German Muslim leaders react to Barcelona attacks

Following the recent attacks in Barcelona and the Catalan town of Cambrils that left 15 dead, Muslim figures in Germany have expressed their condemnation of the events and their solidarity with the victims.

Germany’s main Islamic associations condemn the attacks

DİTİB, the country’s largest Islamic association, issued a press release rejecting all forms of terrorism. Fellow organisations VIKZ and IGMG made similar moves. ZMD chairman Aiman Mazyek also denounced the attacks and called for unity in the face of the common terrorist threat.(( http://www.islamiq.de/2017/08/19/religionsvertreter-bestuerzt-nach-anschlaegen/ )) Other Islamic movements, such as the German Ahmadiyya community, followed suit.(( http://www.n-tv.de/politik/Die-Welt-trauert-mit-Barcelona-article19989536.html ))

These routine condemnations did little, however, to conceal the enduring divisions among Islamic organisations and leaders that continue to preclude a fresh and concerted approach against violent Islamism.

A superficial show of unity

A tweet under the #Barcelona hashtag by Ercan Karakoyun, chairman of the Foundation Dialogue and Education, central institution of the Gülenist movement in Germany, puts this division into dramatic relief.

Taking aim at the current repression of his movement in Turkey, Karakoyun pugnaciously asserted that “as long as many a state can designate an educational movement a terrorist organisation no common fight against terror is possible!”(( https://twitter.com/ercankarakoyun/status/898239034169974784 ))

Against this backdrop, calls to withstand the attackers’ attempt to play off Muslims against non-Muslims ring somewhat hollow: the Muslim figures making these statements have so far failed even to mend the rifts among their own associations. How they could meaningfully contribute to healing the divisions within European societies is therefore anyone’s guess.

Grassroots activism vs. stagnation at the top

To be sure, there are many Muslim grassroots movements in Germany that seek to stand in the way of violent ideologies: they range from Jewish-Muslim educational projects and neighbourhood initiatives to important de-radicalisation schemes aiming to offer an exit perspective from the Salafi scene. Overall, German Muslims’ civil society activism is high.

Yet at the level of the country’s Islamic associations, the picture is one of stasis. Unfortunately for German Muslims, those most likely to be heard as their representatives in the aftermath of any attack have little by way of a constructive response to offer.

German Muslim leaders react to the attacks in the UK

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.

Muted reaction of German Muslim leaders to Orlando touches upon uncomfortable issues of homophobia and media discourses

The response of German Muslim leaders and organisations to the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando has generally been relatively muted. Whilst the main federations – DITIB, ZMD, VIKZ, and IGMG – had been quick to denounce recent attacks in Brussels and Paris in official press releases on their websites, these organisations have remained comparatively silent after Orlando. In two tweets from his personal account, ZMD chairman Aiman Mazyek denounced the “mad deed” and expressed his solidarity with the perpetrator’s victims and their families. Mazyek then went on to criticise the media for pouncing on the supposed religious motivations of shooter Omar Mateen and refrained from further substantive comments on the events of Orlando. An article on the IGMG-leaning website Islamiq.de took the same line: instead of seeking the rationale for Mateen’s actions in his Muslim faith, the shooting ought to be seen as a non-religious hate crime, or so the article’s author argued. Only the small Liberal-Islamic Federation (LIB) released a statement explicitly condemning the attack and the religious references employed by Mateen. The LIB also vowed to fight homophobic prejudice.

 

The mainstream associations’ limited response might be due in part to the confusion that still reigns about the nature of attacker’s motives. As Yassin Musharbash notes in a piece for Die Zeit titled ‘But he did say IS though!’, Mateen’s ostentatious pledge of allegiance to the so-called Islamic State must be counterbalanced by an appreciation of his personal history of psychological instability and potentially suppressed homosexual tendencies. As Musharbash points out, the Orlando attack was not connected to the IS in a direct operational manner, nor does it seem to have been backed up by a clear politico-ideological outlook on the part of Mateen himself. Rather than being due to recognisably ‘religious’ factors, then, Musharbash sees Mateen’s reference to Islam and to the IS as a testimony to the power of the IS’s iconography and to its capability to establish itself and its vision as a countercultural force. On this view, the silence of Muslim associations is understandable and reasonable, since from an Islamic religious perspective there is comparatively little about the attacker that is worth commenting on.

 

However, the limited nature of German Muslim organisations’ reactions has also been criticised. In the Tagesspiegel newspaper, psychologist and anti-radicalisation activist Ahmad Mansour denounces Muslim leaders for giving in to the initial reflex-like claim that the attack ‘has nothing to do with Islam’. Mansour argues that Mateen’s jihadist leanings need to be taken seriously, and that the Muslim organisations and their leading personnel are averse to fighting the homophobic prejudice that has taken hold in their communities. Whilst many commentators in the German media – including renowned academic scholar Thomas Bauer – have pointed out that attitudes towards homosexuality have been historically more relaxed in Muslim societies than in the West, Mansour replies that this historically accurate observation must not detract from the fact that today homophobic discriminations and attacks are justified in recognisably ‘Islamic’ terms. The failure of the main Muslim associations to react to the Orlando shooting is thus seen as indicative of the unwillingness to recognise homosexuality as legitimate and to unquestioningly denounce homophobia.

