Do we need a new Enlightenment?

Do we need a new Enlightenment? The modern Enlightenment emerged in Europe and is a European project in spatiotemporal terms. But the Islamic world had its own Enlightenment. The European and Islamic Enligh - tenments both rest on the primacy of reason. If Muslims would only think back to their own Enlightenment, this could provide a basis for building bridges between Muslims and Europeans and perhaps depriving fundamentalists of their ideology.  

By Bassam Tibi  

The question 'Do we need a (new) Enlightenment?' is not simply an academic question, for three reasons. Firstly, from a historical point of view, the Enlightenment is part of Europe's identity. So abandoning the Enlightenment would mean abandoning Europe's identity. My book Europa ohne Identität? (Europe without Identity?), published in 1998, is a defence of the Enlightenment. In it I refer to the Jewish philosopher Max Horkheimer, who fled to America in 1933 but returned to Frankfurt in 1950. In his Critical Theory he warned: "The identity of Europe is the Enlightenment; defending this identity is the duty of every thinking being". Secondly, in today's post-Cold War period, we need global peace and global democracy. When people from different cultures and civilizations come together, they need to have something in common. If they do not have this, they end up talking at each other rather than to each other. Talking to each other means addressing problems and looking for solutions. Any dialogue without this cannot be truly called dialogue. Enlightenment should provide a common foundation for global discourse and global peace. Thirdly, I am a Muslim and a migrant. But I did not come here as a migrant. I came here to study and planned to return home. But for various personal and political reasons I ended up staying in Germany and becoming a migrant. Today we are experiencing a huge flood of migrants to Europe. A few figures: in 1950 there were fewer than 1 million Muslims living in Europe. Around 800,000 were living mainly in France and the UK, a hangover from these countries' colonial past. Very few Muslims were living in other countries such as Austria and Germany. In 1962, when I arrived in Frankfurt, there were at most two or three hundred Muslims in the city. Today, 35 percent of Frankfurt's population is non-German. And the Islamic community makes up the majority of these. This means that Islam has arrived in Europe. We have  to find ways of communicating with it and  integrating Islam and Muslims. But on what basis? I believe it should be  on the basis of the Enlightenment. Do we  need a new Enlightenment? I have divided  my article into four sections, each of which  begins with a particular theory.

My first theory is that we live in an age of nihilism. This means that we do not have a particular value orientation that binds us  all together. Some people have a value orientation which completely or partially guides  their lives. But it seems to me that most people are living in an age of nihilism in which  the Enlightenment finds itself coming under  fire. Criticism of the Enlightenment comes  from Postmodernism. Postmodernism affords other cultures almost unconditional  respect in the name of cultural relativism.  This is set against European thought as universalism, in as much as it requires universal  validity, and also discredits what should be  relativized. Respect for other cultures means  accepting what they produce. It means relativizing, which includes human rights. In  Europe, torture is a breach of human rights.  In Turkey – I know, because I have lived  there – torture is a normal part of police  interrogation. 

I know from my time in Damascus that  beatings on the soles of the feet are incredibly painful. People soon start talking. They  say this is not a violation of human rights.  Respect for other cultures seems to require  that we agree to keep quiet about human  rights violations. A few years back, a court  in Frankfurt rejected a divorce petition from a woman who had been badly beaten by her husband. The judge justified her verdict by claiming it was necessary to respect other cultures and stating that in Islamic countries it is normal for husbands to beat their wives. The verdict was overturned. But this demonstrates the cultural relativism of Postmodernists who insist on the end of the Enlightenment. Perhaps we need a new Enlightenment, perhaps not. Whatever the case, we have to defend the Enlightenment against  the attacks of the Postmodernists. Enlightenment is not a dogma. There is nothing that cannot change. Even enlightenment can change. But it has one principle that  cannot and should not change. In his book The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity,  (in  my view, his most important work), Jürgen  Habermas quotes Immanuel Kant when he  describes reason "as the supreme tribunal,  before which anything that claims validity must be justified." This principle of the  Enlightenment has not changed – if enlightenment is to truly remain enlightenment.  The primacy of reason: when I say something is right or wrong, this can only be  decided through the application of reason. Noone has a monopoly on reason and rationality. Whether or not something is rational is revealed through discourse. And I believe this was also the case in Islam.

