We are deeply shocked and appalled by the current political developments in the Middle East and by the terror to which the so-called “Islamic State” (IS) is subjecting civilians and prisoners of all religions and ethnicities. The outrageous violence displayed by the followers of the IS violates all principles of humanity and civilisational norms; principles which Islam itself has shared over centuries and to which it has significantly contributed. We strongly reject and condemn interpretations of Islam that pervert this religion into an anachronistic ideology of hate and violence.
Given the increasing number of young people in Europe who are aligning themselves with the ideology of the IS and similar extremist formations, we are, as representatives of Islamic theological studies, fully aware of the responsibility and the necessity to counter such interpretations of Islam by referring to the Islamic traditions themselves. The authority, in matters of interpretation of Islam, has to be based in the societal mainstream, including the universities, and must not be ceded to extremists and violent perpetrators.
In our university work and beyond, we are committed to an interpretation of Islam that is based on the ideas of humanity and non-violence, on appreciation of pluralism and on respect towards human beings regardless of their religious and other affiliations.
The current conflicts in the Middle East and in other parts of the world clearly show how quickly violence-centered interpretations of religion can emerge under desolate sociopolitical conditions.
By contrast, in the free democratic societies of Europe we see a chance to relate to the rich intellectual and religious history of Islam in a reflective way and to engage positively with other perspectives, including the critical ones. Students of Islamic theological studies in Germany should utilize their religious resources as a means to creatively shape a common future with other members of society. Muslims are an integral part of the German society, and recognition of this fact is an important stage in this endeavour. At the same time, the past and recent Islamophobic and anti-Muslim assaults have to be recognized as obstacles along this way.
It is only through a reflective approach to the Islamic teaching and practice under conditions of freedom that the production of Islamic knowledge and norms can be disassociated from the contexts of crises and political repressions. And it is only through such an approach that Islam will be able to provide productive answers to the challenges of the global coexistence. The free proliferation of academic knowledge at the universities is an important precondition for this process.
Prof. Dr. Bekim Agai, Director of the Institute for the Studies of the Culture and Religion of Islam, Goethe University Frankfurt am Main
Prof. Dr. Maha El-Kaisy Friemuth, Director of the Department of Islamic Religious Studies, Friedrich Alexander University Erlangen-Nürnberg
Prof. Dr. Mouhanad Khorchide, Director of the Center for Islamic Theology, University of Münster
Prof. Dr. Yasar Sarikaya, Professor for Islamic Theology and its Didactics, Justus Liebig University Gießen
Prof. Dr. Erdal Toprakyaran, Director of the Center for Islamic Theology, Eberhard Karls University Tübingen
Prof. Dr. Bülent Ucar, Director of the Institute for Islamic Theology, University Osnabrück