Comment on Cologne

When I started this blog the topics I wanted to focus on were intercultural issues and traveling. The events in Cologne and other cities on New Year’s Eve is not really connected to any of my above mentioned topics of interest. But it is also something that is not letting me go. I don’t intend to write an entire article about this. All I want to say is, that this could have happened to any female. It does not matter how you dress. Women with the hijab or who are covered more are not spared because of their clothing. Only a few weeks ago, I was harassed in Berlin. I was dressed according to the winter weather. You could only see a part of my face. That did not stop that man from harassing me. Just now I read the post of a Brazilian friend and how she was groped at in Brazil. This happened in front of a bar full of people. Nobody helped her. I could go on and on with examples. What I want to point out is that these incidents have nothing to do with religion. The media desperately grasping for every opportunity to continue their Islam-bashing is growing tiresome, really. What happens in Cologne, in Berlin, in Rio de Janeiro – this has nothing to with Islam, Christianity or religion in general. This has something to do with how men treat women. Period.

Now, instead of me commenting on the matter, I decided to post the Facebook entry of a good friend from the US who is doing her PhD in German History with focus on migration studies:

‘To all my friends and family sending me worried emails about whether I am safe in Cologne right now: Yes, I am safe. Cologne (at least west of the Rhine) is a geographically very, very small city. However, I live relatively far away from the Central Train Station, where the New Year’s Eve attacks occurred and where the PEGIDA protests and counter-protests are still going on today.

I know better than to go snoop around near crowded and rowdy demonstrations with tear gas and water cannons. Even if the subject matter is fundamentally connected to my dissertation — migration, integration, right-wing racism, and the rise of Islamophobia in Europe.

I have strong opinions on the troublesome developments in Cologne, a city that I love and a city to which I am also an immigrant. But the most important of all is the following: these events are nothing new.

They are the continued, centuries-long outgrowth of a relatively homogenous white, Christian-identifying Europe deeply fearing being overrun by any sort of “Other”—Jews, “Gypsies,” post-colonial subjects, Turkish labor migrants, etc.—and the implications that increasing ethnic (often read: “racial”) and religious pluralization bear on the stability of what it means to be “European,” “German,” “French,” or otherwise.

Likewise are they inextricably linked to the sexual violation of “innocent” white, European women by “patriarchal,” “oppressive,” and “dangerous” Middle Eastern or African men. This trope, which once so fascinated me that I produced a 45-page research paper related to it, is so overdone and predictable that even I, with my PhD Minor in Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, have become sick and tired of examining the intersections of gender and race within migration history.

The mainstream media, as always, is emphasizing what grabs public attention. It is leeching off far too many Americans’ and Europeans’ fears of primarily Muslim refugees and migrants as violent and destructive. It is perpetuating a divisive, dangerous, and quite frankly racist public discourse — one that has particularly marked the post-WWII and post-9/11 period.

Let’s focus on the good. The counter-protesters struggling to drown out hatred, the local individuals and organizations working directly to assist with refugee integration, the fact that the vast majority of the educated public will not put up with blatant racism and eerie reminders of contemporary history’s darkest eras.

I am sick and tired of this. But, yes, isn’t it a fascinating time to be studying migration in Germany?’

Once again, please enjoy what you hear or see in the media with caution.

x.

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