"The origins of the disenchantment of the world and the Enlightenment are in Europe. But  the Enlightenment must have a universal validity that is removed from its roots and stylized as  an archetype in which the spatio-temporal dimension has been neutralized."

It is not only in Europe that people believe in the primacy of reason. It is also defended by people in Africa, Asia, Latin America and in Islam. In this respect, Max Weber speaks of the primacy of the "disenchantment of the world". In his Discourse, Habermas applies a momentous abstraction to this understanding of Modernity. He separates Modernity from its modern European roots and stylizes it as an archetype in which the spatio-temporal  dimension has been neutralized. In Damascus I learned to view the world through the lens of the Koran, through my religion. The same applies to Christians, Buddhists, and so on. Yet, if it starts raining, I know that it is a natural phenomenon that I  can explain by reason. At one time I lived in Morocco, a country that sporadically suffers from drought. Its people pray: "Allah, Allah, send us rain!" It depends on Allah whether it rains or not! Of course it has nothing to do with Allah. Rainfall has a scientific explanation. The origins of the disenchantment  of the world and the Enlightenment are in  Europe. But the Enlightenment must have  a universal validity that is removed from its  roots and stylized as an archetype in which  the spatio-temporal dimension has been  neutralized.

There is an essential, and not only academic, difference between universality and universalism. Every 'ism' designates an ideology. For example, Islam is a religion, Islamism is an ideology. The same is true of universalism. I am against universalism but for universality. This differentiation is not just academic nitpicking. Universality and universal refer to things that every human being shares, such as the need to drink water.

Reason is the supreme tribunal

This is not African, European or Asian. Similarly, a universal human right is the  right not to be tortured. People say this is  a European idea. Its roots are in Europe,  but we can and must defend this right and  this idea as a universal standard in Immanuel Kant's sense that human reason is the  supreme tribunal, before which everything  that claims validity must be justified and applied universally. For example, when I hold  lectures in Islamic countries, it is always  possible for someone to point to the Koran  and say "You're wrong. In the Koran Allah  says..." There is a contradiction, a conflict,  between beliefs and human reason. How  should we address this problem? By making  human reason the supreme tribunal and not  the text of a holy book, whether it is the  Bible, the Talmud or the Koran. In an age  of globalization, people are moving closer  together than ever before. I can cite an example of this from my  own experience. In 1992 I lived in Dakar  in Senegal. While living there, I developed  my concept of European Islam. 85 percent  of Senegalese are Muslims. I lived among  them, observed how they practised Islam  and visited other areas of the country. In  rural areas, barter is more important than  money. I met some young people and swap - ped some spare shirts and trousers for some  very beautiful wooden figures.

