzle is right, of course, there’s something like a bad parallel justice system; we don’t have everything under control. But, that’s not true! Those whom you’re talking about are misguided; in my eyes, they aren’t religious, they’re crazy fanatics. We aren’t talking about the majority of Muslims. We are not talking about the numerous Turks, who live in this country, who’ve come to this country, and have integrated; people with whom we have good relations. Many of them are also victims. I just want emphasize, that doesn’t have much to do with religion.”

Considering that Markus Lanz said „exactly“ when Ulrich Kienzle stated there is not just a singular Islam, he is nevertheless somehow capable of explaining what Islam is or isn’t. On February 10, 2014, Markus Lanz and Ulrich Kienzle, two men with a Christian background, instructed Sabatina James, a woman who grew up in an Islamic cultural environment, what Islam really means. But, Sabatina James tells a different story from personal experience:

„I am concerned about the victims. Children are being married with the blessings of mullahs, the beating of women is being encouraged and justified, ‚disobedient‘ women are being executed upon decisions made by so-called justices of the peace; women are being hunted down when they flee their homes, because they can no longer endure the violence. And when they’re found, they’re brought back home and told to submit or they’ll be liquidated.“

And such cases are not exceptional.

„What you’re saying, Mr Kienzle, sounds wonderful on a talkshow, but say that on Al Jazeera. Convince my parents. Convince the Islamic community of states which openly proclaimed, fifty-six Islamic states proclaim openly in an ‚Islamic Declaration of Human Rights‘ that non-Moslems and women don’t have equal rights. Fifty-six Islamic states are anti-democratic. That’s a majority! Not a minority! These aren’t isolated cases! I’m not saying that violence stems from Islam, but the founders of the great Islamic schools are saying that. The Islamic sources say that. Many contemporary Islamic scholars say that. The Islamic community says that. I’m criticizing the fact that these things are still being taught and followed, and not fought.“

At this point, Imam Ulrich al Kienzle of the Christian tribe speaks again:

„Again, I beg to differentiate. According to four schools of law that exist in Islam, people like you are condemned to death. But there is an exception, whereby women may be imprisoned for life.“

Sabatina James‘ grand response to this differentiation was: „That’s nice”. Kienzle stressed: „That’s nice, yes“ and added: „It’s the differentiation that counts!“

When those people who were socialized in a Christian environment explain what Islam means, it occurs to me that their definition sounds similar to Christian doctrine. Basically, these people are trying to christianize Islam. Earlier, that behavior was called imperialism or proselytization; today it’s called differentiation. All right, then I’ll differentiate. The difference is: radical Islam kills women who turn their backs to Islam, while moderate Islam locks them up for life.

What does „moderate Islam“ supposed to mean? Religions are not moderate. They’re always radical! A book which claims to be the word of God can’t possibly be moderate. God is radical! Religions are tolerant only when they don’t have worldly power. Christianity became more tolerant after the Enlightenment had won. I would not like to have lived in the Middle Ages. I fear Christianity too much. I’m also afraid of Islam, because I know what religions are capable of. Even an enlightened Christianity can make a child feel uncertain.

Everyone can believe what he wants. For my part, Christians can veil their nuns and Muslims prohibit gay imams. However, I insist on the freedom to not care for which religion a person belongs to, and that I may freely talk about and laugh at any religion. And one more thing: regrettable individual cases, my ass! I expect that a person’s experience of religious repression be taken seriously, without abusing those people a second time by lecturing that those experiences have nothing to do with the religion of the perpetrator, in which name they act. Markus Lanz ended the discussion by saying, „We’ve learned that prudence is the word we should place at the center of the table“ and Kienzle agreed.

I disagree completely. When it comes to human rights, there can be no compromise. It is ultimately about freedom, the freedom of women. The feminist Hedwig Dohm explained in the 19th century: „Human rights have no sex!“ She demanded political, financial and social equality for women and therefore called herself deliberately and no less proud, a radical feminist. Compromising feminists, who demanded only a few improvements in the lives of women living under discrimination, were abhorrent in her eyes. Those weren’t compromising feminists who freed women in Europe. They were radical feminists who freed an entire half of the European population! The short sentence at the close of this article paraphrases Sabatina James’ mission:

„I want to be free!“

(Translation: William Wires)

Über tapferimnirgendwo

Als Theatermensch spiele, schreibe und inszeniere ich für diverse freie Theater. Im Jahr 2007 erfand ich die mittlerweile europaweit erfolgreiche Bühnenshow „Kunst gegen Bares“. Als Autor verfasse ich Theaterstücke („Gehirne am Strand“), sowie Glossen und Artikel. Mit meinen Vorträgen über Heinrich Heine, Hedwig Dohm und dem von mir entwickelten Begriff des „Nathankomplex“ bin ich alljährlich unterwegs. Und Stand Up Comedian bin ich auch. Mein Lebensmotto habe ich von Kermit, dem Frosch: „Nimm, was Du hast und flieg damit!
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