Enlightenment As an Intercultural Project: Navid Kermani’s Travelogues in the Context of the European Refugee Crisis

Friday, July 14, 2017
Melville Room (University of Glasgow)
Elke Segelcke , Languages, Literatures & Cultures, Illinois State University
The critical interventions (such as political reports from regions of conflict in the Near East and most recently from the Balkan refugee trail) of Navid Kermani, an Iranian-German author, journalist, Islamic scholar and one of Germany’s most outspoken public intellectual, must be seen in the context of current controversies about the refugee crisis, Muslim immigration, integration, multiculturalism, and terrorism in Germany and Europe. In his writings, Kermani deconstructs both the internal othering of migrants in Germany based on religion and the Western perception of the Islamic world as the external other that threatens Europe at its borders. Within this larger context, my paper will examine Kermani’s latest travelogue, based on his recent journey along the route that migrants are taking through the Balkan countries (published as Einbruch der Wirklichkeit 2016), arguing that his report continues his project of giving voice to intercultural awareness and mutual affinities between Islam and Enlightenment cosmopolitanism thereby dissociating himself from the designation of Enlightenment values as exclusively Western in opposition to an ‘unenlightened’ East. Instead, Kermani stresses their universality whereupon Lessing with his emphasis on interreligious dialogue becomes his Enlightenment role model for current debates about cultural and religious diversity. In connection with European values the paper will also refer to the Syrian-German political scientist Bassam Tibi and his notion of ‘Euro-Islam’ who shares with Kermani a conviction that ‘intercultural bridges’ between civilizations as well as Germans and Muslims living in Germany are urgently needed.