German president Wulff recognises Islam as part of Germany in reunification speech

5 October 2010
Leading conservative German politicians assailed President Christian Wulff on Tuesday for comments intimating Islam had gained a status comparable to Christianity and Judaism in Germany. Wulff riled his fellow Christian Democrats by saying Islam had become an important part of German society in a speech commemorating the 20th anniversary of German reunification on Sunday.
While several Christian Democrats and their Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) allies grudgingly admitted Muslims had earned a place in Germany, they bristled at the idea they were changing the core social fabric of the country. “The speech was easily misunderstood,” CSU politician Norbert Geis told Bild on Tuesday. “If the president wanted to equate Islam in Germany with Christianity and Judaism, then I’d consider that wrong.”
In his first major speech on Sunday since taking office in July, Wulff extended the hand of friendship to Muslims, saying the challenge of integrating them into society was comparable to reunifying the country after the Cold War. “Christianity is of course part of Germany. Judaism is of course part of Germany. This is our Judeo-Christian history… But now Islam is also part of Germany,” he said in his speech. “When German Muslims write to me to say ‘you are our president’, I reply with all my heart ‘yes, of course I am your president’.”
His comments were welcomed by leading German Muslim groups as an important sign that they were not second-class citizens in Germany.

Islam at the centre of major arts festival in Germany

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”.

American Muslims Widely Seen as Facing Discrimination

Eight years after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Americans see Muslims as facing more discrimination inside the U.S. than other major religious groups. Nearly six-in-ten adults (58 percent) say that Muslims are subject to a lot of discrimination, far more than say the same about Jews, evangelical Christians, atheists or Mormons. In fact, of all the groups asked about, only gays and lesbians are seen as facing more discrimination than Muslims, with nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of the public saying there is a lot of discrimination against homosexuals.

The poll also finds that two-thirds of non-Muslims (65 percent) say that Islam and their own faith are either very different or somewhat different, while just 17 percent take the view that Islam and their own religion are somewhat or very similar. But Islam is not the only religion that Americans see as mostly different from their own. When asked about faiths other than their own, six-in-ten adults say Buddhism is mostly different, with similar numbers saying the same about Mormonism (59 percent) and Hinduism (57 percent).

By a smaller margin, Americans are also inclined to view Judaism and Catholicism as somewhat or very different from their own faith (47 percent different vs. 35 percent similar for Judaism, 49 percent different vs. 43 percent similar for Catholicism). Only when asked about Protestantism do perceived similarities outweigh perceived differences, with 44 percent of non-Protestants in the survey saying Protestantism and their own faith are similar and 38 percent saying they are different.

Results from the latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, conducted Aug. 11-17 among 2,010 adults reached on both landlines and cell phones, reveal that high levels of perceived similarity with religious groups are associated with more favorable views of those groups. Those who see their own faith as similar to Catholicism, Judaism, Mormonism and Islam are significantly more likely than others to have favorable views of members of these groups.

Detailed questions about perceptions of Islam show that a plurality of the public (45 percent) says Islam is no more likely than other faiths to encourage violence among its believers; 38 percent take the opposite view, saying that Islam does encourage violence more than other faiths do. Views on this question have fluctuated in recent years, with the current findings showing that the view that Islam is connected with violence has declined since 2007, when 45 percent of the public said that Islam encourages violence more than other religions do.

Almost half of Americans (45 percent) say they personally know someone who is Muslim. Also, slim majorities of the public are able to correctly answer questions about the name Muslims use to refer to God (53 percent) and the name of Islam’s sacred text (52 percent), with four-in-ten (41 percent) correctly answering both “Allah” and “the Koran.” These results are consistent with recent years and show modest increases in Americans’ familiarity with Islam compared with the months following the 9/11 attacks. Those people who know a Muslim are less likely to see Islam as encouraging of violence; similarly, those who are most familiar with Islam and Muslims are most likely to express favorable views of Muslims and to see similarities between Islam and their own religion.

