This article was originally published in German.
People aged 70 and over no longer have the right to vote, anyone over 16 with a residence permit can, and one in four people employed by a business has to be a practising Muslim: this is the vision of Germany’s future as presented by Constantin Schreiber, anchor for the 8 pm news slot on Tagesschau, in his latest novel Die Kandidatin (The Candidate). The book presents diversity, post-colonialism, identity politics and environmental awareness as the foundations of a new type of fascism, and is reminiscent of French author Michel Houellebecq’s bestseller Submission, which deals with the Islamisation of France.
As a German TV journalist, there are few positions more exalted than being the anchor and face of Tagesschau’s 8 pm news programme. Schreiber has been part of this exclusive club since the beginning of 2021. His position is a prominent one.
His latest novel, Die Kandidatin, is now at the heart of much controversy and outrage – and deservedly so. This is Schreiber’s third book. He made it onto Spiegel’s bestseller list for his previous two works, the non-fiction books Inside Islam – The Messages Being Preached in Germany’s Mosques and Children of the Quran. These books, too, were steeped in bias.
“Do you want absolute diversity?”
Sabah Hussein is the protagonist of Schreiber’s speculative fiction novel. She is a migrant, a Muslim and a feminist. As a leading candidate within her party, she has an excellent chance of being appointed chancellor of Germany. In Schreiber’s novel, Hussein’s party is the Ecological Party, “which is of course inspired by the reality we are currently living in”, as Schreiber put it himself during a digital book première held with the controversial left-wing politician Sahra Wagenknecht.
Schreiber’s aim, he stated, is to show how “an apolitical centre has disappeared altogether”, leaving “everyone to ask where they stand: left or right?”. According to Schreiber, the novel grapples with identity politics issues and how we deal with religion. The novel starts with a paraphrased quote from Goebbels: “‘Do you want absolute diversity?’ a young man of a diverse background shouts into a megaphone.” “Yes”, chants the crowd – and they rejoice.
“Antifa” aligned with the Islamist “Sharia Brigade”
As is clear from the outset, the novel does not have a happy ending. The first page alone states that right-wing extremists, or “defenders of the state” are locked in a bitter struggle with “Antifa”, which has allied itself to the Muslim “Sharia Brigade”. Shortly before the announcement of the election results, the “defenders of the state” infiltrate the editorial office of “Pfote” – a left-leaning media channel – and beat up the journalists working there. “The fighters on the side of Antifa and the Muslim Sharia Brigade declare their intent to support the Pfote journalists and oust the defenders of the state from the headquarters”. This is the starting point from which Schreiber paints a picture of his imagined dystopia.
The novel follows 44-year-old Sabah Hussein through the elections, describes how her early years were spent in a refugee camp, and lingers on her predilection for luxury, her links to the Lebanese mafia and her insatiable lust for power. Sexist overtures are never far away, either, with one example being how Hussein considers herself more attractive than her friends. Predictably, her brothers are caught up in the criminal dealings of the clans, but Hussein deftly covers up this blemish on her record.
Muslim candidate for position of chancellor is child of the Quran
While Hussein may have hung up her hijab, she remains a child of the Quran. She meets discretely with Muhammad Abd al-Malik, the imam of a mosque in the Berlin district of Neukölln, for advice. A discussion with the imam about being at the mercy of “disgraceful glances of men and boys” during swimming class sets her on the path to becoming a politician. Meanwhile, the spectre that is the “Islamisation” of Germany is evoked at every turn: Hussein wants to bring at least 10,000 refugees per month to Germany. High Muslim immigration rates increase her chance of being elected. Anyone aged 16 or over – whether citizen or merely resident – may vote in the upcoming election, though Schreiber makes sure to point out that in his dystopia, nobody over the age of 70 may cast their vote.
Wide-reaching quota rules lead to “identities that are discriminated against” in Germany being favoured in professional settings. For example, 15 percent of all employees have to be homosexual, while for management teams a 25 percent cap applies for men “whose skin pigmentation is white”. In all other companies, at least one in four employees must be a practising Muslim.
Finally, a member of the federal police force – a “blonde East German woman” – has enough, and seriously injures Hussein during an assassination attempt. The woman’s aim, as she states before a court, is to prevent “Germany from being ruled by an Islamist”. Sadly for her, the judge in Schreiber’s novel is a prominent figure in the anti-racist movement and wears a hijab herself.
Exaggeration to the point of farce
The entire novel is packed with absurdly exaggerated stereotypes. Achievements in our modern world – including diversity, feminism and sexual autonomy – are presented in a highly warped manner that would be frightening were it not so ridiculous.
“The host will be speaking shortly with rapper BooB Dash about her new song, Kill All the Whites! The black artist will talk about how she managed to escape from abject poverty and how prostitution has empowered her. ‘I started hooking at sixteen. This is how I learned to understand my body and treat it with autonomy.’” (Die Kandidatin)
Expert on Islam who preys on peoples’ fear of Islam
This novel has to be looked at in the context of Schreiber’s other books, and will likely be interpreted as a continuation of his “grasp of Islam”. In Inside Islam and Children of the Quran, Schreiber instils fear and defames Muslims as a whole. While contemporary Islam and some Muslims do indeed exhibit problematic traits that should be identified and discussed, the approach adopted by Schreiber, widely recognised in the press as an “Islam expert”, is not the right one.
His first two books are biased at the very least and outright wrong in some of their arguments. Schreiber’s books on Islam are written as though he is poised to give the reader insights into a mysterious world. As dis:orient states about Inside Islam: “He has access to worlds that few others do, and explores the no man’s land between exoticising and demonising the religion”.
Constantin Schreiber’s “Mosquepedia”: the Islam map for Germany
Just as problematic is another project launched by Schreiber: “Mosquepedia” (Moscheepedia in the original German) is a website with a similar appearance to Wikipedia that lists mosques around Germany. The site is currently down for maintenance. The aim of “Mosquepedia” is to provide an overview of hundreds of mosques, with photos, information and translated sermons that are placed in context by Muslim and non-Muslim scholars of Islamic learning. All users can register with the site and subsequently contribute their own texts or images.
This is an extremely problematic project coming from a man whose outlook on Islam and Muslims appears to be driven by a deep-rooted fear – no matter how often he claims he is simply seeking to provide visibility and transparency regarding Muslims in Germany. In the context of Schreiber’s works, all the website does is stigmatise Muslims.
A similar project attracted attention recently in Austria: At the end of May, Susanne Raab, Minister of Integration for the Austrian People’s Party, published an interactive “Islam map”. In total, 623 Muslim associations, organisations and mosques were listed on the map, along with affiliations, an assessment of their ideological standpoint – and their address. It caused great unease among Muslims in Austria and beyond, as reported by Belltower.News. Right-wing extremists responded promptly, erecting “warning signs” in front of Muslim institutions around Austria.
In reference to “Mosquepedia”, Der Spiegel quoted Schreiber as saying: “It’s not about being hostile towards mosques; it’s about making them more visible”. Even if that is the case, the publication of Schreiber’s latest book clearly shows the resentment the purported “expert on Islam” has toward the religion. Still, it is difficult to say just how Islamophobic Schreiber actually is. It could be the case that he simply saw which way the wind was blowing in the market and understood that riffing on Islamophobia would be well received by the public while hitting a nerve among certain circles.