25 November 2010
As police brace themselves for a possible terrorist attack, the ruling conservatives have called on Germany’s Muslim community to root out extremists at mosques and report them to authorities.
Stefan Müller, integration spokesman for the Christian Democrats and Christian Social Union’s parliamentary group, said members of the 2,500 mosques in Germany should co-operate with anti-terrorism authorities more closely.
“In the face of the intensified situation, the mosque communities are called on to be especially watchful and keep an eye out for possible fanatics in their own ranks,” Müller said.
The chairman of the Central Council of Muslims, Aiman Mazyek, has previously said that many Muslims in Germany feel they are under suspicion because of their faith alone. Mosques had been subject to hate mail and material damage, he said.
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.
The northern German state of Lower Saxony announced recently that it was establishing the country’s first academic department of Islamic theology. The department, to be based at the University of Osnabrueck, will provide a place for theological research and will offer training for future imams. The move reflects fresh efforts across Germany to address concerns about Islam that threaten to overshadow decades-old achievements in integrating Muslims into German society. Those fears have mounted since the events of 9/11 and their aftermath stirred anxiety among many Germans over a perceived rise in radical Islam. A perception has persisted that some immigrant-based population groups have already developed “parallel societies” that are inaccessible to the German mainstream but particularly susceptible to outside influence — in this case, international Islamist groups. Resulting demands for stronger efforts to integrate Germany’s Muslim communities have grown louder and more frequent. Nowhere have they been more acute than in the debate about whether and how to integrate the Islamic religion into the German educational system. Osnabrueck’s new department of Islamic theology looks like one step, then, on what could be a very long road. Germany is home to about 4 million Muslims, or about one in 20 people. Many are immigrants who’ve been in the country for decades and have watched the debate over integration rage the entire time. A teacher of Islamic religion at the Johann-Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt upon Main since 2006, Oemer Oezsoy, says the notion of opening German academia to Islamic theology is an idea whose time has come. Bernd Volkert reports.
Organized Islam in Germany faces a major reconstruction and reorganization period in order to provide adequate representation of Muslims in the public sphere and to react quicker in situations of crises and public debates (such as debates on extremism, cartoon crises or Mosque controversies), Mounir Azzaoui, speaker of the Central Consistory of the Muslims in Germany, says. According to Azzaoui, Germany’s Muslim community had to face an increasing interest by the German public. Therefore it needs to speak clearly and with one voice. Sulaiman Wilms reports.
Germany’s Islamic organizations aren’t lacking in number. But coherence has long been a problem. Now four groups are banding together to form an umbrella organization. German politicians applaud the initiative, but warn that it’s only one of several on the way to better inter-cultural dialogue. When Interior Minister Wolfgang Sch_uble held an Islam conference in Berlin last year, his goal was to establish a new basis for dialogue with Germany’s Muslim community, one rooted in democratic and constitutional values. But as the representatives of the various Muslim organizations, federations and groups pulled up their chairs around the table, it became clear that dialogue — in the sense of conversation between two parties — was a misnomer: To date, no single body has represented the interests of the 3.3 million Muslims living in Germany. Now, four organisations want to change that (…)