German Immigration Law Targets Muslims

German states race to enforce the new immigration law on Muslim immigrants in Germany as if it was especially tailored for them. Days after the law went into effect at the beginning of this year, German states rushed to prepare lists of thousands of Muslim immigrants — whom the German authorities dubbed as suspects — for immediate deportation. In no time, German states have started deporting dozens of the so-called “suspects.” Bavarian Prime Minister Gunter Beckstein, told Der Spiegel magazine earlier in the week that his state has already begun shipping out immigrants under the new law. Beckstein was in the vanguard of officials attacking Muslims, accusing the sizable Turkish community of living in “parallel societies” with their own cultural and social activities. The state of Hessen followed suit deporting ten imams since the beginning of this month. Authorities charged the imams of preaching religious hatred. Other immigrants were also expelled from the state for being involved in “extremist activities.” Last week, a spokesman for the German Interior Ministry in Metropolitan Berlin boasted that the new law makes it easy for federal authorities to deport any “suspect.” Under the new immigration law, German authorities are entitled to kick out foreigners, especially Muslim imams, back to their countries of origin if security agencies view them as posing a threat to national security. The measure restricts the deportees’ right to appeal or challenge any expulsion decision. Under the law, immigrants are additionally bound to attend language and culture classes. Pundits believe that the law is quite vague as it falls short of giving a clear definition of “suspects” and the whole thing is based on authorities’ speculations and premonitions. It further gives sweeping powers to anti-Muslim and xenophobic officials as state premiers and interior ministers can use it without having to consult first with the federal government. It seems as if the law regards all imams in the country as suspects until proven otherwise, which undermines earnest Muslim efforts to integrate into German society, IslamOnline.net correspondent says. He adds that the absence of an official body speaking in unison in the name of the Muslim community helped pass the new “draconian” law. Raids The deportations’ drive, which was passionately welcomed by right-wing politicians and media, came in parallel with massive police raids on resident Islamists. Earlier in the month, police stormed 35 homes owned by 24 Arabs, arresting 20 of them. They have been accused of receiving funds from bodies suspected of having links with “terrorist groups”. A German intelligence report has revealed that only one percent of Germany’s Muslim population are members of organizations that pose serious threats to the country’s national security. In 2004, German Muslims had been, in effect, caught in an anti- and pro-Islam battle with anti-Muslim voices speaking louder than ever. Dealing with the Muslim community became the overriding concern of German officials, who jumped on the anti-Islam bandwagon across Europe and came up with plans and ideas on the best way to contain the Muslim community security-wise. All of a sudden, Muslim issues like hijab and integration were deliberately brought to the fore as if Muslims were a thorn in the government’s side, according to IOL correspondent. Though German Minister of Economics and Labor Wolfgang Clement said in June that Turkish investments help create 300,000 new jobs for Germans a year, 80 percent of the Turkish community feel discriminated against, according to a recent study. Islam comes third after Protestant and Catholic Christianity. There are some 3.4 million Muslims in Germany, including 220,000 in Berlin alone. An estimated two thirds of the Muslim community are of Turkish origin.

