Interview with Naika Foroutan on Germany’s Islam Conference

February 24, 2014

 

Germany’s Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière has announced that the German Islam Conference will no longer concern itself with security issues. For sociologist Naika Foroutan of Berlin’s Humboldt University, this is a positive sign. At last, the conference will be able to concentrate on ensuring religious equality for Muslims in Germany.

 

Qantara: http://en.qantara.de/content/interview-with-naika-foroutan-on-germanys-islam-conference-encouraging-developments

Major challenges for German Islam Conference

February 10, 2014

 

According to experts such as Islam Scholar Michael Kiefer, the German Islam Conference has not made progress, since it was found by former Minister of Interior Wolfgang Schäuble (CDU) in 2006. The initial success was the creation of an institutional connection to Islamic representatives and the foundation Islamic studies in schools.

Since then, the dialogue between State and religion representatives has gone through difficult obstacles such as the debate on selection processes through home affairs politicians and constitution protection authorities. The exclusion of extreme Islamic organizations like the Turkish Milli Görüs represented.

Further challenges are questions related to the understanding and representation of Islam in Germany. The current Minister of Interior Thomas de Maizière (CDU) seeks a pragmatic oriented approach to Muslim associations with a “goal-oriented” and “issues-driven” agenda. Muslim associations have welcomed the Ministers approach by sidelining security policy issues, focusing mainly on issues such as the recognition of Islam as a statutory body under public law.

Again, there will be questions related to the representativeness of associations. The growing Islamophobia will be a further challenge to the German Islam Conference. Critics fear the conference to remain an event of political symbolism. The politician Lale Akgün (SPD) claims more representative rights for women. Female teachers of Islamic studies, female Imams would be necessary to enhance a feminist view of Islam, deliberately strengthening a “liberal” Islam in Germany.

 

Qantara: http://en.qantara.de/content/changing-the-orientation-of-germanys-islam-conference-new-agenda-same-old-faces

Expectations and reactions ahead of the German Islam Conference

January 30, 2014

 

Muslims associations and German State authorities will be meeting this year at the annual German Islam Conference to continue the debate about Muslim life in German society. The German Islam Conference was initiated in 2006 by former Minister of Interior Wolfgang Schäuble (CDU). One if the issues will be the implementation of an official Muslim holiday. The speaker of the Turkish community Kenan Kolat raised the importance of an official holiday as “an important signal to the Muslim population”. Kolat appreciated the openness of the designated Minister Thomas De Maizière (CDU) for dialogue, criticizing the conservative attitude of his predecessor Friedrich. The designated Minister of Interior is said to meet representatives of Muslims associations including the Turkish community, the Alevi community and Islamic cultural centers next week, discussing upcoming issues. 

 

Sefi Ögütlü, General-Secretary of the Islamic cultural centers underlined the relevance to open a new chapter. Bekir Alboga, representative of the Turkish Islamic Union Institute for Islamic religion (DITIB) emphasized his optimism. The new Minister would show an appropriate attitude towards the Islamic communities.  Yilmaz Kahraman, representative of the Alevi community in Germany criticized the ineffectiveness of former conferences, which would have left no concrete results but brochures and leaflets. Kahraman called Muslims not to ask what the State may be able to do for them, but look at ways for Muslims to contribute to society and avoid parallel structures.

 

 Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/inland/vor-treffen-zu-islamkonferenz-tuerkische-gemeinde-will-gesetzlichen-muslimfeiertag-12768940.html

 

Central council of Muslims: http://islam.de/23250

German Islam Conference and reactions

May 14

 

This year´s German Islam conference has been criticized by politicians of the opposition and Islamic associations. Minister of Interior Hans-Peter Friedrich (CSU) has been criticized for focusing the topic of the conference on extremism. Kenan Kolat who represents the Turkish community in Germany criticized the emphasis on the topic “security” at the conference. Bekir Alboga, general-secretary of the Turkish Islamic Union for the Institute of Religion (DITIB) criticized that the topic of security would overlap partnership.

 

Islamic associations have criticized the conference for inviting participants with a critical attitude towards Islam. Erol Pürlü, dialogue appointee of the association for Islamic culture centres, expressed the concern of Islamic organizations: “Dialogue is only reasonable with Islamic religious communities and only with them”. One of the invited participants who is critical towards Islam is Hamed Abdel-Samad. In 1995, Abdel-Samad who is a son of an Egyptian Sunni cleric, moved to Germany. Having studied Political Science and Islamic Studies, he has been engaged in several initiatives such as writing books or creating documentaries with a critical stand towards Islam.

