By Kent Olsen, correspondent to Jyllands-Posten:
A broad alliance of grass-roots movements have gone to the prosecutors of several states to hinder the dissemination of the Quran. According to the indictment, the Quran is not just a religious and historic book, but also a political book, which is incompatible with the [German] constitution...
The real target in this action, it seems to me, must eventually be not so much Islam, as the present liberal order that would set itself up as the arbiter of what is or is not acceptable speech or writing. Liberalism, having decayed into a wholly victimary politics in which "progressive" forces appoint themselves the judges of what groups or individuals may claim a victim status, which one is not permitted to publicly criticize (if one is to share in the world of our liberal institutions), has reverted to a primitive system of demonization.
What is left of public debate is largely ritualized denunciations and contests over victim status. Lacking more sophisticated forms of discrimination that would appeal to universal truths - by explaining not indulging the human reliance on sacrificial or victimary forms - our contemporary liberalism leaves itself unable to even begin figuring out the problem that the rise of Islam in Europe presently poses for traditional liberal values, like free speech.
The victimary liberal knows of course that Muslims are mostly members in good standing of the the third world, and are thus assumed to be true patriots in the post-colonial movement to reveal the evils of western imperialism. With occasional exceptions, they are to be accorded victim status. So what is the liberal to make of the fact that anyone who has spent a little time with the Koran will have difficulty denying that this holy book aggressively and regularly curses various orders of unbeliever?
While Muslims warn us that we cannot understand the Koran unless we read it (preferably in Arabic) with a full and proper knowledge of the context in which it was progressively revealed, it would be naive to think that most intellectually honest persons with a knowledge of Islamic history would doubt that the Koran is a book that tends to promote an imperialistic faith, one that would deny or erode such things as secular/sacred and religious/political distinctions, in its fight for a unity of believers, submitting to the final word of the one god, in the dream of an Umma that will one day comprise all of humanity. The Koran, in short, demands of us a rather limited or particular version of multiculturalism. In the words of its present accusers:
The [present] indictment is against the 200 verses of 114 suras (ED:chapters) of the Quran that are not compatible with the [German] constitution, including demagoguery, incitement to murder, murder and mutilation, war, acceptance of thievery against infidels, meaning all non-Moslems. Verses are also pointed out where the equal rights of men and women are not upheld and where people of different faiths are oppressed.
Example: “The unbelievers among the People of the Book (Jews and Christians): They are the vilest of all creatures.” (Sura 98:6)
According to the indictment that paragraph violates Article 4 of the Constitution and Paragraph 166 of the Penal Code.
But this attempt to ban the Koran should only go to show that the liberal dream of a humanity united in some multicultural harmony (a "multiculturalism" which is actually conceived as a unity - "we are the world" - in opposition to some patriarchal oppressor of old who has been cast out of politically-correct society, the oppressor often being figured as a white imperialist or a rabid, often Jewish, free marketeer) is unrealistic in its denial of some basic facts about human differences, especially those having to do with our relationships to historically-specific understandings of the sacred.
The problems and conflicts that inevitably ensue from human rivalries over the sacred cannot be mediated by those who would wave magic multiculti wands at words and books, either banning or promoting forms of speech, and assuming that reality will fall in line with judicial and professorial pronouncements. Muslims in Germany are not going to stop reading the Koran even if - though this is impossible to imagine - it is banned. Knowing this, liberals will have to find some basis to defend the Koran's presence among us, e.g. denying that victims can victimize, in what will become - as westerners learn more about the Koran - increasingly byzantine locutions that will increasingly be reviled.
No, the only way to deal with conflicts among people holding significantly different religious-political value systems is to define and deal with problem people, either by openly and honestly excluding them from one's society (recognizing and respecting them as one's other, not as some victimary obstacle eventually to be overcome) or by demanding all present behave according to some common understanding of civility, rights and freedoms.
True diversity can only be defended and encouraged by allegiance to the original human unity from which all diversity flows. But such respect for that which is universally human depends on people having full intellectual and political freedom to develop their understanding of fundamental or originary truths. Contemporary liberalism denies the universal truth in the name of the victim of the former white imperialists who defended - i would say with both honesty and hypocrisy - their colonial projects in the name of universal values. To the victimary liberal, belief in universal values is just a hegemonic conceit.
Having discarded universal truth for the cult of victimhood (a cult which denies the intellectual means - i.e. a universal anthropolgy of the sacred - by which it might itself be explained and placed in history), the reigning liberal hegemony cannot honestly deal with a claim that the Koran promotes hate, nor should it try. It should simply give way to people who know that a national community cannot be all things to all people, but must distinguish itself from other nations according to some historically specific or particular understandings of its relationship to the sacred.
The paradox is that universal truths can only be pursued by allegiance to particular traditions for exploring them. Let Muslims - privately, or in the public sphere of Muslim lands - pursue their traditions, and westerners theirs, without the multiculti conceit that the two can be synthesized in some public ecumenicalism.
The only basis for inter-faith dialogue is a shared committment to intellectual freedom and to the particular (likely secular) anthropological discipline that best realizes this freedom. Religions are, among other things, anthropological hypotheses that can then be judged by the degree of human self-understanding and hence freedom they allow.