German Muslims call mosque ID checks “humiliating”

While many Western countries have increased their security measures after the attempted terrorist attack on Christmas Day, in some parts, such as in Lower Saxony in Germany, heavy monitoring of mosques and Muslim-frequented cafes is standard police procedure. For years this policy has increasingly outraged German Muslims while failing to yield a single terrorism-related arrest.

In Lower Saxony, Muslim worshippers heading to Friday services routinely arrive to find the street in front of the mosque cordoned off and armed police at the entrance. Those entering or leaving the mosque must show their identification papers. Sometimes the police search bags, ask questions, or bring those who cannot show ID to the precinct station. In one city, officers stamped Muslims on the arm after checking them.

In these controls, known as “unmotivated mosque checks,” the police are not seeking any specific person or investigating any particular crime. Rather, they are acting under a 2003 state law that empowers them to question and search individuals in public places regardless of any suspicion of wrongdoing in the interest of preventing crimes of “grave and international concern.”

First Islamic bank to be established in Germany

Opportunities will increase for German Muslims to invest their money in a “halal” way. So far, Islamic banking is not available in Germany, although well established in the UK, where there is a smaller Muslim population. Now the banking supervision Bakin recently organized a conference on Islamic banking, and the first licence has been given out to an Islamic bank in Mannheim that will open in January.

Christian-Democrat local politician Reinhard Löffler praises the initiative. A believing Christian, he considers Islamic banking a potential third way between capitalism and socialism. The “ethical dilapidation” of the current banking system calls for innovative solutions.

Life sentence for Dresden courtroom murderer

Alex W., the man who stabbed pregnant Egyptian pharmacist Marwa al-Sherbini to death in a courtroom in Dresden in July, was sentenced to life in prison on Wednesday. The judge imposed the harshest possible sentence under the German system by ruling that W. will not be eligible for parole after 15 years.

International attention to the case was high. Responses to the verdict have generally been positive, except for those who demanded a death sentence or extradition to Egypt for a death penalty, both of which possibilities have been abolished in the EU. The Egyptian ambassador to Germany was pleased with the sentence, as it was the highest possible.

German Muslims warned against growing Islamophobia in Germany, but welcomed the sentence, which is also a sign that Islamophobic currents are not institutionalized in Germany. Many newspapers discuss the fact that society must remain vigilant and it must always ensure an environment in which wearing the veil – an initial spark of the tragedy – does not become life-threatening.

German Muslims feel neglected in election campaign

Many of Germany’s 4 million Muslims feel forgotten and ill-inclined to vote in this month’s election, and even politicians acknowledge they have woken up too late to their ballot box potential.

In Duisburg in the industrial Ruhr region that is home to Germany’s biggest mosque, conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel and Social Democrat (SPD) challenger Frank-Walter Steinmeier stir little interest, still less political passion. “I haven’t got a job, nor have my mates. Politicians don’t care,” said Ismet Akgul, 19, standing with friends outside an amusement arcade in the Marxloh suburb where about 60 percent of the population has immigrant, in most cases Turkish, roots. “Firms see a foreign name on an application form and chuck it in the bin,” he said. About one in five Germans has an immigrant background and the biggest single minority is Turkish. Of the roughly 2.8 million people with Turkish roots, only about 600,000 can vote, many failing to register or acquire citizenship. Only five lamakers out of 614 in the Bundestag lower house of parliament have Turkish origins. Some politicians argue that Turks, many with origins in the poorer, more religiously conservative areas of eastern Turkey, should make greater efforts to integrate and learn German. Madeline Chambers reports.

Muslims and the German elections

Until recently, the political rhetoric was the giveaway of real opinions of German political actors in Germany’s Muslim minority. While proclaiming openness, they found it sufficient to mention Islamic customs when referring to a case of honor killing in a Kurdish family or forced marriage among immigrants from Anatolia. German politicians too long equated Islam with what they saw as retrograde or dangerous characteristics of a whole group. Rare were those — mostly the Greens, partly the Socialists — who showed no unease about the immigrants’ difference.

The upcoming elections mark a shift in Germany’s policies toward German Muslims. Until the last elections, a clear cleavage existed between the conservative Christian Democrats suspicious of Muslims, on one hand, and the Social Democrats and the Greens advocating more openness and political solutions, on the other. The Conservatives’ comeback in 2005 led nevertheless to the most active policy the German state has ever held in integration matters. The rhetoric itself has changed direction consequently.

