Shari’a banking comes to Germany

Germany’s Muslims are finally getting a bank offering financial products that comply with Shari’a law. It is a market worth billions, and one that many major banks around the world have long discovered.

There are four million Muslims living in Germany. They eat, drink and pray in accordance with the precepts of the Prophet Muhammad. But when it comes to monetary transactions, the principles of the Koran have played hardly any role in Germany. That is about to change.

Early next year, the first Islamic bank in Germany to offer products that are in compliance with Shari’a law will open its doors. The bank, Kuveyt Türk Beteiligungsbank, will open a branch in the downtown area of Mannheim, a city in western Germany, and branches in other cities are also planned.

The regulators with Germany’s Federal Financial Services Authority, known as BaFin, recently issued a limited license to the subsidiary of a Turkish-Kuwaiti bank. It is only permitted to collect funds that are transferred to accounts in Turkey that conform to Islamic rules.

Religion Study: ‘There Is Absolutely No Reason for Islamophobia’

Germany’s Muslims are pious and yet more tolerant than most assume, a new study has found. Its authors are urging authorities to draw the country’s Muslim children away from Koran schools by offering public religious instruction. Dr. Martin Rieger of the Bertelman Stiftung thinks Muslim children should have their own religion classes. Rieger was the director of the study “Muslim Religiosity in Germany,” which was provided to SPIEGEL ONLINE ahead of its scheduled publication on Friday. The study reveals that 90 percent of Muslims define themselves as religous. In contrast a separate survey by the nonprofit German think tank found that only 70 percent of the entire population admitted to being religous. “We need to get the younger Muslims out of the Koran schools,” Rieger urges, “and offer them professionally taught classes on Islam.” Calls like that are welcome news to Yunus Ulusoy from the Center for Turkish Studies in Essen, which keeps track of the religiosity of Turkish Muslims. It’s a demand, Ulusoy says, “that we’ve been making for decades because, for Muslims, faith is a very important part of their identity.” In his opinion, if the school system doesn’t pay any attention to this fact, it only hurts the chances of successfully integrating Muslims into German culture. Even Robert Zollitsch, president of the German Bishops’ Conference, the body responsible for the country’s Catholic Churches, backs the plan. On Thursday, Zollitsch voiced his support for the call for Islamic religious instruction and the construction of “fitting Muslim houses of worship that are well-integrated into their respective urban plans.” Peter Wensierski and Christina Hebel report.

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RELIGION STUDY: ‘There Is Absolutely No Reason for Islamophobia’

Germany’s Muslims are pious and yet more tolerant than most assume, a new study has found. Its authors are urging authorities to draw the country’s Muslim children away from Koran schools by offering public religious instruction. Dr. Martin Rieger of the Bertelman Stiftung thinks Muslim children should have their own religion classes. Rieger was the director of the study “Muslim Religiosity in Germany,” which was provided to SPIEGEL ONLINE ahead of its scheduled publication on Friday. The study reveals that 90 percent of Muslims define themselves as religous. In contrast a separate survey by the nonprofit German think tank found that only 70 percent of the entire population admitted to being religous. “We need to get the younger Muslims out of the Koran schools,” Rieger urges, “and offer them professionally taught classes on Islam.” Calls like that are welcome news to Yunus Ulusoy from the Center for Turkish Studies in Essen, which keeps track of the religiosity of Turkish Muslims. It’s a demand, Ulusoy says, “that we’ve been making for decades because, for Muslims, faith is a very important part of their identity.” In his opinion, if the school system doesn’t pay any attention to this fact, it only hurts the chances of successfully integrating Muslims into German culture. Even Robert Zollitsch, president of the German Bishops’ Conference, the body responsible for the country’s Catholic Churches, backs the plan. On Thursday, Zollitsch voiced his support for the call for Islamic religious instruction and the construction of “fitting Muslim houses of worship that are well-integrated into their respective urban plans.” Peter Wensierski and Christina Hebel report.

