Cologne’s New Central Mosque on the News Again

28./ 29.10.2011

The construction and architecture of the new Central Mosque in Cologne has yet again led to some controversial debate (previously reported in July 2011); yet, this time the argument is between the German Muslim organization DITIB, which is responsible for the construction of the mosque, and its architect, Paul Böhm. During a press conference last Thursday, DITIB representatives criticized Böhm’s work and accused him of not having fulfilled his responsibilities properly. Official construction experts had found more than 2,000 faults in the preliminary building work, which may now effectively double the costs of the construction. As a consequence, DITIB fired the architect, who rejects DITIB’s accusations and is hoping to find a compromise to complete the mosque’s construction. To settle the argument and clarify responsibilities for the construction deficits, the building process might have to be stopped, which would lead to another delay in the completion of the mosque.

Integration Course for Imams

28.06.2011
Ten Turkish Imams completed their 10-months training at the Goethe-Institute in Göttingen (Lower Saxony) on Monday (27.06.2011). The training was part of the integration project “imams for Germany”, which is funded by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees and the Turkish-Islamic Union (DITIB). As foreign imams are often criticised for their lack of German language skills, a particular focus of the training was on language acquisition. Furthermore, the imams received information about life in Germany and German society, to better understand and advise Muslims in Germany.

Church plans to establish kindergarten for Muslims

The Protestant church in Mannheim has announced plans for building an “integration kindergarten” to accommodate Muslim children. The plans are a reaction to an envisioned Turkish kindergarten that would be run by DITIB, the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs in Germany. It is a controversial project for fears of isolation instead of integration, and is also being criticised by Turkish parents. The church’s initiative is an attempt to show “true concern with the issue of integration” and a Muslim partner would accompany the planning process, the Protestant dean Günter Eitenmüller said.

Portrait: the Turkish Islamic Union for Social and Cultural Cooperation in Austria (ATIB)

During the numerous controversies that have occurred with regard to the construction of mosques in Austria, one association is frequently cited: the Turkish Islamic Union for Social and Cultural Cooperation in Austria (ATIB). This federation, linked with the Turkish Presidency of Religious Affairs (the Diyanet) and similar to the German DITIB, brings together 63 mosque association and comprises 80 000 members, of which 70% are Austrian citizens. The spokesperson for ATIB, Nihat Koca, emphasises that ATIB is a reliable and open partner, and is not influenced by the Turkish state.

Other than offering religious services by means of imams sent from Turkey, ATIB also offers after-school tutoring for students, musical activities and German language classes. The repatriation fund for burial in Turkey, which counts 25 000 registered families, is also an important activity for the association.

Integration expert Kenan Güngör criticises some of ATIB’s programmes, such as kindergarten classes, which he says encourages parallel societies: “it is especially children who need to be socialised in a mixed environment as early as possible.” While ATIB tries to be inclusive and not raise controversy, Güngör concludes that it needs to distance itself more clearly from the antidemocratic and backwards image that many people have of Islam, especially since the terror attacks of 9/11.

Portrait: the Turkish islamic union for social and cultural cooperation in Austria (ATIB)

During the numerous controversies that have occurred with regard to the construction of mosques in Austria, one association is frequently cited: the Turkish Islamic Union for Social and Cultural Cooperation in Austria (ATIB). This federation, linked with the Turkish Presidency of Religious Affairs (the Diyanet) and similar to the German DITIB, brings together 63 mosque association and comprises 80 000 members, of which 70% are Austrian citizens. The spokesperson for ATIB, Nihat Koca, emphasises that ATIB is a reliable and open partner, and is not influenced by the Turkish state.

Other than offering religious services by means of imams sent from Turkey, ATIB also offers after-school tutoring for students, musical activities and German language classes. The repatriation fund for burial in Turkey, which counts 25 000 registered families, is also an important activity for the association.

Integration expert Kenan Güngör criticises some of ATIB’s programmes, such as kindergarten classes, which he says encourages parallel societies: “it is especially children who need to be socialised in a mixed environment as early as possible.” While ATIB tries to be inclusive and not raise controversy, Güngör concludes that it needs to distance itself more clearly from the antidemocratic and backwards image that many people have of Islam, especially since the terror attacks of 9/11.

