German Islam Conference Struggles With New Interior Minister

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.

Prize for cartoonist Westergaard: Muslims disappointed of Merkel

8 September 2010
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has awarded the Media Prize M100 to the Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard. In 2005, Westergaard had drawn a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed, showing him with a bomb in his turban, which had subsequently caused major upheavals in Europe and the Islamic world. He has received death threats and has been under police protection ever since.
In her speech, Merkel recognised Westergaard’s courage and demanded the consequences of the cartoon publication to be taken as a reminder. Europe should be a place where freedom of speech is possible; “the secret of freedom is courage”, the Chancellor said.
Meanwhile, the Central Council of Muslims condemned the award. Chairman Aiman Mazyek said that such an honour is highly problematic at a time that is already charged and heated. Also the Green Party criticised the move.