Expert Lauds Integration of Islam in Germany

Islam has become the second-largest religion in Germany with an estimated 3.5 million Muslims out of a population of 82 million, most of them of Turkish descent, a visiting expert said in Jakarta on Wednesday. Monika Wohlrab-Sahr, the head of Islamic research at the University of Leipzig, said Islam had become a permanent phenomenon in the social, cultural and religious sectors of German life as Muslims, most of them migrants, had integrated well in the community. “Muslim migrants started to build their families in Germany, and their children were born and raised in Germany, often with limited knowledge of their mother tongue,” Wohrlab-Sahr said, adding that migration to Germany started mainly in the 1960s when workers were hired from Turkey, Tunisia, Morocco and the former Yugoslavia.

Wohrlab-Sahr, who is not Muslim, said about 18 percent of the German population had a migrant background and that Islam had arrived in 1924 when a mosque was built in Berlin.

“The right to establish places of worship and to build mosques, including the minarets, is part of religious freedom in Germany,” she said, adding that there were 206 mosques and 2,600 prayer rooms in the country. The most prevalent religion in Germany is Christianity.

“There is a fear of Islam regarding the terrorism issue among Germans, but nothing happens in our country so we continue to support Muslims,” she said, speaking at a forum at the University of Paramadina. Every Oct. 3, the commemoration of the reunion of West and East Germany, the mosques open their doors to the public, demonstrating their integration and the pluralism of German society, she added. Since the 1980s, there have been several attempts to create organizations that would be able to negotiate with the German state in matters of Islamic belief. Such institutions include the Islamic Council for the Federal Republic of Germany, the Central Council of Muslims in Germany and the recently founded Muslim Coordination Council.

A tale of tolerance for German Muslims

To Indonesian eyes, there does not seem to be anything special about the photos of soaring minarets and people praying in mosques currently on display in an auditorium in Paramadina University in South Jakarta. Indeed, they seem an everyday thing, much like what you’d see on any ordinary Friday or Islamic holiday. But the 60-odd shots of mosques and Islamic activities in a number of German cities taken by Stuttgart-based photographer Wilfried Dechau have a rather deeper story to tell.

Dechau’s work in the exhibition titled “Mosques in Germany” tries to convey a narrative of minorities, human rights, tolerance and conflict. “I embarked on this project without blinkers and without prejudice, motivated by an almost naive curiosity,” Dechau said of his work. Through his mostly architectural approach, the seasoned photographer, who has twice won the German Photo Book Award, captured images from Pforzheim, Penzberg, Manheim, Wolfsburg, Aachen, Karlsruhe, Hamburg and Stuttgart – all cities with large Muslim populations – during his two-month tour of the country. “All the positive experiences and encounters made my work into an affair of the heart,” he said. “This does not mean that I am about to become a Muslim. But we must talk to each other. That much I learned during those eight weeks.”

It is always intriguing to talk about minorities, a category that the some 3.5 million Muslims in Germany still fall into, despite forming the nation’s second largest religious group after Christians – especially given the Western country has a long history of Islamic culture that began from diplomatic ties dating back to Charlemagne and Caliph Harun al-Rashid in the 8th century. Until the 18th century, Islamic culture was for Europeans something of an exotic penchant from the Orient, documented in various forms of arts, from Karl May’s tales of the Ottoman Empire to a couple of architectural remnants of secular buildings constructed in the style of mosques, according to German magazine Der Spiegel. It was only recently that Germany had to create a different kind of understanding of the “exotic” culture because the Turkish and Kurdistan migrants who brought Islam closer to Germans back in the 1960s have planted deep roots in the country, while still holding on to their religious beliefs.

Jakarta Post http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2009/04/11/a-tale-tolerance-german-muslims.html

US-Islamic forum in Gulf backs Obama

Delegates of a US-Islamic forum in Doha overwhelmingly voiced support for presidential hopeful Barack Obama. Obama won support in a mock election by more than 200 American and Muslim delegates at the US-Islamic World Forum. Many of the Muslim delegates said they hoped Obama would win out over Hillary Clinton in the Democratic nomination. “The Indonesian people would love to see a [US] president who has studied at an elementary school in Jakarta” said Din Syamsuddin, chairman of one of Indonesia’s largest Islamic organizations.

Muslims Try to Storm U.S. Embassy in Indonesia

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Hundreds of Muslims protesting caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad tried to storm the U.S. Embassy today, smashing the windows of a guard post but failing to push through the gates. Several people were injured. Pakistani security forces, meanwhile, sealed off the capital of Islamabad to block a planned mass demonstration and fired tear gas and gunshots to chase off protesters. In Turkey, tens of thousands gathered in Istanbul chanting slogans against Denmark, Israel and the United States.