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 Forecasting America's Destiny ... and the World's


Generational Dynamics Web Log for 25-May-06
Germans believe "clash of civilizations" with Muslims is coming

Web Log - May, 2006

Germans believe "clash of civilizations" with Muslims is coming

A "spiral of conflict" is starting in Germany, according to a study by Allensbach Institute for Public Opinion Research and sponsored by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper, described in an article published last week. (The study was also the subject of articles in the Netherlands and Israel.)

The hostility between Germans and Muslims is very old and runs very deep. For centuries, the Muslim Ottomans in Turkey won victory after victory against the Christians -- both Western and Orthodox Christians. The turning point came in 1683 when the Germans led the Holy League to an overwhelming defeat of the Ottoman army. To this day, Muslim historians consider this to have been "a calamitous defeat of such magnitude that there has never been its like." Like a pool ball rolling and bouncing all around a pool table, the bitterness of that war has bounced around further wars.

<b>Tensions in Germany.</b> Do you believe that tensions are increasing with the Muslim people? Red: Yes, I believe that.  Blue: Nothing to be afraid of. <font size=-2>(Source: <i>Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung</i>)</font>
Tensions in Germany. Do you believe that tensions are increasing with the Muslim people? Red: Yes, I believe that. Blue: Nothing to be afraid of. (Source: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung)

So Germans and Muslims really don't like each other too much, so it's not surprising that they've had a difficult relationship, even in the best of times. But these aren't the best of times, and German conceptions of Muslims have gotten noticeably more negative since 9/11, and were driven down further by outrage over the the 2004 Beslan school massacre, in which 330 hostages, half of them young children, were killed.

Today, Germans increasingly believe that living peacefully with the Islamic world is impossible for the long term, according to the article. When the 1000+ Germans polled were asked, "Do you believe that Christianity and Islam can exist peacefully, side by side, or are these religions so different that there will be repeated major conflicts," 61% believed that there would be repeated major conflicts.

The study compared poll results in May 2006 with the results of a similar poll conducted in 2004, and found that German attitudes toward Islam to be increasingly negative, while views of Christianity remain positive:

				2004		2006
    -------------------------	----		----
    I believe that Islam ...
	harms women		85%		91%
	is based on fanaticism	75%		83%
	is backwards-looking	49%		62%
	is intolerant		66%		71%
	is undemocratic		52%		60%

I believe that Christianity ... is based on love 80% supports human rights and charity 71% is peaceful 65% is tolerant 42%

<b>Culture wars.</b>  Are we now having a culture war between Christianity and Islam?  Red: We're having a war of cultures. Blue: No one can say. <font size=-2>(Source: <i>Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung</i>)</font>
Culture wars. Are we now having a culture war between Christianity and Islam? Red: We're having a war of cultures. Blue: No one can say. (Source: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung)

As the two graphics show, in the just last few weeks, Germans have moved sharply to the belief that there's a "culture war" going on, and that "tensions are increasing."

Beyond that, 46% believe that terrorist attacks will come soon to Germany, and 42% agree with the statement, "So many Muslims live with us in Germany that I fear that there are many terrorists among them."

These have led the researchers to conclude that Germany is in the midst of a "conflict spiral" that will lead relations between Germans and Muslims to continue to get worse.

What's happening in Germany is what's happening around the world in countries that fought in World War II, since all those countries are now in a "generational crisis" period, since the generations of people who grew up during WW II have all disappeared (retired or died), all at once, in the last few years. During generational crisis periods, populations develop various kinds of xenophobia, and immigration issues come to the fore. This is certainly what's happening in America, with respect to immigration from Latin America, and in Britain, where the anti-immigration British National Party has suddenly surged in popularity.

But this situation is particularly disturbing for Germans, since they are still acutely aware of and distressed over the behavior of Nazi Germany.

In this sense Germany and Japan are quite different. The Japanese appear to reached a point of being at peace with themselves over their actions prior to and during WW II, even though this self-acceptance is infuriating the Koreans and Chinese, and relations with both countries have been deteriorating sharply.