New program aims to integrate Germany’s foreign-trained imams

Imams are sometimes stereotyped as agents of division or radicalization. But a new Germany-wide training program aims to exploit their potential to be forces for integration. Fifteen imams started coursework in mid-December as part of “Imams for Integration,” a four-month program designed to make them fluent in German culture as well as language.

Most of Germany’s imams grew up and received their religious training outside of Germany, often in Turkey. Turkey’s religious affairs office regularly sends theologians to over 800 German mosques, but few come with German language skills.

“Imams for Integration” is a joint initiative organized by the Goethe Institute, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), and the German association of Turkish Muslim congregations, DITIB. The program consists of 500 hours of German language instruction and 12 days of lessons about intercultural and German topics, such as the powers of the state, life in a pluralistic society, religious diversity, the educational system, migration, and community work.

German mosques open their doors

Hundreds of mosques throughout Germany opened their doors to the general public on Friday, allowing people from other faiths to get first-hand information about Islam, organizers said.
More than 50,000 visitors took advantage of the 12th ‘Day of Open Mosques’ to explore the houses of worship and pose questions about Islam, according to the Coordination Council of Muslims and the Turkish Muslim group DITIB. Around 2,500 mostly bigger mosques organized exhibitions, held round-table discussions on religion or briefings on integration and language courses. The annual event coincided this year with the end of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan. A heavy rush of visitors to mosques was reported in major German cities like Cologne, Mannheim and Berlin. The planned construction of numerous mosques across Germany has sparked an Islamophobic debate aimed at fanning anti-Muslim sentiments in the media. While most Germans view positively the building of mosques, a small but vocal minority has criticized it as a “display of Muslim power.”

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Who speaks for German Muslims?

Debate on which organisations represent German Muslims seen as key to integration dialogue. The German Islam Conference has achieved its first concrete result: Muslim religious education will be introduced as a subject in German schools from next year. The move was agreed upon by representatives of the state and its Muslim population – in spite of what was sometimes a bitter controversy. A number of Muslim participants wanted to see a different kind of religious education – the sort of neutral education about Islam which half the German states already offer. The Federal Interior Minister, Wolfgang Sch_uble, sees Muslim religious education as a clear signal to encourage Muslims to integrate into German society. But he quickly had to scale down his initiative after it became clear that there were many open questions and possible risks involved. He had to admit that the main preconditions for the introduction of Muslim religious education have not yet been fulfilled. Before Muslim religious education can be introduced, it will be necessary for there to be an organisation representing all Muslims in the country. This organisation will also have to be recognised by the state as a Corporation in Public Law. German churches and the Jewish community already enjoy such a status, which gives them certain semi-state rights and duties. The right to such an organisation is a central demand of the four largest, mainly conservative Muslim associations: the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, the Muslim Council, the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB) and the Association of Islamic Cultural Centres (VIKZ). Loay Mudhoon reports.

German police launches a nationwide initiative to gain trust and sympathies among Muslims

The German police launches a nationwide initiative to gain turst and sympathies among Muslims. The aim is to become introduce migrants, especially Muslims, transparently the role and tasks of the German police. Information and education material has been printed in German, Turkish and Arabic. Big Muslim organisations, such as the ZMD and DITIB support the initiative.

Euro Mosques Meet Opposition

PARIS – Though Islam is the continent’s second religion, Muslims across Europe are facing campaigns from far-right groups and some church leaders to have stately mosques. “The desire of Muslims to build a house of worship means they want to feel at home and live in harmony with their religion in a society they have accepted as theirs,” German Muslim leader Bekir Alboga told Reuters on Monday, August 6. Muslims across Europe, who have long prayed in garages and old factories, are aspiring to have grand mosques. In Germany, a plan by the Turkish Islamic Union (DITIB) to build a grand mosque in Cologne has met opposition on claims that it would be too big for a city housing one of the most imposing Gothic cathedrals in the Christian world. Leading the anti-mosque campaign is Pro Cologne, a far-right organization which has held five seats in Cologne’s city council since 2004. A mosque project in Pankow, an eastern Berlin area, sparked violent clashes with neo-Nazi groups with a truck being torched at the construction site.