Muslim representatives in Germany have condemned the recent attacks in Manchester and London.
Especially the events of Manchester gave rise to expressions of shock and anger, as the targets of Salman Abedi’s suicide bombing that left 23 dead had been a pop concert by US singer Ariana Grande and its mostly very young audience.
Responses of the large associations
Germany’s largest Islamic association, Turkish-dominated DİTİB, issued a press release condemning the attack and any other form of terrorism, as well as expressing the organisation’s condolences to the families of the victims.
The chairman of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany (ZMD), Aiman Mazyek tweeted: “In deep sorrow I look to #Manchester. We pray for the bereaved, injured, their relatives. Many child victims to be feared – terrible.”
Bekir Altaş, secretary general of the Islamist-leaning Islamic Community Millî Görüş (IGMG) also took to twitter: “#PrayForManchester! Aghast and shocked! In our hearts we are with all victims and their relatives.” The chairman of the Islam Council (IR) issued a similar statement.(( http://www.islamiq.de/2017/05/23/religionsvertreter-trauern-mit-manchester/ ))
Rehashing a well-rehearsed ritual
Representatives of Germany’s Church communities also voiced their condemnation of suicide attack in Manchester. Shortly afterwards, on May 23, the leading Catholic and Protestant clergymen of Berlin held a private vigil with the Great Imam of Al-Ahzar, Ahmed al-Tayyeb, commemorating the victims.(( http://www.bild.de/regional/aktuelles/berlin/grossimam-und-bischoefe-gedenken-der-terroropfer-51881922.bild.html ))
At the same time, these statements did not – and in some sense could not – go beyond the by now well-rehearsed tropes of outrage that are being used after every attack. The demand that Muslims and their representatives must dissociate themselves from the suicide bombing hung in the air, and they duly complied.
This is not to claim that these demands the corresponding statements of Muslim leaders were made in bad faith. Yet it does underline the fact that there is little by way of a genuinely meaningful public conversation on attacks such as the ones that occurred in Manchester and London. Instead, in an involuntary expression of their helplessness, all sides continue to shelter behind the familiar ritualistic assertions.
Erol Pürlü, speaker of the coordination council of Muslims, thanked the German commission of inquiry for its efforts to shed light to unsolved questions related to the right-wing terror series. He criticized the distorted picture of Islam in the public, which would enhance the stigmatization of Muslims.
Aiman Mazyek, chairman of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, demanded consequences after the terror series of the NSU (National Socialist Underground). The right-wing motivated terrorist attacks against Muslims would be the “German September 11th”. Mazyek raised concerns about the belittlement of society toward right-wing extremism and ignorance toward daily racism against Muslims.
Following the shootings at a Jewish school in Toulouse last Monday and the subsequent killing of the Muslim gunman, an al-Qaeda sympathiser, the Central Council of Muslims in Germany expressed their sympathy for the victims’ families and friends. At the same time, the Head of the Council, Aiman Mazyek, compared the attacks to the right-wing extremist group NSU in Germany and expressed his concern that the events may encourage copycats. He called on the police to increase the surveillance of Islamic centres and institutions.
Germany’s President Christian Wulff has recently come under increasing attack from across the political spectrum for not having mentioned a private loan of 500,000€ that he received from the wife of Egon Geerkens, a wealthy German businessman, in October 2008. At this point, he was still serving as a premier of Lower Saxony. When the opposition asked him about his business ties to Geerkens, Wulff neglected to mention the loan. While Wulff had to face questions over this private loan in recent weeks and was accused of deceiving the German Parliament about it, he has now received support from Aiman Mazyek, head of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany. Mazyek called for a respectful handling of the case to preserve Germany’s political stability. According to Mazyek, this was now more important than ever before to prevent society from breaking apart.