The Battle For German Muslim Minds

Police raids on Islamic schools may shake up fundamentalist cells, but officials agree that the right teachers are the best way to root out radical Islamic leanings among Germany’s Muslim youth. Weeks separated news of a police raid on an Islamic school in Frankfurt and the announcement that the University of M_nster had set up a department dedicated to educating Islamic teachers. But the two items reveal the two-pronged approach taken in Germany on what is becoming an increasingly important front in the country’s fight against terrorism: the battle for young Muslim minds. After being tipped off by a 9-year-old student, police in Frankfurt seized Jihadist literature and videos, among them one showing a beheading, from the school hosted in a Moroccan cultural center. The news follows efforts by officials in the state of North-Rhine Westphalia to shut down a private Saudi-financed school after fundamentalist leanings were detected in the textbooks. “The state has absolutely no authority in these schools, they can do what they want and that is very troubling,” Lutz Irrgang, who heads the Hesse State Office for the Protection of the Constitution, told DW-WORLD. Educating The Next Generation Of Islam Teachers Officials know that raids alone can’t root out radicalism in pockets of Germany’s 3.2 million-strong Muslim community. One of the best hopes remains ending the monopoly on Islamic teachings held by dubious Imams and teachers in courtyard mosques, and bringing Muslim children back into the educational mainstream. This week, the University of M_nster took a step in that direction when it announced the appointment of Mohammed Sven Kalisch, a Muslim theologian who converted to Islam as a teen, to head the university’s new department dedicated to educating future generations of Islamic teachers. The department, the first of its kind in Germany, is designed to bridge the mistrust between German educational authorities and the country’s myriad Muslim organizations. Kalisch, a favorite of both German educators and Muslim leaders, said he is fully aware of the way fundamentalist Imams use the Koran to send the wrong message. “By educating Islamic teachers we, of course, hope to work against extremist tendencies,” Kalisch said. Problems Begin After School School authorities in Berlin, Bremen, Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia have already added Islam religion classes as an option to similar course offerings in Judaism and Catholicism. Lower Saxony recently announced similar plans to test out Islam religion courses. The classes, taught by teachers who are practicing Muslims, offer Germany’s estimated 800,000 Muslim students the possibility of learning about their religion in a way that officials can keep tabs on. “It’s like our classes on Catholicism and Protestantism,” said spokeswoman Nina Schmidt. “By doing it in our school we can make sure that it’s taught from an academic point of view, that no fundamentalist teachings slip in.” The problems begin after school is over for the day, when many parents send their children to private Koran lessons. It is at these schools that the seeds of fundamentalism are planted, say law enforcement officials. Raids by police across Germany routinely turn up the type of videos and literature found at the Frankfurt school. Jihadis “rely more on indirect communication nowadays, like videos and tapes,” said Kai Hirschmann, co-director of the Essen-based Institute for Terrorism Research and Policy. “That communication often takes place through the Koran schools. Holy War At The School’s Friday Prayers But not only there. School officials in North-Rhine Westphalia were appalled at the material found in textbooks seized at the King Fahd Academy in Bonn. The academy, funded by the Saudi Arabian government, caters to the sons and daughters of diplomats, Arabic families who stay in Germany for long periods as well as children with German citizenship or permanent resident status. More than 300 textbooks were confiscated as part of a police investigation into the school’s fundamentalist tendencies in October 2003. The academy (photo), which opened in the quiet Bonn neighborhood of Bad Godesberg in 1995, had already suspended one teacher after he had allegedly called for Holy War against the West in Friday prayers. Bonn school officials reviewing the teaching material found in a study that students were taught that “the Muslim people’s existence has been threatened by Jews and Christians since the crusades and it is the first duty of every Muslim to prepare to fight against these enemies.” Though powerless to close the school, school officials were able to force at least 53 children with German citizenship or permanent residency status to leave the academy based on what they study. The cooperation between law enforcement and school authorities is by no means typical, but can sometimes be useful. Still, investigators say that the best methods are not frequent raids but education. “One of the best tools,” said Irrgang, “remains enlightenment.”

Report: Germany To Expel Hundreds; Germany Introduced A New Immigration Law This Month

German officials are drawing up lists of hundreds of Muslims to be deported from the country under a new law making expulsions easier, the German weekly magazine Der Spiegel said on Saturday. Der Spiegel said authorities were already using their powers under an immigration law introduced this month in conducting an operation dubbed Aktion Kehraus (Action Sweep Out). The interior ministry declined to comment on the report beyond saying that deportations were a matter for Germany’s 16 federal states. Under new rules, potential deportees will not be able to use normal legal channels to challenge an expulsion order. A special panel of the Federal Administrative Court will be responsible, with no right of appeal. Der Spiegel said judges were expected to deal with up to 2000 cases a year. Clampdown Since the revelations in 2001 that Arab students who had lived for years in Hamburg led the 11 September 2001 attacks on the United States, Germans have questioned their liberal laws under which some suspects even drew welfare benefits. Interior Minister Otto Schily has suggested that evidence of training at an al-Qaida camp should be clear grounds for expelling a foreign national. Distributing videos calling for “holy war” could also be punished the same way.

Headscarves In The Headlines

France is not the only country where headscarves have proved contentious. A number of countries already ban the garment from schools and other public buildings, while elsewhere it is the failure of women to don a veil which prompts outrage.

Singapore
Singapore, keen to avoid racial and religious tensions between its ethnic Chinese majority and the Malay Muslim minority, has banned the scarf from schools. The Singapore government believes the ban is necessary to promote racial harmony, but Muslims say it infringes upon their religious freedoms.

Germany
The issue has come to a head in recent months after Germany’s supreme court ruled that a school was wrong to exclude a Muslim teacher because she wore a headscarf. The judges declared that current legislation did not allow for such a decision, but added that individual states would be within their rights to make legal provisions to this effect.

France The French parliament is widely expected to approve legislation banning overt religious symbols – including headscarves – from schools. President Jacques Chirac believes such a ban is necessary to preserve the secularity of the French state.

Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia’s highest religious authority recently warned of “”grave consequences”” if women continued to appear unveiled.

Turkey
For the past 80 years Turks have lived in a secular state founded by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who rejected headscarves as backward looking in his campaign to secularise Turkish society. Scarves are consequently banned in civic spaces in the country.

Belgium
Two politicians, inspired by developments in neighbouring France, are hoping to push legislation through parliament that would ban the headscarf from state schools.

Russia
Muslim women last year won the right to wear the headscarf for identification photos, which was banned in Russia in 1997.

Denmark
A Muslim woman last year lost a high-profile court case against a large supermarket chain in Denmark after she had been fired for wearing a headscarf at work in 2001. The court ruled that her contract contained a dress code banning headgear.”