I had the following exchange with a young boy of 10 or 11: "Monsieur, vous êtes raciste!" "Moi,  raciste!", I said, "Allah preserve me, I'm a  Muslim like you. I've got white skin, but  I'm still a Muslim. What makes you think  I'm a racist?" The boy replied: "I gave you a  great wooden figure and you gave me a shirt  with an old-fashioned collar. It's out of fa - shion." The boy had never been to Europe.  So how did he know that? Because there  are magazines, television, mobile devices.  Young people see and know what's in and  what's out. The collar, the shirt, that I tried  to swap was out, no-one wore shirts like that  anymore. This is an example of how people  are being brought together more closely than  at any time in human history, an example of globalization. When people come together so closely,  there has to be a minimum amount of true  commonality if they are to get along. This  minimum includes democracy, enlighten ment and cultural modernity. We have to build bridges. In 2012 I published a book entitled Islam and Global Conflict , with the subtitle: Conflict and Cross-Civilizational Bridging. This means delving beneath the surface and  talking to each other about the causes of problems and about justice. We have to ask  questions such as: what is justice, what is  injustice? Justice is a normative structure.  We need an understanding of justice that  can be shared globally. In other words, justice must have or be given a secular basis. In  1993 an international conference on human  rights was held in Vienna. The Saudi foreign  minister's position was: "Human rights based only on sharia law". We should not only  look at Europe, but also further afield. Why  should a Hindu or a Confucian accept sharia  law? There is no basis for this, no reason. We  need a communal set of values when creating  a basis for the law and how it is practised. The law is a value system. My second theory is that today there is  a synchrony between structural globalization and cultural fragmentation. This may sound academic, but it has a significant sociopolitical impact. Europe's financial crisis  affects America, Asia, Africa and Australia.  Globalization is expressed in information  technology, politics and communication.  But alongside this, globalization is not expressed in cultures. My American colleagues  are always talking about 'cultural globalization'. In America it is possible to be a straight  talker without insulting anyone: "Come on,  stop now. This is nonsense!" Everyone wears  jeans, has a cell phone, wears fashionable  shirts, drinks Coca Cola. This is often con - sidered to be cultural globalization. One of  my colleagues, Benjamin Barber, has written a book entitled Jihad versus McWorld . McWorld is a world that shares everything.  But Muslims are waging jihad against  McWorld. A few years ago we were both  in the United Arab Emirates and debated  this issue. The fundamentalists I have met  in places such as Egypt all eat burgers and  drink Coca Cola. But they want the introduction of sharia law. How do they reconcile this? My colleague does not understand this. But culture is not consumption; culture is a  production of meaning. This is something I learned from the great American anthropologist Clifford Geertz in Princeton. However, many American social scientists interpret cultural behaviour as consumer behaviour. The fact that people consume the same goods does not mean they espouse the same values. Values and value  systems arise from the production of meaning. So there is cultural fragmentation. People may live in the same age and be linked via networks and globalization, but they still have different value systems. I think this cultural fragmentation harbours conflicts. Cultural tensions arise because of the incompatibility of different value systems. A good example of this is the way court proceedings may involve Muslims invoking their faith, as often happens in Germany. The accused says to the judge: "I don't accept it. I'm a  Muslim. I only abide by sharia law, you're not a Muslim. You are basing your verdict on German law. That is not my law. So I accept  neither you nor your verdict." When these  kinds of tensions are politicized – and thus  also become problems for cultural policy – then we have a conf lict, a problem. Then we are in difficulties. My third theory is that enlightenment, or as Max Weber terms it, the disenchant - ment of the world that should have universal  validity, is now being called into question  by the emergence of religious fundamentalism.

"The fundamentalists I have met in places such as Egypt all eat burgers and drink Coca Cola. But they want the introduction of sharia law. How do they reconcile this."

Islamic fundamentalists believe that Western secularism is part of a Zionist/ Crusader conspiracy that aims to destroy their religion. The Jews are behind it all. This is based on the research I carried out  for my book Islamism and Islam, which was published by Yale University Press in 2012. It contains 50 pages on the Islamization of anti-Semitism. Islam is not the source of all  evil. Anti-Semitism is a European ideology. The Islamists have Islamized it. Between  2008 and 2010 I worked in the Holocaust  Museum in Washington D.C. and focused on the idea that secularism is a conspiracy against Islam promoted by Jews. We're back on religion, but not on belief in God. This is a subject that has to be addressed. I respect every religion. This is why I have  been active in interfaith dialogues in Europe, Africa and India. In 1994 in New Delhi  I acted as a mediator between Hindus and  Muslims. Respect for religion and religious  practice is a human right. But when religion  is politicized, then religion is no longer faith. Respect for religious faith does not apply to ideologies masquerading as religion. At the Central European University in Budapest, I worked on a research project entitled The Return of Religion to Public Space. The return of religion to public space occurs  in Islam, but not only in Islam. It is a global  phenomenon. Four words are important in  this respect. Once again they are academic  words, but they are eminently related to our  everyday lives and to our social and political  lives. They are postmodernity, absolutism,  relativism and multiculturalism. Postmodernity has a message which says:  modernity – another word for enlightenment and cultural modernity – has run its course. This means that Jürgen Habermas' book The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity  is also out of date. Postmodernity states  that it is passé. And with the return of religion, absolutist thought has also re-emerged.  Here is a brief example of this: if the response  to an argument is: "Then you are against  Allah" (as has happened in Cairo), that is  absolutist. If the response to the comment  "Don't live in a sharia state" is "That is not  up for discussion", that is absolutist. But ra - tional arguments simply come up against a brick wall, particularly in scholarly argu - ments. The word 'state' does not appear in  the Koran at all, while the word 'sharia' only  appears once, in sura 45, verse 18. If one's  opponents turn to the Koran for justifica - tion and are unable to answer a query such  as "Tell me where Allah used the word sharia  in the Koran", then they have lost. But this  is not a rational argument. The weapon in  my armoury is that I know the Koran by  heart. I had no choice in the matter. But this  should not be the rule. The rule should be:  argument against argument, on the same  level – the level of rationality. The opposite of absolutism is relativism.  Europeans have become relativists. And re - lativists always come off worse in arguments  with absolutists. The best book about Postmodernism, Postmodernism, Reason and Religion, was written by the anthropologist, sociologist and philosopher Ernest Gellner, who died in Prague in 1995. On page 85 he writes: "Their attitude (of the culture  relativists) is roughly that absolutism is to be tolerated". Respect for other cultures is a wonderful thing. But it should not be a  blank cheque. The problem for Europe and Europeans is that other cultures have to be respected as they are. Europe takes a relativist view of culture. Religious fundamentalists are, according to Gellner, absolutist and rarely successful. And what about supporters of the Enlightenment? They are accused of  "fundamentalist rationalism". I knew Gellner personally, and he was often misunderstood when he defended the Enlightenment. He did not want to place defending the Enlightenment on the same level as religious fundamentalism. He simply wanted to express that we should bring the same passion to defending the Enlightenment as the fundamentalists bring to their religion.