German Justice Failures: Paving the Way for a Muslim Parallel Society

A recent ruling in Germany by a judge who cited the Koran underscores the dilemma the country faces in reconciling Western values with a growing immigrant population. A disturbing number of rulings are helping to create a parallel Muslim world in Germany that is welcoming to Islamic fundamentalists. She didn’t know it, nor did she even expect it. She had good intentions. Perhaps it was a mistake. In fact, it was most certainly a mistake. The best thing to do would be to wipe the slate clean. Last week, in the middle of the storm, Christa Datz-Winter, a judge on Frankfurt’s family court, was speechless. But Bernhard Olp, a spokesman for the city’s municipal court, was quick to jump in. Olp reported that the judge had been under emotional stress stemming from a murder that had been committed in her office 10 years ago, and that she was now planning to take a break to recuperate. He also mentioned that she was “outraged” — not about herself or her scandalous ruling, but over the reactions the case has triggered. The reactions were so fierce that one could have been forgiven for mistakenly thinking that Germany’s Muslims had won the headscarf dispute and the controversy over the Mohammed cartoons in a single day and, in one fell swoop, had taken a substantial bite out of the legal foundations of Western civilization.

Pushing For Islam In German Schools; Some German Schools Already Offer Islamic Classes In German

Germany’s many Muslim groups plan to unite under one umbrella in an effort to ensure that Islam can be taught in public schools, better integrating children and combating the influence of fundamentalists. “It is vital to resolve this problem and ensure that Islam can be taught in German in schools,” said Nadeem Elyas, president of one such group, the central council of Muslims, after a meeting of Muslim groups in Hamburg, northern Germany last weekend. “If we don’t, the next generation of Muslims will grow up without values, and if they don’t get their religious education in schools they risk being influenced by bad interpretations of the Quran,” he added. A Need For Integration Chancellor Gerhard Schr_der has been increasingly keen to improve the integration of Germany’s Muslims, particularly with overwhelmingly Muslim Turkey preparing to start talks to join the European Union. Legal moves have also been launched to crack down on fundamentalists in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, in which Germany was an unwitting rear-base for some of the suicide hijackers. Only last month, two Egyptian imams were banned from the country under new legislation aimed at so-called “hate preachers” suspected of trying to spread extremist ideologies. Constitutional Guarantees Religious courses for the estimated 600,000 Muslim children living in Germany are guaranteed under its constitution, the Basic Law. But the law provides only for the beliefs of “religious communities” to be taught in public schools and given the division of the Muslim community here, the Quran has not been accepted in the classroom. Muslim groups in Germany define themselves by the number of mosques under their jurisdiction, rather than by the number of people who are signed up as members, whereas the law only takes membership into account. Berlin Hesitates With education in Germany controlled by the 16 states, the federal government has sought to avoid the issue. In the most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia, the authorities have for the last decade refused to allow Islam into the classroom because, they say, the main Muslim groups do not represent the entire community. “We plan to create a unified and democratic structure at the federal and state level,” said Elyas. He said six groups, accounting for around 70 percent of Germany’s Muslims, would join forces to have their religion taught in public schools. “Within a year, we will announce the project at every mosque and organization,” Elyas said. Some Snub The Idea However the biggest group in Germany, the Turco-Islamic Union (DITIB), representing an estimated 150,000 Muslims, appears to be snubbing the project. The need for momentum is great. For a few years, Muslims in some states have been trying to mount initiatives of their own but without great success. In Bavaria, Islamic instruction classes were set up in the 1980s but were only available in the Turkish language. Similar efforts were made in Schleswig-Holstein and the city-states of Hamburg and Berlin. A Promising Experiment Since August 2003, Muslim associations in Lower Saxony have come together under a Shura (council) to work out how to interact with the authorities and structure courses in Islam. “The experiment has been promising,” said Bernd Knopf, a spokesman at the federal office for integration. But an estimated 4,500 religious instructors will probably be needed. “The problem is that we can’t massively bring thousands of teachers into the country from one day to the next,” said Knopf. Some teachers are being trained in Turkey under an accord between universities from both countries, but in Germany itself the first-ever faculty aimed at completing such a task was only opened last year.