German Muslims empty pockets for Pakistan flood victims

18 August 2010
As flooding in Pakistan continues to displace millions of people, Muslim groups in Germany are mobilizing to raise money and support aid programs to help those in need. A week into the Islamic fasting period of Ramadan, Muslim groups in Germany have asked their community to dig deep for victims in flood-ravaged Pakistan, where an estimated 20 million people are suffering due to high waters.
Ayyub Axel Koehler, who chairs the Central Council of Muslims in Germany (ZMD), says the country’s Muslim community is shocked and dismayed at the recent devastating floods that have killed around 2,000 people in Pakistan. He says this is why a special slogan has been devised for this year’s Ramadan: “Fast, pray, donate.”
The Germany branch of aid and development organization Islamic Relief is one such group that has rallied in support of flood victims. Islamic Relief Germany spokesperson Nuri Koeseli says that 100,000 euros ($129,000) was donated in the first week of flooding in northern Pakistan. German Muslim aid group Muslime Helfen is also involved in the aid drive for Pakistan, throwing its support behind emergency accommodation for 2,000 flood victims.

Disunity in the run-up to the German Islam Conference

The German Islam Conference, a much-valued institution that brings together Islamic associations, the Interior Ministry and representatives from politics and public life, is currently at stake. It will take place – probably on May 17 – but the list of participants has not been finalized, after a controversy between Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière and the Islamrat (Islamic council). The Turkish organization Milli Görüş is largely represented in the Islamrat, and currently faces investigation on tax evasion, founding a criminal organization and money laundering by some of its leaders. For the time being, the Islamrat will not participate in the Conference.

Novelist and Islam expert Navid Kermani criticizes Interior Minister de Maizière for the exclusion. Mistakes have been made on the part of Milli Görüş, whose leaders should have stepped down, but excluding the whole Islamrat is more detrimental. The organization is extremely conservative and he does not agree with most of their views, says Kermani, but they do represent a reality in Germany and it is therefore imperative to engage with them.

Consequently, the other major Muslim organizations are considering boycotting the Conference. So far, they have not reached a unanimous demand to put forward. Today however, the chairman of the Central Council of Muslims, Ayyub Axel Köhler, has hinted that the organizations will probably decide in favor of remaining at the Conference.

Muslim bodies cut links to Germany’s only professor of Islam

Germany’s main Muslim bodies cut their links Friday to Germany’s only professor of Islamic religion, charging that Muhammad Kalisch had questioned the existence of the Prophet Mohammed and Muslim beliefs about the origin of the Koran. Kalisch teaches at the University of Muenster in northern Germany. The four main Muslim groups had been represented on a board of advisors to his Centre for Islamic Religious Studies (CRS) since the chair was established, but there has been friction over his academic publications. In a joint statement in Cologne on Friday, the council of Muslim organizations said it was concerned at the “discrepancy between fundamentals of Islamic teaching and the published positions of the head of the CRS.” Ayyub Axel Koehler, a German Muslim who is president of one group, the Central Council of Muslims, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa: “Kalisch calls fundamental teachings into question in such a stark way that it’s not possible to go along with him.” He said Kalisch had questioned whether the Prophet really existed and what Muslims believed about the Koran’s origin. “We support the freedom of scholarship and teaching and we have no wish to gag him,” said Koehler. “But we cannot advise people to learn from him.” In a response published by the university, Kalisch said, “I regret the decision of the Muslim organizations. “A university is not there to teach the content of faith, nor to approve the opinions of a professor as correct. “Rather, the task of a university is to conduct independent, open- ended research.” He said a university should equip students “to reflect critically and achieve intellectual independence.”

Full-text article available here. (Some news sites may require registration)