February 24, 2014
Germany’s Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière has announced that the German Islam Conference will no longer concern itself with security issues. For sociologist Naika Foroutan of Berlin’s Humboldt University, this is a positive sign. At last, the conference will be able to concentrate on ensuring religious equality for Muslims in Germany.
2 February 2011
German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière on Tuesday ordered that the police presence in the country, beefed up due to terror concerns last November, be reduced. Still, he said, the risk of attack remains — leading German commentators to wonder whether such warnings are effective.
The security presence in Germany has been hard to ignore in recent months. Heavily armed police have been patrolling airports and train stations across the country, the center of Berlin has likewise seen increased numbers of officers toting machine guns and the government quarter in the heart of the city has been virtually closed off to pedestrians.
As of Tuesday, however, the increased security measures ordered by German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière in November were a thing of the past. “Security officials have, on the basis of current analysis, come to the conclusion that a reduction of the … country-wide security measures … is possible.”
14 December 2010
German authorities mounted raids against two Islamist groups suspected of seeking to overthrow the government and establish a religious state, the Interior Ministry said.
The searches targeted homes and religious schools linked to Salafist jihadist group Invitation to Paradise (EZP) in the northwestern cities of Braunschweig and Mönchengladbach, and the Islamic Cultural Center Bremen (IKZB).
“The EZP and the IKZB are accused of opposing the constitutional order with the aim of replacing it in Germany with an Islamic religious state,” the ministry said in a statement.
The raids were part of a long-running investigation against the groups and had no link to warnings of potential impending terrorist attacks issued last month by Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière, it added.
The groups reject parliamentary democracy and believe that Islamic law should replace the constitution, the ministry said.
17-20 November 2010
German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière on Wednesday warned the government had indications Islamists were planning terrorist attacks in Germany later this month.
“There is information from our foreign partners that planned attacks are allegedly to be carried out at the end of November,” he said in Berlin, describing a “new situation” regarding the Islamist threat towards the nation. “There’s reason to be worried, but no reason for hysteria,” he said, mentioning “concrete leads” being followed by the authorities.
Only last month, de Maizière criticized reports Islamists were planning imminent attacks in Germany as “alarmist” and said there was no reason to change the country’s security threat level. But the minister said on Wednesday security services had noticed growing signs that the terrorist network al-Qaida was planning attacks in the United States, Europe and Germany since mid-2010.
On Saturday, reports started warning of attacks on the Reichstag, the building of the German Parliament. German security authorities had received information from an extremist who has been phoning the federal criminal police (BKA) over the last few days. He supposedly wants to defect, and is therefore offering information about his jihadist colleagues’ plans.
The continuation of the German Islam Conference is worthwhile, writes Loay Mudhoon for Qantara. The public row over those attending and the new orientation of the second session of the conference must not be allowed to overshadow the meeting’s success up to this point in advancing Muslim integration in Germany, the author argues.
The circumstances in which German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière officially opened the second session of the German Islam Conference last Monday (17 May 2010) could hardly have been worse. The exclusion of the Council of Islam and the withdrawal of the Central Council of Muslims has undoubtedly inflicted serious damage on the credibility of the Islam Conference.
The absence of these two groups meant that the Islam Conference had failed to fulfill one of its primary goals, namely to discuss effective ways and means of “naturalising Islam” in Germany, on an equal footing with all representatives of the Muslim community in Germany.
When de Maizière’s predecessor Wolfgang Schäuble opened the first Islam Conference, for the first time in German post-war history, a German interior minister conceded that Islam has a place in Germany. While the prerequisites for a formal recognition of Muslims as a statutory body under public law are still lacking — the sense that Muslims have that they are being recognised in public life has increased tangibly, something that if nothing else was evident from the increasingly critical reactions to Islamophobic tendencies in the mass media.
Abu Bakr Rieger, the president of the EMU Foundation, an umbrella organization for informing about and promoting Islam in Europe, comments in an interview on the German Islam conference. According to him, the whole project has had its downsides from the beginning, when former German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble invited “liberal Muslims”, who were very critical of Islam themselves, to outnumber the more conservative representatives. Today, Abu Bakr Rieger sees similar problems arising from current Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière’s approach that caused two of the major Muslim organizations to withdraw from the Conference. Furthermore, while admitting that Muslims benefit a lot from the German rule of law, Abu Bakr Rieger is disappointed with de Maizière’s denial of anti-Islamic sentiments in Germany.
This article discusses the difficult task of Germany’s Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière of choosing Muslim representatives for the upcoming Islam conference. While it is true that the Islamic Associations are not representative of all German Muslims, the author argues, the latter also fail to exercise their right to form religious associations. If those who feel unrepresented by the current associations do not organize themselves, the state can do little about it. Meanwhile the state has tried to address this problem by inviting individuals (Muslim intellectuals or artists), but the author criticizes that this is the wrong approach, because individuals do not represent any larger group either and do not have to report back to anyone. To his opinion, the state is left with the associations currently active in Germany and it is up to the Muslim population at large to found other bodies if they feel unrepresented.
The German Islam Conference, a much-valued institution that brings together Islamic associations, the Interior Ministry and representatives from politics and public life, is currently at stake. It will take place – probably on May 17 – but the list of participants has not been finalized, after a controversy between Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière and the Islamrat (Islamic council). The Turkish organization Milli Görüş is largely represented in the Islamrat, and currently faces investigation on tax evasion, founding a criminal organization and money laundering by some of its leaders. For the time being, the Islamrat will not participate in the Conference.
Novelist and Islam expert Navid Kermani criticizes Interior Minister de Maizière for the exclusion. Mistakes have been made on the part of Milli Görüş, whose leaders should have stepped down, but excluding the whole Islamrat is more detrimental. The organization is extremely conservative and he does not agree with most of their views, says Kermani, but they do represent a reality in Germany and it is therefore imperative to engage with them.
Consequently, the other major Muslim organizations are considering boycotting the Conference. So far, they have not reached a unanimous demand to put forward. Today however, the chairman of the Central Council of Muslims, Ayyub Axel Köhler, has hinted that the organizations will probably decide in favor of remaining at the Conference.