European Rabbis Boycott Interfaith Event With Muslim Brotherhood

The European rabbinical umbrella organization “Conference of European Rabbis” (CER) boycotted an interfaith conference in Belgium after it was determined that Muslim delegates included alleged members of the Muslim brotherhood movement. The meeting, co-hosted by the European commission and the European Parliament, took place in Brussels on Monday of this week. The interfaith meeting was intended to bring together four religious leaders from each participating faith community. In a statement explaining the decision not to attend the meeting, the executive director of the CER said: “We do not consider it appropriate for organizations such as the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe, or individuals who made or endorsed anti-Semitic statements and who are clearly linked to radical Islamist movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood to be present.” These invitees, according to the CER, are “extremists who are not representative of the vast majority of Europe’s Muslim citizens.” The statement noted that the interfaith initiative was a positive one, but that it was undermined by the inclusion of some persons who are more interested in divisiveness than dialogue. The European Commission said that the decision was regrettable, as president Jose Manuel Barroso stated: “This meeting aims to foster dialogue and build on common ground, regarding the importance of this economic and financial crisis and we believe it is important to contribute. …It is time for unity and not for isolation on such an important topic.”

CAIR commends Florida Jewish group for condemning hate speech

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) commended the Florida office of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) concerning the anti-Islam hate of Dutch politicial Geert Wilders, who was recently given a standing ovation at a Florida synagogue.

At the end of April, CAIR called on members of the Jewish community to condemn “Nazi-like” statements by Wilders, who claimed that “Islam is not a religion” and “the right to religious freedom should not apply to this totalitarian ideology called Islam” at a Palm Beach, FL synagogue. He received applause and a standing ovation from his statements. In a statement released by the ADL Florida Regional Director, Andrew Rosenkranz said: “The ADL strongly condemns Geert Wilders’ message of hate against Islam as inflammatory, divisive and antithetical to American democratic ideals. This rhetoric is dangerous and incendiary, and wrongly focuses on Islam as a religion, as opposed to the very real threat of extremist, radical Islamists.”

Religious online matchmaking sites boom in Germany

Berlin – Nowhere in Europe do Christian, Jewish and Islamic- linked online matchmaking sites flourish as much as in Germany, where people are increasingly turning to the internet for romance. “For most people the Web is as much a part of life as shopping,” says Friedhelm Hensen, Jr., who launched his website in 2007. Hensen’s service, The Singles Site by Christians for Christians, reaches far more people than a regional newspaper’s lonely hearts column ever does, say media experts. In August this year, more than 2 million people clicked onto the site, looking for a partner. Hensen says he’s delighted when he receives a wedding announcement from a couple who have met through It happens on average about once a month, but he reckons the figure is probably higher because not all couples get around to informing him when they have found their “partner for life.” Another online matchmaking outlet, Christian Soulmates, provides an easy way for its members to meet other quality singles on the net. “We ask every user to fill out a questionnaire that will assist other users in getting to know you,” it states. “Once members create their profiles, our matching technology can provide them with instantaneous matches based on their pre-selected dating criteria,” explains an official. “It’s true Internet romances can and do happen, exults Christian Soulmates, which adds a cautionary note from the Bible (Romans 8:25). “But, if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”

Full-text article continues here. (Some news sites may require registration)

Paris Prosecutors Determine that September 6th Attack was not anti-Semitic

Paris judicial officials have decided that an attack on three Jewish youths on September 6th in eastern Paris (the same street where a Jewish teenager was beaten in June) did not have anti-Semitic motives. The five suspects were charged with simple voluntary violence. The three young yarmulkes-wearing Jews were attacked after demanding an explanation from other youths who allegedly threw a chestnut at them. One suffered a broken nose, and another a fractured cheekbone.

Full-text article available here. (Some news sites may require registration)

Piglet’s Tale not Anti-Semitic: Germany OK’s Controversial Children’s Book

The German government has cleared a controversial children’s book of charges that it is anti-Semitic. The decision clears the way for the printing of a fourth edition of the book, “‘Which Way to God?’ Asked the Piglet.'” The German government announced Thursday that a controversial children’s book critical of major world religions will not be banned. The book is called “‘Which Way to God?’ Asked the Piglet'” and was seen by some to be overly critical of Judaism. Author Michael Schmidt-Salomon and illustrator Helge Nyncke had been accused of anti-Semitic depictions in the book. Specifically, the image of an angry rabbi led some to raise concerns that Judaism was lampooned more harshly than the other two religions treated in the book. But the Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons ruled that the book is equally critical of Christianity, Islam and Judaism, and should not be classified as anti-Semitic.