Esra Özyürek: "Generation Allah: Democratizing Young Muslim Men and Working Through Holocaust Memory in Germany"

Esra Özyürek

Please join us for the 2017-2018 Mary E. Johnson Lecture on Social Justice and Human Rights, featuring Associate Professor Esra Özyürek from the London School of Economics. Özyürek is a political anthropologist who seeks to understand how Islam, Christianity, secularism, and nationalism are dynamically positioned in relation to each other in Turkey and Europe. Her most recent book is "Being German, Becoming Muslim: Race, Religion and Conversion in the New Europe" (2014). This event is free and open to the public.

Co-sponsored by the German Studies Department, the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, the Department of Politics and the Religion Department.

Abstract: The adolescent Muslim male recently emerged as a figure that is blamed as the root of myriad troubles in Western Europe varying from violence against women, anti-semitism, homophobia, failed integration, as well as causing the welfare state to fail. Simultaneously we also witness the emergence of Muslim background European public intellectuals who explain the mainstream public what is wrong with Islam. This talk focuses on the writings and applied projects of Ahmad Mansour, undoubtedly the most popular self-declared Islam critic in Germany. In his best selling book, Generation Allah and hundreds of interviews and speeches he discusses what is wrong with Muslim men and what can be done to make them fit in the Western, democratic life style. He applies his ideas through HeRoes, a program he popularized where young Muslim men learn to challenge gender inequality in their “honor cultures.” His primary focus is bad fathering practices and sexual oppression as the root sources of the so-called "Muslim problem."

I argue that his depiction of a male-centered Muslim psycho-national character is not a new invention but mirrors that of the German psycho-national character depicted by American and German experts following the end of World War II. A particular understanding of democracy – focusing on non-authoritarian child raising techniques and later on sexual liberation – that was developed to explain the rise of and then rehabilitate Nazism is now being deployed to understand Islam and Muslims in general. The popularity of such a striking mirroring across 70 years and radically different social structures and problems show that contemporary discussions about Muslim men are not only about the present, but about what Germans think about how they overcame Nazism in the past. I conclude by suggesting that such popular discourses on what is wrong with Muslim men and how they can be fixed exemplified by Ahmad Mansour’s writings collapses the Nazis of the past and the Muslims of the present in to each other, suggesting that Muslim men can also transform and democratize themselves, if they walk in the footsteps of Germans. Although this is an invitation to include Muslims into the fold of the German identity, it also turns contemporary Muslims into (Nazi) unruly male adolescents who need to be treated accordingly.