Multiculturalism is a minefield

Multiculturalism is a minefield. Anyone who criticizes multiculturalism or who has a naive understanding of multiculturalism is  immediately suspected of being a right-wing radical. If multiculturalism were to succeed, if people from different cultures were to live together in harmony, then it would be impossible to criticize it. But multiculturalism has another meaning, the idea that anything  goes, that values are random. According to this understanding, I have no right to criticize other cultures. I have to respect them as they are. But the main thing I learned from Max Horkheimer in Germany is the importance of criticism, criticism without taboos. In Germany, any silencing of criticism  is a breach of the country's constitution. The German constitution guarantees scientific  freedom. And science means critical thinking, and critical thinking means enlighten - ment in Kant's sense of the word: reason is  the supreme tribunal, before which anything  that claims validity must be justified. Over recent years a battle cry has emerged: 'Islamophobia', suggesting that Islam  is the enemy. If you say that sharia law and  human rights do not go together, you can  be silenced by being called an Islamophobe. This is much worse in the US than in Europe – much, much worse. After 11 Septem - ber, the Islamists have won. In American  academic circles, it is now very difficult to  criticize Islamism. I know that from first- hand experience. I have taught and carried  out research at all seven Ivy League universities, rounding off my academic career at  Yale. This is where I wrote my book about  the difference between Islam as a faith and  Islamism as a political ideology. In Austria,  if you get along with the editor and the editor likes your book, it will be published. No  problem. But dealing with the University  Press in the USA is like gaining approval  for a doctoral thesis and requires three assessors. And if three are not enough, they draft in some more. The assessment of my  book  Islamism in Islam took two years, from 2009 to 2011. It involved four rounds of assessment and a total of 11 assessors. These assessors are all anonymous. They know me  but I don't know them. Many of them were against publishing my book. In the end, the assessment file was a thick as the book itself.

"The Saudis are waging an ideological campaign against enlightenment under the banner of dialogue. We have to get involved in these ideological campaigns and fight for enlightenment."

