On Monday, representatives of the Orthodox Rabbi-Conference Germany (ORD) and the Central Council of Muslims in Germany came together in a first meeting of what is meant to be a future dialogue between the two groups. This exchange between Muslims and Jews is meant to enhance the relations between the two. In the meeting, they agreed to intensify this form of dialogue in the future. While similar initiatives have successfully been implemented on both local and European level, this now also applies to the federal German level.
The President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Dieter Graumann, called for more religious tolerance towards Islam in Germany. Graumann argued it was wrong to treat all Muslims as members of a suspect community, as the large majority was living peacefully with people of different faiths. According to Graumann, the idea of a Christian Church as the centre of a local community had to be adjusted to the current situation – the centre of a local community may very well be a mosque.
Following the killing of Bin Laden, German Chancellor Angela Merkel publicly announced her relief about the news during a press conference. More specifically, Merkel said it was “great news” and that she was “happy” to hear about the killing of Bin Laden. Further, she expressed her respect for Obama’s strategy. Merkel’s expression of joy over Bin Laden’s death has unleashed heated debate; her statement has been criticized by various religious groups and members of the political opposition as well as Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and the governing coalition. Critics expressed their discomfort at the expression of joy over the death of a human being. Church representatives argued that from a Christian perspective, in particular, it was especially inappropriate to express happiness about the intentional killing of another human being. While most critics were understanding of expressions of relief about Bin Laden’s death, they considered it to be inadequate to express happiness in the way Merkel did. Others, such as Omid Nouripour, member of the Green Party, not only criticized Merkel’s statement, but also the killing of Bin Laden more generally. Nouripour stressed that the rules and regulations of a constitutional state had to be kept – even in the war against terror.
Many members of the Christian Democrats, however, supported Merkel. Heiner Geißler, for instance, argued that any civilized person should be happy about the fact that Bin Laden did no longer pose a threat. Geißler responded to criticisms by religious groups and argued that being Christian did not mean to be pedantic and “preachy”. He understood Merkel’s statement merely as an expression of happiness that this “problem” had been solved. Similarly, Dieter Graumann, President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, saw Merkel’s happiness as not related to someone’s death, but the success in the war against international terrorism. Also amongst those defending Merkel’s statement is Germany’s Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, who, similar to Merkel, welcomed Bin Laden’s death as “good news”. While Westerwelle said that relief about Bin Laden’s death was understandable, he warned that the reactions to his killing in the West must not lead to any provocation of Al Qaida. Further, he emphasized the need to stay vigilant, as the killing of Bin Laden did not end the international fight against terrorism and extremism
Reacting to the public criticism, the Government emphasized that Merkel’s statement could not be isolated from the context. Seen in its context, it merely expressed relief that Bin Laden no longer posed any threat.
8 April 2011
German Muslims are planning a new charity fund in order to establish Islamic homes for the aged and kindergartens, the Islamische Zeitung reports. Chairman of the Central Council of Muslims, Aiman Mazyek, said the initiative would reflect the reality in German society, and it was a necessary step for Muslims. The same rights and duties as for Christian charities would apply.
According to Deutsch Türkische Nachrichten, Muslim elderly have different needs than non-Muslims. A pilot project in Offenbach near Frankfurt has therefore started an apprenticeship programme, training young men of migration background to become carers for the elderly. The programme focuses on culturally sensitive issues, language and customs, something that become especially important with people suffering from dementia. Apart from working at homes for the aged, graduates of the programme could also be employed in new projects like shared housing for intercultural groups.
31 March 2011
When for the first time new Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich convened the German Islam Conference, there was palpable opposition and anger at his approach. First organised in 2006 by then interior minister Wolfgang Schäuble and subsequently by his successor Thomas de Maizière, the assembly was considered a sign of progress, telling of improved relationships between Muslims and non-Muslims, and the state. When Friedrich came into office in March 2011, he seemed to destroy all previous attempts by stating that there was no historical evidence for Islam to be part of Germany.
Having inherited the Islam Conference by his predecessors, Friedrich had no choice but to convene it, but managed to dictate his own agenda, to which participants reacted with outrage. Friedrich proposed a “security partnership” with Muslim representatives, who he urged to work more closely with the authorities in fighting extremism.
