Thursday, 05 March 2015 00:00

Good Reads – from homosexuals' rights in Germany to Isis on SoundCloud

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Another week has passed and it's time for us to provide you with another Good Reads post. This time round E&M's Veronica Pozzi is taking up the challenge and shares articles that got her thinking about how IS uses social media and how this particular battle is fought in Berlin. Her final pick is about sexual and religious identity in Europe.



Veronica, Sixth Sense


ISIS: When the recruitment starts on SoundCloud


In a period in which the Islamic State (IS) appears on the front pages of newspapers across different European states, it is somehow frustrating to note the lack of good journalism on the topic. Despite the huge media attention that IS gets, and also in the light of recent events in France and Syria, it seems that there is a general lack of original stories, a lack of journalists who do not only work with press agencies but who have actually been "out and about" and can provide some essential shoe-leather reporting.


That is why I was so happy when I stumbled across this article co-written by Anthony Faiola and Souad Mekhennet for The Washington Post. Set in an immigrant neighborhood in south Berlin, the story revolves around a liberal mosque that, for years, has been a progressive and tolerant place where battered Muslim women could seek help in divorcing. But now a further problem claims the mosque's attention: IS and its recruitment of young, European Muslims.


Starting around the time that the infamous Denis Cuspert, a Berlin based rapper who started to spread radical views via his songs three years ago before going to fight in Syria, came to prominence, the recruitment process of new Muslim fighters for the IS is now run online. This article by The Local focuses on SoundCloud's jihadi accounts asking young Muslims to go and fight in Syria using the power of music and it connects this trend with Germany's law and efforts to oppose the IS. But this is just an example of how IS uses social media and Internet to spread its radicalism: this recent article posted by BuzzFeed (yes, they do also serious and investigative journalism) focuses on how IS is currently threating Twitter founder and employees after their decision to block several pro-jihad accounts. 


In such a situation the Berlin-based mosque explored by Faiola and Mekhennet decided to ban believers who embraced radical views from its religious community. But, despite everything, many young Muslims are making their way to Syria. Most of them were born in Europe and in many countries they are the second-generation of European Muslims, but they feel somehow split between Europe and their parents' mother countries. They seem to go to Syria in search of an identity that they cannot find in Europe anymore. Meanwhile their parents call European police forces when their kids decide to join the IS.



Germany and the origins of pro-homosexuality movements


Although in the minds of many Germany is only associated with the persecution of gay people during the Nazi period, one would be surprised to actually find out how Germany started reflecting on homosexuality way before the Third Reich. The fight for gay and lesbian rights, in fact, had its roots in Germany a long time before Hitler got to power and, if Berlin is now regarded as a city where anyone can be himself and live in freedom, that is thanks to several battles fought from the 19th century onwards.


LGTB Berlin
Photo: Distelfliege; Licence: CC BY 2.0
Yarnbombing at Warschauer Brücke, Berlin - February 2014


In this article published by The New Yorker, Alex Ross reviews the book "Gay Berlin: Birthplace of a modern identity" by Robert Beachy. With a writing style that takes you to the heart of the topic straight away, Ross makes the readers aware of some of the most important characters who influenced the history of gay rights in Germany and, essentially, the entire world. As the review goes on, readers will learn about the first progressive and open-minded German jurist who tried to defend the gay rights cause for the first time in the 19th century, some thirty years before the the first gay magazine "Der Eigene" ("The Self-Owning") began publication in 1896. The book also focuses on the cinema dedicated to lesbian rights (such as Leontine Sagan's 1931 movie "Mädchen in Uniform") and, following the history of Germany, unveils the fight in favour of homosexual rights during the Wilhelmine period (and a Berlin police commissioner who allowed "gay Berlin" to blossom) as well as during the Weimar Republic.


Sehr interessant. It makes you want to read the book yourself.

Religious identity in Europe and the case of Jewish communities


A lot of news articles have been focusing on the Jewish community these days. Remembering the liberation of Auschwitz 70 years ago, the media have made themselves defenders of memory and tolerance but sometimes forget about other minorities that have been persecuted under the Nazi and other regimes as well.


Talking about the Jewish community but from a slightly different angle, I found this article rather interesting, written by Pavel Lokshin for the English version of Der Spiegel. It is about the Jewish community currently living in Oranienburg, a town north of Berlin, actually close to what used to be the concentration camp of Sachsenhausen. Back in those days there had been a considerable influx of Russian Jewish immigrants to Oranienburg but, when the government changed its immigration policy, the local Jewish community stopped to grow and began to grey rapidly.


If the article questions the future of Jewish communities in Germany, recent European facts should get us thinking in broader terms about religious identity in Europe. The rise of anti-Semitism in France is making its Jewish citizens move abroad and it even goes online with Facebook groups that share the address of public houses belonging to Jewish people.

But recent events (the Parisian attacks around Charlie Hebdo, the Pegida movement in Germany, the shootings in Copenhagen) have also shaken other religious communities. In Lombardy, Italy, the government approved a law that makes it more difficult to build new buildings for religious purposes. Recent developments including this law, voted for on the very same day that marks the liberation of Auschwitz, show how much we have to reflect on the idea of religious identity and social integration in Europe, particularly with regard to reshaping the concept of its union and European identity.



Last modified on Friday, 06 March 2015 09:54

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