3,000 progressives in Cologne clashed Saturday with far rightwing protesters trying to stop the building of a mosque. There are about 3.3 million Muslims in Germany, about 4 percent of the population. The Jewish population of the US is 2%, so this would be as though American rightwingers tried to stop a synagogue from being built. The far right said they were upholding the ‘Western values and Christian traditions’ as the heritage of Europe.
Isn’t that where we came in? That sort of blinkered thinking, whereby Europe just has one master tradition, is not only wrong, it led to genocide. Europe has been multicultural. It has been pagan and Jewish, Christian and Muslim. Muslim Spain was some 800 years of European history (more if the history of the Moriscos is taken into account). Muslims were for some time in Sicily, Sardinia and southern Italy. Muslims of Serbia, Albania, Bulgaria and Greece were 600 more centuries, in the eastern reaches of the continent (There were Muslim villages even in Hungary and Poland). The Ottoman Empire was in important respects a European empire, even though it stretched deeply into the Middle East as well. If anything Istanbul was more intertwined with Europe than was Kiev and the Ukraine, or St. Petersberg & Russia. It is no accident that even today, Turkey is in NATO.
For that matter, why reify Europe? When was Egypt not a source of grain for ‘Europe’? When were not her ports dominated by Europeans? Did the French in Algeria not declare it ‘European soil’? Why is the Right so fickle? Either Algerians are European or they are not. Is it only when they are firmly under the jackboot that they count as such?
I am proud of my German cousins for making a stand against this ugly recrudescence of religious bigotry and racism (the mayor of Cologne rightly used the latter word).