 

http://www.islamiq.de/2016/06/13/muslime-verurteilen-massaker-von-orlando/

http://lib-ev.jimdo.com/

http://www.zeit.de/politik/ausland/2016-06/orlando-attentaeter-islamischer-staat-medien

http://www.tagesspiegel.de/kultur/ahmad-mansour-ueber-islam-und-terror-der-islam-muss-sich-reformieren/13751768.html

Interview with Feridun Zaimoglu: ”Germany is Making Itself a Laughing Stock”

Circumcision is a stipulation of the Prophet and therefore non-negotiable. In an interview with Eren Güvercin, Feridun Zaimoglu makes a resolute plea for the impunity of this Jewish and Muslim ritual

As a German Muslim who – in your own words – was brought up by his parents in “Prussian-Ottoman” fashion, you were certainly circumcised as a child, as prescribed by Islam. Were you traumatised by the experience?

Feridun Zaimoglu: The day before the circumcision, my mother took me by the hand and walked with me through the streets of our neighbourhood. I was dressed in a white prince outfit. Children ran past and touched me. Young women and older ladies smiled at me, stroked my cheeks and hair. They were neither encouraging me to be brave, nor spurring me on. They were beaming, and I regarded them with awe. I received small gifts: a bag of marbles, handkerchiefs perfumed with violets, a comb and shoelaces.

The next day, towards evening, the circumciser came. He spoke to me as though I was a small adult. I sat on a chair, and an uncle from my mother’s side of the family stood on my left. An uncle from my father’s side of the family was standing to my right – he offered reassuring words to my mother, who was standing in the doorway. It happened very quickly; before I noticed anything I was in my mother’s arms. Relatives and friends clapped and cried out: “It’s all done now – praise be to God!” I had been transformed from an uncircumcised boy into a circumcised Muslim.

Extremism check-list in Lower Saxony

June 17

A new initiative of the Ministry of Interior of Lower Saxony raised concern among German Muslim associations. The Bremen and Lower Saxony branches of the Muslim associations Ditib and the Shura of Lower Saxony cancelled a scheduled meeting for Monday with the local Ministry of Interior Uwe Schünemann (CDU). The reason for such concern is the publication of a checklist, which has been released in a booklet by the Ministry. The publication, titled: “Radicalization processes in the fields of Islamist Extremism and Terrorism”, is part of the “anti-radicalization concept”, implemented by the Lower Saxony institutions. The checklist includes behavioral and visible “indices” for the public to recognize Muslims who would potentially lean to terrorism, including weight loss, evident interest in sports and the insistence for privacy.

The Minister of Interior Schünemann has showed his willingness to discuss some of the issues. However, Muslim associations reject the checklist as a conceptual failure and request the cancellation of the whole project.

Avni Altiner, a representative of the Lower Saxony Mosque Association, warned that “such generalization would lead to a climate of fear”. The migration policy speaker of the Lower Saxony Green party, Ms. Filiz Polat, has asked Schünemann to send his apologies to Muslim associations and criticized the Minister of Interior for his attempts to forge ahead against the Muslim community. Polat sees the Extremism checklist as the rock bottom of the relationship between Muslims and the government of Lower Saxony. Laws that allow investigations of mosques without a given suspicion, she declared, would diminish religious rights and hinder any effort for dialogue.

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.

Two German Muslim Converts Arrested on Terror Charges

28./ 29./ 30.07.2011

Two German Muslim converts were arrested as they entered the UK at the port of Dover earlier this month. When authorities in Dover stopped Robert Baum (23) and Christian Emde (28) upon entry in the UK and searched their bags, they found instructions to build bombs and literature, which demonstrates their sympathy for al-Qaeda, such as “39 ways to support Jihad” as well as the by the radical preacher Anwar al-Awlaki and the English “Terror-magazine” Inspire. On Wednesday, the Westminster Magistrates Court ruled that the two men have to remain in custody until August 24th. So far, neither of the two men has given any indication of how they intend to plead to the allegations.

Two German Muslim Converts Arrested on Terror Charges

28./ 29./ 30.07.2011

Two German Muslim converts were arrested as they entered the UK at the port of Dover earlier this month. When authorities in Dover stopped Robert Baum (23) and Christian Emde (28) upon entry in the UK and searched their bags, they found instructions to build bombs and literature, which demonstrates their sympathy for al-Qaeda, such as “39 ways to support Jihad” as well as the by the radical preacher Anwar al-Awlaki and the English “Terror-magazine” Inspire. On Wednesday, the Westminster Magistrates Court ruled that the two men have to remain in custody until August 24th. So far, neither of the two men has given any indication of how they intend to plead to the allegations.

Home for the Aged to be Founded for German Muslim Retirees

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.

Taboos and Fear among German Muslim Girls

Young Muslim women are often forced to lead double lives in Europe. They have sex in public restrooms and stuff mobile phones in their bras to hide their secret existences from strict families. They are often forbidden from visiting gynaecologists or receiving sex ed. In the worst cases, they undergo hymen reconstruction surgery, have late-term abortions or even commit suicide.

Hardly any other issue is as fraught with prohibition and fear among Germany’s Muslim immigrants as sex. Many Muslim families adhere to moral values from a pre-modern era, and the separation of the sexes affects almost all aspects of daily life. At the same time, young female immigrants are faced with the temptations of a free life unrestrained by religious and cultural traditions. Their daily lives are a constant tug-of-war between two value systems.

Many of them suffer from this contradiction, and some crack under the strain. Doctors and social workers report on desperate young women coming to them with requests to reconstruct the hymen or perform late-term abortions. The elevated risk of suicide among young immigrant women even prompted Berlin’s Charité Hospital to establish a suicide prevention initiative for women from Turkish immigrant families. In a multi-year study, the group hopes to discover why the suicide rate within this population is apparently twice as high as it is among ethnic German women of the same age.

The consequences of living this double life have been poorly studied. Almost no governmental and non-governmental organizations, from family and education ministries to immigration authorities and self-help groups, can offer reliable figures or well-founded conclusions on the issue.