The Central Council of Muslims strongly criticised this move. Chairman Aiman Mazyek said that the Conference was not meant for security politics. Islamic studies scholar Armina Omerika said this would trigger a culture of denunciation among Muslims and would not be beneficial to integration. Also the Green Party criticised Friedrich’s approach, which will not foster a peaceful way of living together but rather use Muslims as voluntary police resource.
19 February 2011
The Islamic Central Council of Switzerland (IZRS) has held its yearly meeting, to which the president of the IZRS Nicolas Blancho had invited a number of prominent speakers. Approximately 2000 people attended the conference, where the star of the gathering was the Kuwaiti Sheikh Mishary Rashid Al-Afasy, while around 50 people from anti-Islamic and Christian groups held protests against the conference.
Three of the invited guests in particular led to raised eyebrows at the Swiss State Office for Migration (BFM). The first of these guests was Shefqet Krasniqi, an imam from Pristina, who shocked the Catholic world two years ago with the comment that “Mother Teresa is in hell, as she was not a Muslim.” The second was Yusuf Estes, who was an Islamic chaplain in US prisons, and who fights against public schools for Muslim children, arguing instead for Qur’an schools. Finally, there was Yvonne Ridley, a British journalist and former Taliban hostage, who converted to Islam following her kidnapping and now supports the Muslim brotherhood.
The yearly meeting was promoted by a youtube video which shows the word “Islam” followed by other words such as “Hate,” “Attack,” “Forced Marriage,” and “Honor Killings,” after which appears “Where are our rights? Who stands up for us?” According to IZRS spokesperson Abdel Azziz Qaasim Illi, the theme of the conference was “how to bring together in harmony Islamic identity and the modern era.”
Underlining the fact that Islam has become a part of Germany, the Council of Culture has published a dossier called “Islam, Culture, Politics” on how Islam is practiced and set into context in Germany. After the debates of the past months, which had been dominated by the condescending remarks of Thilo Sarrazin, publisher Olaf Zimmermann wanted to step back an provide a more nuanced view of Islam, its culture and politics. The document will be distributed at parliament, Church academies, public libraries, and also at mosques. The dossier does not only want to write about Muslims, but also incorporates public figures of the Muslim population, such as the Central Council’s chairman Aiman Mazyek, who participated in the publication (Frankfurter Rundschau).
Underlining the fact that Islam has become a part of Germany, the Council of Culture has published a dossier called Islam, Culture, Politics on how Islam is practiced and set into context in Germany. After the debates of the past months, which had been dominated by the condescending remarks of Thilo Sarrazin, publisher Olaf Zimmermann wanted to step back an provide a more nuanced view of Islam, its culture and politics. The document will be distributed at parliament, Church academies, public libraries, and also at mosques. The dossier does not only want to write about Muslims, but also incorporates public figures of the Muslim population, such as the Central Council’s chairman Aiman Mazyek, who participated in the publication
The chairman of the Protestant Church Nikolaus Schneider has criticised Islam in Germany, stating that Islam appeared “in our society unimpressed by Enlightenment and criticism of religion”. The Central Council of Muslims strongly disapproved of the remark. General Secretary Nurhan Soykan said that no one had the right to criticise a religion and to evaluate whether or not it needed Enlightenment. The Council’s chairman Aiman Mazyek expressed his understanding for the fact that Church officials saw Islam as a challenge, pointing out that Islam practiced monotheism in its purest form, cherished Jesus and Mary, but would not allow a prophet (Jesus) to be crucified – Mazyek’s interpretation being that Islam could be understood by many as an enlightened form of Christianity.
Schneider later explained that he called for an academic Islam, one that is scientifically dealt with at universities in order to study the history and also the Enlightenment as it took place in Germany, so that Islam would arrive at a historical-critical perspective on its own faith. He very much welcomes the education of imams at German universities.
December 23, 2010
Aiman Mazyek of the Central Council of Muslims has sent out a message of charity for Christmas. Christians and Muslims should see each other more as partners and allies rather than competitors, he said. Both religions share the notions of charity and mercy. Many Muslims also enjoy the peaceful quiet days over Christmas, and those married to Christians take pleasure in celebrating it in particular.