German Muslims Identify More With Germany Than the General Public

A new report published today by Gallup and the Coexist Foundation shows that German Muslims identify more with Germany than the general public do. The report, The Gallup Coexist Index 2009: A Global Study of Interfaith Relations, is the first annual report on the state of faith relations in countries around the world and reveals that more than two out of every five German Muslims (40%) identify with Germany compared to a third (32%) of the general public. It also shows there is gulf of misunderstanding; nearly four out of ten (39%) of the general public believe that Muslims living in Germany are loyal to Germany. This compares to more than seven out of ten (71%) German Muslims who say Muslims are loyal to Germany. The German public and German Muslims are very much aligned in their views when it comes to what drives integration. 97% of the public believe that mastering German is crucial as do 96% of Muslims; 94% of both groups believe finding a job is important; and 95% of Muslims say getting a better education is critical compared to 86% among the general public. The report’s authors say this research shows that religion and national identity are complementary rather than competing and dispels the myth that Muslims do not feel loyalty to Germany, despite the preconceptions among the general public. The Executive Director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies Dalia Mogahed says there needs to be a renewed debate about the views of the majority of Muslims. Ms Mogahed, who was recently appointed to President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, highlighted how the report had broken down many of the myths about Muslim’s attitudes. “This research shows that many of the assumptions about Muslims and integration are wide of the mark. German Muslims want to be part of the wider community and contribute even more to society. “The trust that German Muslims place in the country’s institutions proves that strong religious beliefs don’t translate into a lack of loyalty,” she said at the launch of the findings.

A tale of tolerance for German Muslims

To Indonesian eyes, there does not seem to be anything special about the photos of soaring minarets and people praying in mosques currently on display in an auditorium in Paramadina University in South Jakarta. Indeed, they seem an everyday thing, much like what you’d see on any ordinary Friday or Islamic holiday. But the 60-odd shots of mosques and Islamic activities in a number of German cities taken by Stuttgart-based photographer Wilfried Dechau have a rather deeper story to tell.

Dechau’s work in the exhibition titled “Mosques in Germany” tries to convey a narrative of minorities, human rights, tolerance and conflict. “I embarked on this project without blinkers and without prejudice, motivated by an almost naive curiosity,” Dechau said of his work. Through his mostly architectural approach, the seasoned photographer, who has twice won the German Photo Book Award, captured images from Pforzheim, Penzberg, Manheim, Wolfsburg, Aachen, Karlsruhe, Hamburg and Stuttgart – all cities with large Muslim populations – during his two-month tour of the country. “All the positive experiences and encounters made my work into an affair of the heart,” he said. “This does not mean that I am about to become a Muslim. But we must talk to each other. That much I learned during those eight weeks.”

It is always intriguing to talk about minorities, a category that the some 3.5 million Muslims in Germany still fall into, despite forming the nation’s second largest religious group after Christians – especially given the Western country has a long history of Islamic culture that began from diplomatic ties dating back to Charlemagne and Caliph Harun al-Rashid in the 8th century. Until the 18th century, Islamic culture was for Europeans something of an exotic penchant from the Orient, documented in various forms of arts, from Karl May’s tales of the Ottoman Empire to a couple of architectural remnants of secular buildings constructed in the style of mosques, according to German magazine Der Spiegel. It was only recently that Germany had to create a different kind of understanding of the “exotic” culture because the Turkish and Kurdistan migrants who brought Islam closer to Germans back in the 1960s have planted deep roots in the country, while still holding on to their religious beliefs.

Jakarta Post http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2009/04/11/a-tale-tolerance-german-muslims.html

German Muslims to revive “Open Day Mosques”

Muslims Coordination Council is now planning to introduce Islamic teachings in German schools after approval by the German government to teach Islam in schools by German speakers and teachers. The Muslims Coordination Council . The spokesman also noted that the 12th open mosques day will be conducted under the slogan “mosques, places for worship and peace.” The council is now planning to introduce Islamic teachings in German schools after approval by the German government to teach Islam in schools by German speakers and teachers.

World Bulletin

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.

Xenophobia and Islamophobia at the Heart of German Politics: Central Council of German Muslims warns of “agitation”

A German state governor has won applause from fellow conservatives for demanding a crackdown on “criminal young foreigners.” Immigrant groups and political rivals say he is playing with fire in a debate that reveals the widespread xenophobia obstructing integration in Germany. An assault by two foreign youths on a German pensioner has triggered conservative calls for a crackdown on “criminal young foreigners” and exposed deeply entrenched xenophobia that casts doubt on this country’s ability ever to fully integrate its 15 million inhabitants with an immigrant background. David Crossland reports. The Chairman of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, K_hler blames Koch for generating Islamophobia with his _agitation”.