The chairman of the Protestant Church Nikolaus Schneider has criticised Islam in Germany, stating that Islam appeared “in our society unimpressed by Enlightenment and criticism of religion”. The Central Council of Muslims strongly disapproved of the remark. General Secretary Nurhan Soykan said that no one had the right to criticise a religion and to evaluate whether or not it needed Enlightenment. The Council’s chairman Aiman Mazyek expressed his understanding for the fact that Church officials saw Islam as a challenge, pointing out that Islam practiced monotheism in its purest form, cherished Jesus and Mary, but would not allow a prophet (Jesus) to be crucified – Mazyek’s interpretation being that Islam could be understood by many as an enlightened form of Christianity.
Schneider later explained that he called for an academic Islam, one that is scientifically dealt with at universities in order to study the history and also the Enlightenment as it took place in Germany, so that Islam would arrive at a historical-critical perspective on its own faith. He very much welcomes the education of imams at German universities.
26 November 2010
Family Minister Kristina Schröder slammed on Friday what she sees as a growing tendency to violence stemming from a “macho culture” among young Muslim men.
The minister told daily Wiesbadener Kurier that while discrimination and disadvantage were partly to blame, there were also religious and cultural roots to this propensity to violence, which was revealed in two studies commissioned by her ministry due to be released on Friday.
“We must not construct any false taboos here: there is a macho culture among young Muslim men that glorifies violence and which also has cultural roots,” she said. “The tendency towards violence among young, male Muslims is clearly higher than among non-Muslim, native youths,” she said.
It stemmed from perceived slights upon their honour, which they defended with violence, Schröder said. “Social disadvantage and discrimination are important factors, but they are not sufficient as an explanation,” she said. “There is a co-dependence between religiousness, macho norms and tendency towards violence.”
Her comments came amid an ongoing debate about immigration, integration and Islam in Germany.
Milad Karimi, 31, scholar of philosophy, Islamic studies and languages has launched a publishing house in Freiburg, specialising in Islamic children’s literature. The books are aimed at supporting parents in educating their children about Islam and about the framework of the German society. Basic questions of Who was the prophet? What is the Quran? Why do we pray? are complemented with informing about living Islam in Germany and about human rights and democracy.
Karimi, who is currently finishing his PhD on Hegel, has also published a new translation of the Quran into German, which was widely acclaimed.
The Turkish-German sociologist Necla Kelek (52) is one of the most renowned critics of Islam in Germany. Her new book warns of playing Islam down (“Himmelsreise. Mein Streit mit den Wächtern des Islam” – Journey to heaven: My dispute with the guards of Islam”).
In this interview, she explains her view of German society and its strong sense of responsibility after World War II. This otherwise very important trait of not criticising other cultures has led to a reluctancy to criticise Islam, even when it appears in a discriminatory form. According to Kelek, who is very critical of Islamic culture, no other culture discriminates against women the way Islam does, and this can be derived from the Quran. She calls for a historic interpretation of the Quran, absolute equality of men and women and for an education of imams at state universities rather than religious institutions.
The immigration debate is emotionally charged. Nevertheless, there is no place for sensitivities of this kind during discussions and debates. If the Germans want to embrace those who have immigrated to their country, they have to get more involved in the debate – and in an open and self-critical manner. The author of this article claims: “German integration policy should not just focus on Turks, Islam, and issues that average Germans consider foreign, but about those things that average Germans consider their own: their own history, the change in their own identity.”
Munich was to get a “Centre for Islam in Europe – Munich” (ZIEM), which proposed an open, European and German-speaking Islam (see http://www.euro-islam.info/2010/03/19/munich-will-get-a-new-mosque-center). But now the plans by Imam Benjamin Idriz had to be put on hold after allegations that he has close relations to Islamists. A court has ruled that the Islamic community of Imam Idriz was rightly named in a 2007 report by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution. The Office has monitored Idriz’s phone calls with leaders of the Islamist organizations Milli Görüs (IGMG) and the Islamic Community in Germany (IGD), who are believed to hold close ties with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. The group and their lawyer have announced to take this dispute to the next level of jurisdiction and to fight for their reputation.
It is a document from the heart of the jihad: Eric Breininger, a German homegrown terrorist recently killed in Pakistan, worked on his memoirs until just days before his death. On Wednesday, the document was posted on the Internet.
Turning to jihad marks the end of a long path from a German youth trying to find his way – one who went to parties, drank alcohol and had a girlfriend. Breininger writes at the beginning of his autobiography, “I lived exactly the kind of life that every young person in the West wants to live. But I couldn’t see any meaning.”
Despite being full of pseudo-religious passages penned primarily for propaganda purposes, Breininger’s memoirs are important for the insight they provide into a world that would otherwise be difficult to understand. But one question remains unanswered: Why the jihad represents an answer to the search for meaning in life.
Aygül Özkan becomes the new social minister in the German state of Niedersachsen, and thereby the first politician of Turkish background in such high office. More surprisingly, it is the conservative party CDU who lifted her into this office, considering their generally rigorous policies on immigration and integration.
Before coming to office this week, Özkan has stirred the first controversy among her conservative party colleagues and the public. While she called for banning headscarves from schools for reasons of secularism, she equally demanded to remove Christian crosses from classrooms, following the same spirit. This was too much innovation for the conservative camp, and Niedersachsen’s prime minister Wulff had to amend her statement.
More controversy was caused at the induction ceremony this week, when Özkan swore the oath on the constitution, adding the optional phrase “With the help of God”. After the ceremony she explained that she referred to the one and only God who is shared by the three monotheistic religions. But representatives of both Churches have jumped on this comment and declared that there are indeed vast differences between God and Allah and that the new minister should not have used the phrase.
In the current environment, Özkan could not have chosen a non-controversial option. Had she said “With the help of Allah”, one can only imagine the hysterical outcry of the public about Allah’s intrusion into German politics. If she had omitted the phrase, which would be most advisable option for all politicians in a truly secular state, the same religious representatives would have criticized. This critique once more reveals the bigotry of the German Churches and that it will be a long way until Turkish-German politicians are so common that they do not make it to the headlines simply for their background.
The Ruhr area, a former industrial region and this year’s European Culture Capital, will place Islam at the center of its arts festival the Ruhr-Triennale. Leaving headscarf and minaret debates aside, producer Decker seeks to explore religiosity and its link to movement and journey, which plays a particularly large role in Islam, and eventually to art. After focusing on Judaism last time, the forthcoming productions will explore Islamic myths and mysticism in theater, dance, music and prose performances. The festival will take place from August to October, and the 37 productions and 130 performances will be opened by the premiere of “Leila and Majun”, a Persian “Romeo and Juliet”.
The University of Münster, being the first to offer teacher training for Islamic religious education, does not come to rest. While the university has selected a most suitable candidate for the chair, the Lebanese Austrian Mouhanad Khorchide, the decision has to be approved by the Islamic associations. Some therefore claim that the associations have too much influence over this position at a state university, after they have already urged professor Sven Muhammad Kalisch at the same department to step down, after he had doubted the existence of Prophet Mohammed.
Meanwhile, Khorchide has taken up teaching on a temporary position. One of his main goals is to bring Islamic theology in harmony with a modern life and to show that there are no contradictions. School children should not have to make a decision whether to be Muslim or European, but should feel that they are both.