But the Germans have never been at peace with themselves. As one German was recently quoted on the BBC World Service (paraphrasing), "Germans are no longer proud to be Germans. Because of Hitler, we've lost our identity. Some day we'll be able to stand up and say, 'I'm German, and I'm proud to be German.' But that day hasn't yet arrived."

So the idea that Germany is reliving the 1930s, this time with Muslims instead of Jews, is extremely disturbing to many Germans today.

This uneasiness was reflected in the the FAZ article itself, which began with a long philosophical dissertation that's worth quoting at length (rough translation):

"How do conflicts, wars between different populations actually develop?

History teaches that often a long time of the alienation precedes the open outbreak of a conflict. Each of the involved populations determines that its goals are inconsistent with the other's; each has less understanding of the other's desires; the two parties speak less and less with one another; distrust develops and grows. Each one's perception of the other side is increasingly shaped by rumors and stereotyped simplications, and each side uses buzzwords to describe the other side.

Finally the intentions of the other side, which are increasingly regarded as a threat to one's own goals, must be resisted with every means possible. Moral and even human characteristics of the other side are eventually denied.

Beginning of a spiral of conflict

When the American political scholar Samuel Huntington published The Clash of Civilizations more than a decade ago, it got much attention and also much criticism. He seemed too unwilling to accept the idea that at some time after the end of the cold war, conflicts between different cultural regions of the world would give way to a peaceful future. Historians have reckoned that by far most historical conflicts have taken place along cultural fault lines.

If one studies the results of the current inquiry into the attitude of Germans to Islam..., one can't resist the impression that in Germany the very process of alienation between Westerners and the Islamic world -- just like what also takes place between indigenous people and Muslims living in the same country -- can be regarded pessimistically as the beginning of a spiral of conflict. ...

Since the end of the Second World War the German population has always clearly demonstrated a repugnance toward war, as they've shown by example time after time. One could even say that the Germans are overwhelmingly needy -- for harmony. None of this has changed today, but regarding Islam, the obstacles are much greater."

This is a very interesting exposition, not only because it reflects sadness with which many Germans are feeling because of these poll results about themselves, but also because it describes rather directly how crisis wars begin, and how the current situation is rapidly deteriorating.

Because, like it or not, this kind of xenophobia is what happens during generational crisis periods. More and more, we're seeing the buildup of forces that will lead to a new war in Western Europe, led by Britain, France and Germany, but including other countries as mutual combatants as well.

Conflict risk level for next 6-12 months as of: 9-Feb-2006
W. Europe 1 Arab Israeli 3
Russia Caucasus 2 Kashmir 2
China 2 North Korea 2
Financial 3 Bird flu 3
Key: 1=green 1=Low risk 2=yellow 2=Med 3=red 3=High 4=black 4=Active

If Germany is in the midst of "a conflict spiral" that's spiraling downward, when will things come to a head? The trigger is almost always a financial crisis. As long as everyone has money, then there's little desire to fight a war; but if there's a stock market crash or other financial crisis, then the xenophobia turns into hatred and jealousy, leading to a desire for revenge. If the financial situation is so bad that a man can't even feed himself and his family, then he'll have little to lose by going to war.

In fact, tensions between Germans and Muslims are already ratcheting up because of high unemployment in Germany and resulting economic problems for everyone, as an e-mail message from a reader of this web site points out. It adds, "I have been told that anti-US attitudes are also running very high in Germany."

My view of this last point is different, and is based on the time I spent in Europe on business in the 1970s. What was always clear to me at that time was that the Germans really like Americans, and the French really hate Americans. What is certainly true, however, is that many Germans dislike President Bush and the Iraq war policy.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, the widening chasm between Germans and Muslims is just one more step on the way to a new West European war, and to the inevitable "clash of civilizations" world war that will engulf all of us.

(This article was updated late on 25-May to more quotes and a reader comment.) (25-May-06) Permanent Link
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