Europe in the World

Navid Kermani: Europe is in fact cementing its ideological borders. . . .  Radical openness is an essential feature of the European project. . . .  You can’t draw the borders of Europe just as you would draw the borders of a country.  Europe isn’t a country — it is an idea. . . .  For me, Europe is a necessity and a promise.  My parents came to Germany to study, from Iran, 50 years ago.  They are well integrated, they work for tolerance and understanding, they are socially active and speak outstanding German, they are dedicated Muslims in a European hue.  They are pleased to live in Germany, they are grateful to live in Germany.  But even after 50 years they never say they are German.  I don’t think this is just my parents — I think it’s more Germany.  I wouldn’t myself say I’m German.  I was born here, for some years I’ve had Iranian and German passports, I live in the German language.  And yet I wouldn’t say: “I am German.”  If at all, I say, almost as apology: “I’m German-Iranian.”  My cousin, who has been living in the United States for five years, already says: “I’m American.”  You don’t become German — as a migrant you remain Iranian, Turk, Arab, even in the second or third generation.  But you can become European.  You can commit to Europe because it is a community of wills — it is not the name of a religion or an ethnic group.  I, or we, need this Europe because . . . where else should we go?

Navid Kermani is a writer.  This lecture was delivered at Berliner Konferenz (2004).  The text above is an edited partial transcript of the video.  See, also, Navid Kermani, “Cultural Identity in the Islamic World” (Dialogue with the Islamic World / Dialog mit der islamischen Welt, 2005).

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