Various German newspapers reported on the end of Ramadan and the three-day celebration (Eid al-Fitr) held in Muslim communities. Aiman Mazyek, Chair of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, wished all Muslims happy celebrations amongst their families and friends, but also pointed to current grievances in many parts of the world. To remind people of the importance of solidarity, peaceful coexistence, and mutual trust, he closed his message by drawing on the case of Tariq Jahan, whose son was recently killed during the riots in the UK. Jahan had called on people to not seek violent revenge, but end the riots and unite (as reported).
The Central Council of Muslims in Germany has welcomed the draft bill on pre-implantation diagnostics (PID) that was passed by the German government last week. The bill allows pre-implantation diagnosis (which involves genetic testing on embryos) under certain circumstances. The chair of the Council, Aiman Mazyek, stated that the Central Council has long pleaded for the permission of PID, as they see the benefits for the identification of hereditary/ genetic diseases.
Several politicians and local residents participated in a commemoration service for Marwa El-Sherbini, a 32-year-old Egyptian woman who was killed in a court in Dresden two years ago. El-Sherbini, who was a witness in a criminal case, was stabbed by the defendant, against whom she had testified, during an appeal hearing. During the commemoration service, the Central Council of Muslims in Germany described the murder as the “tip of the iceberg” and warned not to under-estimate Islamophobic tendencies in Germany.
Earlier this year (as reported), German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich invited Muslim groups and security services to a meeting to discuss strategies for fighting Islamic radicalism and preventing further radicalisation. What has come to be called the “prevention summit”, in which the Interior Minister met with Muslim community leaders, politicians, and representatives of the police and German security services, was held by Interior Ministry on June 24th.
During the meeting, Friedrich called for the highest vigilance within society against the radicalisation of young people by Islamic radicals. According to him, Muslim citizens and residents can play an especially important role in the prevention of radicalisation, by counteracting radical tendencies in the private sphere, clubs, and religious meetings. More specifically, Friedrich urged Muslim families to help prevent young Muslims from turning into jihadists by being “observant about what their children are up to and how they are changing” (DW News). Overall, he aimed at initiating a “security partnership” (Stern) between security services, Muslims in Germany, and Muslim associations.
Both the political opposition as well as several Muslim organisations criticized the meeting for its specific focus on the radicalisation of Muslims, which bears the risk of stigmatizing the entire Muslim community in Germany. Parliamentary leader of the Social Democrats, Thomas Oppermann, for instance, called for increasing support of moderate Muslims to isolate those who are prone to violence (DW News). Similarly, Muslim organisations, such as the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, are sceptical about the meeting’s focus. Chairman of the Central Council of Muslims, Aiman Mazyek, who had already voiced his concern ahead of the meeting (as reported), argues for a clear distinction between Muslims and extremism. According to Mazyek, by dedicating a conference to Muslim radicalism, the small group of radicals in Germany are merely strengthened. Instead, the government needed to work harder to make Muslims feel “at home” in Germany and to campaign against Islamophobia (Stern). Mazyek also called for the improvement of integration measures, as a lack of integration was a main cause for radicalization. Similar criticism was voiced by Kenan Kolat, head of the Turkish Community in Germany, who questioned the purpose of the summit. Both Kolat and Mazyek point to the already existing security stream within the Islam Conference; they are concerned that a strengthening of the security aspect of the dialogue between German Muslims and the government may reinforce a general suspicion against Muslims in Germany.
The Chairman of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, Aiman Mazyek, criticized plans to hold a “prevention summit” against extremism. The plan to hold the summit was announced by the Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich at the Islam Conference held earlier this year (in March). Friedrich saw the “prevention summit” as an opportunity to encourage a closer collaboration between Muslim communities and security services – independent of the Islam Conference. His plans were criticised for supporting a culture of denunciation within Muslim communities.
Mazyek argued that security questions had already been dealt with as part of the Islam Conference. According to him, it is now more important to evaluate what had been discussed and draw conclusions from that, rather than initiating another security summit. While the Council criticized the event, the Ministry of the Interior is still hopeful that Council representatives will attend the summit.