Saturday, February 11, 2006

European-Muslim Relations

I have been eagerly following the fallout from the publication of Mohammed “cartoons” in Danish/European newspapers. So when it was announced that a protest was planned for outside the Danish embassy in Berlin Saturday, I was excited to check it out.

As I expected, this protest was NOTHING like the pictures that have been on the news recently. The protesters had registered with police, everything was orderly and the police presence was OVERWHELMING! Nonetheless, the crowd was very emotional and the fact that they were speaking Arabic made the situation seem uncertain to me.

I watched from the sidelines for a while with a bunch of Germans and a couple of dumb Danes who were wearing or waving Danish flags. What struck me the most was how out of the loop I felt (and the police looked.) While the protesters were chanting something about Allah in a tone that I would describe as heated, who knows! Acquaintances who speak Arabic tell me that the language is just more emotional and loud by its nature. I did keep hoping though that the police had a few Arabic speakers in their ranks to monitor what was actually being said.

To be totally honest, I was a bit freaked out when I walked through the protest and everyone started chanting something about Allah again. I know that sounds ignorant, but it really had more to do with not understanding the language than anything else. Anyway, I got through the crowd just fine. On the other side I met a guy who emigrated from Iran in 1985 and now works for the German Opera in Berlin. He was very nice and offered to show me the opera or to discuss European-Muslim relations with me (when he heard what I was doing in Berlin.)

(I liked this picture because it showed some interesting contrasts-- in case you can't tell, the guy on the left is wearing an University of Michigan jacket. The sign on the building behind them is a Mormon Church.)

Then as luck would have it, I met up with a Danish couple on the strassenbahn and helped them take the bus from Potsdamer Platz to Wittenbergplatz. They had a very positive “let’s just all get along” attitude when we started talking about the cartoons, but they were startled to see the protest from the bus window and even more freaked when 10-15 Muslim women with headscarves got onto the bus we were riding. (Maybe they regretting letting me suggest that we take the bus, but at least they will have a fun story to tell friends when they get home☺)

Another fun multi-kulti day in Berlin!


At 11:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Everyone is being very PC and not commenting on what is going on. So, I thought I would get this started. Did you hear about the violence in Pakistan today? There have been attacks against KFC, Pizza Hut etc. etc. because of course those are Danish institutions, right? For once, we (meaning Americans) weren't the ones who f*cked up, so why are we being attacked?

Another comment -- yes, a mistake was made. It was insensitive. But, does that justify going out and killing people? Yes, idol worship is in violation of the tenants of Islam, but isn't death and destruction as well? It just seems to me that in the grand scheme of wrongs, creating an insulting image of a holy entity is very bad, but hurting people is much worse.

Discuss . . .


At 1:19 PM, Blogger Erin said...

It's been kind of interesting to talk to Europeans about this. Two Germans have told me that they sense a bit of Schadenfreude on the part of the Americans because we weren't the ones who f**ked up this time. There is probably a bit of that, but I think there is more acceptance of other religions in the US and an awareness in the public (miliary might be another matter) of lines which should and should not be crossed. And acceptance is different from tolerance in my opinion, which is a term that is used by Europeans I speak with.

You are right that the violence is not acceptable and it is very unfortunate, but is it really that surprising? I feel that when you have authoritarian governments and large numbers of uneducated people who get their information from the government/government controlled media, it is no wonder that a situation could flare like this.

At 4:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am not at all surprised, but I am disappointed all the same.

Speaking of religious tolerance in the U.S. though, have you heard about the church arsonist? So sad! Not sure if this against religion or race though.


p.s. What does "schadenfreude" mean?


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