Representatives of Muslims, democratically elected? Thoughts on the composition of the German Islam Conference

In an article for Qantara.de, Hilal Sezgin addresses the peculiar and questionable composition of the German Islam Conference. First, she criticizes the invention of “secular Muslim” that are so welcome at the Conference: either they are in favor of separating church and state, which applies to roughly all German Muslims, or they are not religious, which is fair enough, but then they do not need to be essentialized as Muslims and be invited to form part of the Islam Conference.

Second, Sezgin shrewdly remarks that no place in the Conference is designed for hosting a Muslim politician – half of the members are non-Muslim politicians, the other half are Muslim representatives, no overlap intended. “The German Germans please take a seat on the political side. The rest, the ones with the funny names, kindly be seated on the Muslim bench”, she writes.

In conclusion, Sezgin attests that the participation policy has “deeply paternalistic, even un-democratic” traits and that the Conference is unlikely to result in true dialogue.

Who is the German state supposed to chose as representatives of Islam?

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.