This article appeared on October 15, 2015 in Die Welt and is now published here with the author’s approval. It also appeared in the printed version of Die Welt on October 16.
The text was translated into English by Translations International, Herzliya, and will also appear in this form in my English language blog.
In the multicultural State, respect for the individual is more important than tolerance for other religions. This presupposes openness and critical faculty, which are often lacking on the Moslem side.
The tide of refugees from Syria and other Moslem countries goes on and poses problems for Germany, not only of logistics. Burning refugee homes on the one hand and „Refugees Welcome“ banners on the other are the most visible signs of the controversy concerning the issue of how to deal with newcomers from a different cultural environment. The skeptics are often accused of Islamophobia and they are required to be more tolerant.
This sounds correct, but comes with a stale aftertaste when one takes into consideration that the hatred of Jews that still exists in Germany – which will be getting even more virulent due to the hatred brought along by the refugees – is no longer seen as an outrage. Our prayer houses, kindergartens, schools and communities have needed the sub-machinegun protection of police officers for many years.
Of course I am very grateful for the protection; even though this means that there is no carefree childhood for Jewish children in Germany: wherever they go – kindergarten, school and synagogue – they pass heavily armed men and women.
Racism and soccer
This would be the right moment to demand more tolerance for German Jews, especially from those newcomers. However: do I really want to be tolerated as a Jew in Germany? No! Never!
I am an engineer, so I understand „tolerance“ to be first of all „the maximum permissible deviation from the standard“. A sheet of paper will only be regarded as being DIN A4 if it really is 210 millimeters wide and 297 millimeters long. One tenth millimeter more or less is tolerated because the sheet can still be introduced cleanly into any A4 printer. This means that tolerance is always an accepted deviation from standard and is unilateral. The paper, or better – its manufacturer, must obey standards.
In a less technical environment, tolerance is not a clearly positive concept. In professional soccer: the managers choose the players according to how well they play and how much they cost. The color of their skin seems to be of no importance since there are many colored players in the Bundesliga and many more Nazis in the public. Again and again this leads to detestable outbursts of racism. Afterwards, the DFB and the clubs start campaigns demanding more tolerance from the fans.
Jews and tolerance
Imagine you are a colored player who was pelted and cursed by Nazis throwing bananas from the stands. Would it make them happy if the Nazis would in future eat their bananas and tolerate them as required?
No! They want to be accepted by the fans, or even better – respected and acclaimed for their achievements in sports! Because if they are tolerated despite being black, this means that „white“ becomes the standard and „black“ the tolerated deviation. But the player’s wish is that not the color of his skin be the standard, but his style, his perseverance, his running skills, his goal-threatening and ball-winning ability to be part of this standard.
Neither do I, a Jew living in Germany, want to be tolerated. As myself, as a human being, I would like to be accepted or at least appreciated. Being a religious Jew sometimes entails difficulties. For instance because I eat only kosher food, or on Friday nights I don’t go to the movies because of the Shabbat rest. I don’t mind if they consider my religious behavior idiotic and they deign to tolerate it, but please no do not tolerate me as a religious person and a human being. My religion should not be part of the societal standard, shared meals and movies yes[???}
Acceptance is not a one-way street like tolerance. It only works if it is reciprocated
Politics have the difficult task of establishing those standards. The German Grundgesetz (constitution) is the fundamental and most important collection of standards in Germany, and it correctly does not allow much tolerance.
This means that in Germany we do not tolerate Moslems, whether long established or newly arrived. We accept them. Moslems are part of Germany as is any other person who lives here. But acceptance is not a one-way street like tolerance. It only works if it is reciprocated. Is that maybe the reason so many are asking for unconditional tolerance? Because in that case they can ask the toleraters for anything, but do not have to ask anything from the tolerated?
Just as bad as the condescending tolerance of a person is the respect demanded for a religious community. The word respect has various facets: for example I respect achievements or the privacy of others. But in most cases respect is a synonym for fear or dread: I feel respect towards a big dog’s fangs.
It is not the religion we should respect, it is the human being
Is this what they mean when they ask us not to draw Mohammed out of respect for Islam? What kind of religious people are those who, instead of quietly thinking their own thoughts, are transformed into an offended liver sausage prepared to act violently because somebody spoke disrespectfully about their prophet? They do not demand respect. They want to instill fear in us!
Other religions have also learned the trip[???] about respect and liver sausage. Enough with this nonsense! I respect people for their achievements, their honesty, their helpfulness, their critical faculty and so on, but not for their religious persuasion. If a Moslem runs after a prophet who was illiterate, waged one war after another and whose favorite wife was nine years old when she was deflowered, is he deserving of my respect?
Should I be respected for having as a prophet Moses who battered an Egyptian to death and secretly buried him, who stuttered terribly, who could not find the direct route to Israel and therefore let a whole nation wander through the desert for 40 years? Does a Christian deserve respect for idolizing a prophet who died miserably on a cross after persuading the world that he would heroically take original sin upon himself by dying miserably? No! Respect must be earned by personally performed acts and accomplishments. As a human being and as a group. Whoever demands unconditional respect does not mean respect, but fear and dread.
Coexistence between different people and cultures works only if all sides cooperate in shaping it.
Tolerance and subservient respect are two sides of the same contaminated coin. The limits of tolerance are stretched because of respect and, encouraged by their success, they demand more respect. This is a vicious circle. Here, condescending tolerance means self-aggrandizement and respect means subjugation. The tension growing from this alternation must someday erupt with a loud bang.
Coexistence between different peoples and cultures works only if all sides cooperate in shaping it. This does not mean that immigrants have to completely integrate or even assimilate. On the contrary: „Colorfulness“ works only if the colors live harmoniously side by side to form a beautiful colorful picture of Germany. Exaggerated mixing transform the colors into a dirty Nazi brown color like liver sausage, a result to which nobody aspires. Or do they?
The author, Eliyah Havemann, 40, is presently working as an IT specialist in Israel. In 2014 his book „How to become a Jew? And if yes, what for?“ was published.
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