 

Participants of the German Islam Conference

 

Hamed Abdel-Samad is a Political Scientist and “secular Muslim” who has written about the Islam and its challenges in Modern times. He criticized the violent reactions and threats against the Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard as a sign of backwardness, which Muslims would need to admit. He has been chosen as an”independent Muslim”.

Bernd Ridwan Bauknecht is a teacher of Islamic Studies at public schools. He can be categorized as a “liberal Muslim” whose goals are to accompany young Muslim pupils and youngsters to facilitate their integration in society.

Sineb el Masrar is Chief Editor of the Women and Migrant magazine “Gazelle”. She is “liberal Muslim” with secular views and stand for the recognition of Muslims and their contribution to German society. Her attempt is to strengthen the role of Muslim women in society as they would try to bridge modernity with tradition.

Gönül Halat-Mec is lawyer, works on family law with special focus on migrants. She perceives herself as a “secular Muslim”, whose religion should be a personal and private matter only. As religious and transitional doctrines would repress and discriminate women, they contradict with the plural democratic societal order and would complex any joint cooperation.

Abdelmalik Hibaoui is an Imam and preacher. He can be categorized as a “conservative Muslim”, who expects from the Islam Conference to provide the fundament for the construction of Centers for Islamic theology at Universities and Islam as a subject at public schools.

 

Hamideh Mohagheghi has studied theology and writes on interreligious dialogue. She expects a mutual dialogue between Muslims and their “State”. Islam and Muslims should be perceived as a norm. She might be categorized as a “conservative Muslim” though as an expert, she has taken a scientific stand in her interviews.

 

Ahmed Mansour is a Berlin based Palestinian Israeli. He is a free lance author working for the “society of democratic culture”. He is manager of the HEROES project in Berlin and is Policy Advisor for European Foundation for Democracy.

 

Bülent Ucar is Professor for Islamic Religious Education. He is “liberal Muslim” declaring mutual participation and recognition as a fundamental part of integration. The State should recognize Muslim associations and organizations to facilitate area wide religious education for Muslim children and institutionalize the education of Imams in Germany.

 

Turgut Yüksel is a sociologist and “secular Muslim”. As a consultant, he works on projects related to migration and intercultural dialogue. Religious practices should be a private matter only without any form of discrimination. The State should not risk losing it neutrality toward all religions. A clear borderline between Islam and Islamism would be necessary. A founder of the (initiative for secular Muslims in Hessen), he tries to represent the voices of Muslims without a representative organization or association.

 

 

Tuba Isik-Yigit is Doctorate at the Center for Theology and Cultural Sciences at the Institute of Catholic Theology at the University of Paderborn. She can be categorized as a “conservative Muslim” conceptualizing the establishment of centers for the education of theology students. Also, she is engaged in strengthening equality of women, especially those with headscarf.

 

Participants of the German Islam Conference

June 18

 

Hamed Abdel-Samad is a Political Scientist and a “secular Muslim” who has written about Islam and its challenges in modern times. He criticized the violent reactions and threats against the Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard as a sign of backwardness, which Muslims would need to admit. He has been chosen as an”independent Muslim”.
Bernd Ridwan Bauknecht is a teacher of Islamic Studies at a public school. He can be categorized as a “liberal Muslim” whose goals are to assist young Muslim pupils and youngsters in their integration in society.

Sineb el Masrar is the Chief Editor of the Women and Migrant magazine “Gazelle”. She is a “liberal Muslim” with secular views and stands for the recognition of Muslims and of their contribution to German society. She tries to strengthen the role of Muslim women in society as they would try to bridge modernity with tradition.
Gönül Halat-Mec is a lawyer, specialized on family law with special focus on migrants. She perceives herself as a “secular Muslim” and thinks that religion should be a personal and private matter only. She identifies a serious challenge for cooperation in religious doctrines and their tendency to repress and discriminate women, in conflict with the plural democratic societal order.
Abdelmalik Hibaoui is an Imam and preacher. He can be categorized as a “conservative Muslim”. He expects the Islam Conference to provide the fundament for the construction of Centers for Islamic theology at Universities. Another goal is to have Islam as a subject in public schools.

