A huge elephant stood in the German public space – and Kevin Kühnert had to come first and say out loud what everyone had already seen and known. Ever since teacher Samuel Paty was murdered by an Islamist in a Parisian suburb for declaring freedom of expression with a cartoon of Mohammed, France has been in turmoil. Tens of thousands show solidarity and concern at demonstrations, with President Emmanuel Macron posthumously awarding the victim the highest award in the country, the Order of the Legion of Honor, as security authorities take action against institutions belonging to Islamist extremists. And in Germany? “There is extensive silence,” as the Juso boss and the SPD vice president wrote in a guest post in “Spiegel,” very aptly.
Visibly confused, the 31-year-old wonders why his own country, and especially the progressive forces and the political left, are so indifferent and quiet about the horrific act in the neighboring country. “Instead of talking about Paty, we’re talking about the partying behavior of young people in Corona times,” Kühnert notes.
Progress also means tackling uncomfortable problems, according to Kevin Kühnert’s thesis. Photo: dpa
The SPD politician sees reasons for this, but he does not want to accept them: it is likely the fear that by talking about the dangers of Islamism, the right wing and xenophobes will still get ammunition for their exclusion and contempt strategies. The fact that this group in particular has long spoken out loud about the crime in France is no reason to remain silent.
Kühnert’s text is a passionate appeal not to dump the problem of Islamism on the wrong people. “If the political left no longer wants to leave the fight against Islamism to racists and semi-foolish amateur Islamic researchers, then it must finally thoroughly deal with this ideology as a blind spot,” he demands.
[Wenn Sie aktuelle Nachrichten aus Berlin, Deutschland und der Welt live auf Ihr Handy haben wollen, empfehlen wir Ihnen unsere App, die Sie hier für Apple- und Android-Geräte herunterladen können]
With impressive clarity, the outgoing Juso boss dissects a principle that has made progress in the German refugee and integration debate so difficult for decades: If the sensible don’t talk about the problems of migration, they leave these problems to the unreasonable ones with bad intentions have bad consequences.
There are also examples of this in Berlin: When the then Mayor of Neukölln, Franziska Giffey, declared war on criminal Arab clans years ago, many in the SPD warned that it was impossible because it was racist. In fact, those forces also promote racism, suppressing such problems. Silence alone does not make it disappear.
Making unreasonable demands on one’s own group is the essence of political leadership. You can fail in this – or gain more legitimacy through conviction. The worst thing that could happen to Kühnert now is that the SPD is now not only silent about the death of Samuel Paty, but also about his prolific provocation. Where do Saskia Esken and Norbert Walter-Borjans stand in this debate? It is time for the party leaders to take a stand.