Finally, the editorial committee approved the book for publication. This is a restriction of freedom of expres - sion and scientific freedom. Enlightenment means that I can think, express my thoughts, and publish them. This is no longer the case. So what is to be done? The term ‘war of ideas’ is very prevalent in the US. Ideas do not wage war, yet there are ideological conflicts and military campaigns. For example, the Saudis are waging an ideological campaign against enlightenment under the banner of dialogue. We have to get involved in these ideological campaigns and fight for enlightenment. My fourth theory is that enlightenment is also part of Islam's history, despite the general view that the problem with Muslims is that they have not experienced an Enligh - tenment (as stated in an interview by Cardinal Franz König, the former Archbishop of Vienna). This could provide an opportu - nity to build bridges on the foundations of enlightenment. Like Cardinal König, Pope Benedict also spoke about Muslims and en - lightenment when he was a cardinal. But in reality, their history is otherwise. At the end of the 8th century, Christian Arabs translated Greek works. And from the 9th to the early 13th centuries there was an ongoing process: the Hellenisation of Islam. These were the centuries of the Islamic Enlightenment. The discussion that we are having today about what matters – what the holy scriptures tell us, and what reason tells us – was also held in Islam. And all the Islamic philosophers were unanimous about the primacy of reason. Al-Kindi was the first, in the 9th century.  In the 10th century  Al-Farabi wrote  The Perfect State , based on  Plato's  Republic . In the 11th and 12th centuries there was an ongoing discussion about  whether reason or revelation should be afforded priority. Defenders of Islamic orthodoxy  argued in favour of a literal interpretation of  the Koran, for scripturalism, while the Islamic proponents of enlightenment fought  for the primacy of reason. The difference between Voltaire and the  Islamic philosophers is in the radical stance  towards the church and religion. The Islamic  philosophers were not looking to create conflict, which was perhaps a mistake. Today we  would say they were placatory, perhaps even  appeasers. This is the basic position taken by Immanuel Kant. Several centuries before  Kant, the Islamic Kant, Ibn Rushd (Latinized as Averroës), anticipated what Kant  would write in this three Critiques: there is  not only truth, but truths: the truth of religion, which applies in the mosques, and the  truth of life, which applies in public. One truth arises from reason, the other  from religious faith. And both of these truths  have their own domains. The Islamic Enlightenment lasted for more than 300 years and is recorded in countless works. For a 50-page summary, see my book Der wahre  Imam (The True Imam). This also highlights  the difference between fiqh and sharia, a difference that is hugely important in discussions with Muslims. In the Koran, sharia describes the ethical principle of proscribing evil and prescribing good. This is the only meaning of sharia in the Koran. This is something that a Christian or an atheist can happily support.  Sharia is neither a legal system, nor a governmental system. In my book Islam Between Culture and Politics, which I published with the support of Harvard University in 2001 and 2005, I demonstrate the following: in general, what Muslims say about sharia is incorrect. For example, the belief that  everything in the Koran is sharia is quite  simply false. In the Koran, sharia is what Allah says. However, what Islamic scholars  read into their interpretations of the Koran  are in fact – according to Islamic under - standing and religious study – fiqh, human  understanding of sharia. Sharia comes from  God. But scholars make out that Islamic law,  which is fiqh, is actually sharia. When deba - ting with Muslims, it is absolutely essential  to know and respect the difference between  fiqh and sharia. Without this understan - ding, you have already lost before you start  a dialogue with proponents of conservative  Islam, particularly Islamic orthodoxy. Francis Fukuyama, an American with a Japanese surname, has become well-known  in Europe since the publication of his book  The End of History. At a reading in Washington he said that Muslim migration has led  to Europe becoming a "battlefield" between  Islam and "European identity". I would like to use this as the basis for my fifth theory. "Islam belongs to Germany": these words are wrong, in historical terms simply wrong.

"The difference between Voltaire and the Islamic philosophers is in the radical stance towards the church and religion. The Islamic philosophers were not looking to create conflict, which was perhaps a mistake." 

They were uttered by former German president Christian Wulff and recently repeated  by Chancellor Angela Merkel. As a Muslim academic I cannot agree to this. There is the Islam of Al-Kindi, Al-Farabi, Ibn Rushd, the  Islam of the Enlightenment, which came to Europe via Toledo and Cordoba. This Islam belongs to Europe. But it no longer exists. Yet Europe needs it to be reborn. Europe  needs a kind of Euro-Islam, even if the fun - damentalists oppose it. Baden-Württemberg is home to  Germany's second-largest mosque, known  as the Fatih. In Turkish and Arabic, this  means 'conqueror'. Turkish sultan Mehmed  the Second was known as Fatih because he  conquered and Islamized Constantinople, turning it into Istanbul. In Istanbul I asked: "Do you want to Islamize and conquer, or do you want to engage in dialogue? Why is the Baden-Württemberg mosque not called the Al-Farabi mosque? Al-Farabi was a  Turk who wrote in Arabic, the language of  the Koran. During the 9th and 10th centuries, he was the first great political thinker of Islam. Many Turks have never heard of  him. They are Muslims, yet they have never heard of Islam's greatest political thinker! The Al-Jabri project (named after the late philosopher Al-Jabri) is a project being conducted at Rabat University in Morocco.  It is aiming to revive Islamic philosophy as enlightenment, a project to ignite a renais sance of Islamic philosophy. I have been involved in this project. Of course the modern Enlightenment emerged in Europe and is a European project in  spatio-temporal terms. But before the second European Enlightenment, one took place in the Islamic world. The European and Islamic Enlightenments rest on the same foundation: the primacy of reason.