 

Hamideh Mohagheghi has studied theology and writes on interreligious dialogue. She expects a mutual dialogue between Muslims and their “State”. Islam and Muslims should be perceived as a normal appearance. She might be categorized as a “conservative Muslim”, though, as an expert she has taken a scientific stand in her interviews.

 

Bülent Ucar is a Professor of Islamic Religious Education. He is a “liberal Muslim” declaring mutual participation and recognition as fundamental parts of integration. The state should recognize Muslim associations and organizations and facilitate a wide religious education for Muslim children. Moreover, it should institutionalize the education of Imams in Germany.

 

Turgut Yüksel is a sociologist and a “secular Muslim”. As a consultant, he works on projects related to migration and intercultural dialogue. He declared that religious practices should be a private matter only without any form of discrimination. The state should not risk losing it neutrality toward all religions. A clear borderline between Islam and Islamism would be necessary. A founder of the “Initiative for secular Muslims in Hessen”, he tries to represent the voices of Muslims without a representative organization or association.

 

 

Tuba Isik-Yigit is affiliated with the Center for Theology and Cultural Sciences at the Institute of Catholic Theology at the University of Paderborn. Dr. Isik-Yigit can be categorized as a “conservative Muslim”, supporting the establishment of centers for the education of theology students. Also, she is engaged in strengthening equality of women, especially those with headscarf.

 

 

A study commissioned by the German Islam Conference documents the integrative activities of Islamic Communities and Muslim clergymen

April 18

 

In contrast with a predominantly negative public image, a new study Commissioned by the German Islam Conference and carried on by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees and the Center for Turkey Studies and Integration Research, shows that the majority of Muslim Imams have a favorable attitude to dialogue with German society and authorities. Moreover, beside of religious consultancy, Islamic Communities provide important social services, which have an impact on the integration of Muslim immigrants in the society. Such activities include German language classes and job application training for employment-seeking people.

 

The study asked 1.140 Islamic communities and 800 Imams about their service structures. Most communities offer homework mentoring for school pupils, consultancy in health and education issues. One third of the investigated communities offer German language classes. In total, there are 2.350 mosque communities, including Alevi communities, in Germany, and more than four millions Muslims currently live in the Federal Republic.

German Islam Conference avoid issue on Salafism

April 18

 

The Federal Ministry of Interior Hans-Peter Friedrich (CSU) has rejected the proposal of the Interior Minister of Lower Saxony Uwe Schünemann (CDU) to include the issue of Koran distribution by Salafist activists in the agenda for the upcoming Islam Conference.

Since the beginning of April, Salafist groups have been distributing free copies of the Koran in several German cities. Mr. Schünemann has called for an agreement against Salafism and proposed a strategic approach plan including anti-radicalization and prevention against Islamist Extremism and Terrorism. In his letter to the Federal Minister of Interior, he declares to expect Muslim associations to stand up united against what he calls an “instrumentalization of Islam”. Since the initiative of the former Minister Wolfgang Schäuble in 2006, domestic Security has become one of the main issues within other in the German Islam Conference.

“Round Table Islam” – Concrete Plans in Germany

29.09.2011

As reported earlier, Baden Württemberg’s Integration Minister Biklay Öney (SPD) is planning on establishing a dialogue forum for Muslims in the federal state of Baden-Württemberg. The plans for this “round table Islam” are now more concrete: The first meeting, dedicated to the public perception of Islam, is to take place in Stuttgart on November 24th.  Following the criteria for selecting participants for the German Islam Conference, Öney invited roughly 30 people to the meeting, both representatives of Muslim organizations as well as Muslim individuals not affiliated to any specific association or organization. Interestingly, non-Muslims have not been invited at this stage.

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.

New Report on the situation of migrants living in Germany

The Minister for Migration, Refugees and Integration Maria Böhmer has issued her annual report migrants living in Germany. The “Eighth Report on the Situation of Foreigners in Germany” gives an account for people originating from all countries in the world, but also features a small section on Muslims in particular. The report claims that the number of German Muslims is higher than usually estimated and currently amounts to 4 million, around 45% of which have German citizenship. The report further focuses on the outcomes of the German Islam Conference, e.g. the development of study programmes for Islamic teachers training at public universities.