Universal reason

And reason is universal. If, as Max Weber and Jürgen Habermas have argued, the spatio-temporal dimension of the European  Enlightenment were to be neutralized, and if Muslims would only think back to their  own Enlightenment, this could provide a  basis for building bridges between Muslims  and Europeans. Then there would be a good chance of depriving the fundamentalists of  their ideology, their belief that enlightenment and democracy are Jewish instruments  that are used against Islam. My Euro-Islam  project for Europe is based on enlightenment. But I have to admit that my project  has had little success so far, because I have  received no support from Europe. Perhaps  the project will die with me. Or perhaps not. Of course I hope the latter is true.  I developed my concept of Euro-Islam  when I was in Senegal. This was the first  country I had ever visited which was Islamic  but not Arab. I heard the words "C'est notre islam" - "It's our Islam", and also "This  is Afro-Islam". Islam has been around since the 7th century and arrived in West Africa between the  13th and 15th centuries. That is not so long ago. But Islam has really become entrenched  there. Why? Why is this the case? Because it has been Africanized. This gave me the impetus to develop my idea of Euro-Islam as a response to the challenge of Islam in Europe. Ten years later, in 1992, the French government ditched its programme of assimilation and instead focused on a programme of  integration. Assimilation no longer worked when faced with floods of migrants entering the country. Today 8 million of France's 63 million population are Muslims. So: integration. This means accepting the values expressed in the French constitution. I took on the task of developing a concept and showing  how Islam can be interpreted in a European  way and thus become native to Europe. I accomplished this in just ten pages, under the  title:  Les Conditions de l'Euro-islam. The aim  was for Muslims to say: "This is our Islam". But this Islam also has to be acceptable to French people. One thing is clear, its foundation remains  enlightenment. It cannot be based on fundamentalism. Fundamentalism can have many names and many faces. I agree with the two great American theologians, Martin Marty (a Protestant) and Scott Appleby (a Catholic): Religion is coming back. But not as faith. It is coming back with a desire to remake the world in line with religious principles. Let's assume for a moment that the world were to be organized along Christian lines. Muslims could and would not accept that, nor would the Hindus or the Sikhs. And of course Christians could not and would not accept an Islamic world order. So the world can only be organized in a way  that is religiously neutral, so based on secularism. Enlightenment is secular. Of course Europe is Christian. But since the Reformation, and particularly since the Renaissance, Europe has exchanged the sources of inspiration for the European idea, from Jerusalem to Athens, from Christianity to Hellenism. Of course Christianity is still the dominant religion in Europe in people's private lives, but cultural modernity has been shaped by Hellenism, not by Christianity. Hellenism also had an impact on Muslims in their hey-day. So we have a common foundation: enlightenment as the primacy of reason. With regard to the creation of a modern world order, Oxford professor Hedley Bull pointed out that this can only work on the basis of shared values. I would add that these values must be based on a global enlightenment if it is to lead to true world peace in the Kantian sense.

Europe: Closed Doors or Open Arms? Culture and Migration / EUNIC, ... (Hg.). – Göttingen: Steidl , 2015. – 300 pp. – (Kulturreport, EUNIC-Jahrbuch)

Europe: Closed Doors or Open Arms? Culture and Migration / EUNIC, ... (Hg.). – Göttingen: Steidl , 2015. – 300 pp. – (Kulturreport, EUNIC-Jahrbuch)
Order of ifa Media

Bassam Tibi, was born in Damascus in 1944. He is the founder of the theory of Euro-Islam. From 1973 to 2009 he was Professor of International Relations at the University of Göttingen. From 1988 to 1993 he was Research Associate, and from 1998 to 2000 Bosch Visiting Professor at Harvard University. From 2004 to 2010 he was A.D White Professor at Cornell University. In 2005 he was Senior Research Fellow at the National University of Singapore/Asia Research Institute. In 2008 and 2010 he was Resnick Senior Fellow at the Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington D.C. His books have been translated into more than 16 languages. In 1995 he was awarded the German Cross of  Merit, 1st class, for his work to promote "a better understanding of Islam in Germany and to communicate it between cultures". In 2003 he won the annual prize of the Schweizer Stiftung für europäische Werte (Swiss Foundation for European Values).