A political figure: The number of Muslims in Germany

The Federal Ministry for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) has published a new study on the number of Muslims living in Germany for the first time since 2009.

After the admission of hundreds of thousands of asylum-seekers by the Merkel government in summer and autumn of 2015, these numbers are eminently political: populist movements’ campaign platforms focus on the (perceived) ‘Islamisation of the West’, and 40 per cent of Germans believe that the country is being ‘infiltrated’ by Islam.

Providing a corrective to populists

These fears are also reflected in the tendency—observable in all Western countries—to overestimate the Muslim population. An Ipsos Mori poll, conducted in late 2016, revealed that German respondents estimated more than 20 per cent of the German population to be Muslim.(( https://www.theguardian.com/society/datablog/2016/dec/13/europeans-massively-overestimate-muslim-population-poll-shows ))

Against this backdrop, the numbers of the BAMF study are a welcome reality check. According to the study, by December 31, 2015, Germany was home to between 4.4 and 4.7 million men and women of Muslim faith. This translates into a Muslim share in the overall population of about 5.4 to 5.7 per cent.

Growing diversity of the Muslim population

Moreover, the study contains interesting insights about the composition of the Muslim population in the country. While in 2011 67.5 per cent of Muslims were of Turkish background, their share has dropped to about 50.6 per cent. Muslims of Middle Eastern origin now constitute the second largest group among German Muslims.

This is linked to the fact that around 27 per cent of Muslims in Germany—or 1.2 million men and women—have only recently, i.e. over the past 5 years, immigrated to the country. Consequently, the diversity of Muslim life has grown significantly in Germany over the past few years.

An inadequate religious structure

The participation of these new arrivals in the existing religious institutions and frameworks is not straightforward, however. In a large number of the country’s mosques, Turkish language, culture, and Islamicality predominate, meaning that they struggle to attract Arab Muslims.

At the same time, many Syrians have felt uneasy to visit Arabic-speaking mosques, due to their conservative nature. Syrians reported that they were often criticised for their clothing style and their (lack of) religious devotion. Most of these mosques are financed by the Gulf monarchies.(( https://de.qantara.de/inhalt/syrische-fluechtlinge-und-arabische-moscheen-in-deutschland-allah-hoert-zu ))

Some hope that the arrival of Syrians can help to break the hold of Wahhabi-Salafi orthodoxy in Arabic-speaking mosques. Yet this is not a foregone conclusion: Syrian refugee Jaber al-Bakr, who planned a bomb attack on one of Berlin’s airports, was reportedly radicalised by conservative Imams after his arrival in Germany.

Shortcomings on ample display

Yet in spite of its contribution to factualising the debate, the BAMF’s study also contains a number of distinctive shortcomings.

At the most general level, the fact that the study was conducted by the federal office responsible for migration and refugees is telling. It highlights that Islam and the presence of Muslims is still seen predominantly as a migrant phenomenon—rather than as a phenomenon that is part and parcel of ordinary German life and citizenship.

More particularly, the reliance on the databases of the BAMF means that German converts to Islam are not included in the study’s figures. The number of these converts is difficult to gauge due to lack of data. According to leading researcher Esra Özyürek, whose anthropological fieldwork has focused on German converts to Islam, estimates range from 20,000 to 100,000.(( http://www.spiegel.de/panorama/gesellschaft/muslime-in-deutschland-konvertiten-erfahren-besonders-viel-abneigung-a-1111636.html ))

Foreigner = Muslim

At the same time, the BAMF often counts every immigrant from a Muslim-majority country as Muslim—irrespective of whether the person in question identifies with the Islamic faith. Nor, of course, is the BAMF interested in the level and the particularities of individual religious observance.(( http://www.deutschlandfunk.de/zahl-der-muslime-in-deutschland-wie-viel-millionen-sind-es.886.de.html?dram:article_id=375505 ))

The study is thus an important contribution to a debate that all too often appears completely disconnected from factual analysis. Yet on its own, the obsession with numbers does very little to address any of the questions and problems that Germany and its Muslim community face.

Turkish fast food: Kebab

Der Standard reports that the first Turkish Kebab restaurant celebrates its 30th anniversary in Vienna. The story is embedded into the Turkish migration history to Austria. The report also explains, that the first Kebab restaurants were a welcome alternative to Austrian fast food. However, it also focuses on 9/11, the current discussions on Islam as well as on the difficulties that Turkish migrants face today.

Austria: Attacks during a soccer game

July 25, 2014

The Austrian newspaper der Standard is reporting, that soccer players from an Israeli soccer club were attacked during a friendship game in Austria. According to the newspaper the attackers had a Palestinian and Turkish background. They wanted vengeance for the Israeli attacks on Gaza – the newspaper said.

Young Islam Conference

March 17, 2014


The Young Islam Conference sees itself as both a forum for dialogue and a mouthpiece for young Muslims and non-Muslims alike. It seeks to counter prejudice and negative ideas about Islam in Germany. Shohreh Karimian spoke to Esra Küçük, the managing director of the Young Islam Conference, about the forum’s background and aims


Source: http://en.qantara.de/content/young-islam-conference-interface-between-politics-and-society

Interview with the Migration Expert Rita Süssmuth: Learning to Deal with Diversity

December 2, 2013


Summary: If Europe’s immigration policy is not changed in the coming years, the continent’s population will start to shrink dramatically in 2025. Annika Zeitler spoke to the German migration expert and former President of the Bundestag, Rita Süssmuth.

Full story at Qantara.de – http://en.qantara.de/content/interview-with-the-migration-expert-rita-sussmuth-learning-to-deal-with-diversity

Runnymede Perspectives: The New Muslims

Runymed Reportn their pathbreaking report published in 1997, Islamophobia: A Challenge for Us All, Runnymede examined the growth, features and consequences of anti-Muslim racism in Britain. The report warned then about the dangers of ‘closed’ views of Islam and Muslims, and pressured for a more ‘open’ perspective and dialogue, not only as a way of countering anti-Muslim racism but as a necessity ‘for the well-being of society as a whole’. Sixteen years on, it seems that the challenge remains as vital today as it did then – perhaps even more so.

The past two decades have seen an explosion of interest in Muslim communities in Britain and Europe. Migration and demographic change have contributed to a growing Muslim presence Terror and the resurgence of mainstream rightwing and Far Right political parties across Europe has fed heated discussions around the so-called ‘clash of civilizations’, the borders and identity of ‘Fortress Europe’ and the possibilities and limits of citizenship.

In the wake of the 2001 ‘riots’ and the terror attacks of 11 September 2001 and 7 Britain has experienced an intense political, media and policy scrutiny of British Muslims. These three events have triggered a two-fold approach to  ‘managing’ Muslims – with a focus on securitization and migration control at the borders, and, internally, on issues of integration, cohesion and citizenship. Such policies have impacted on all dimensions of Muslim life, from travel ‘back home’ to the intimacies of marriage and family formation, from schools to prisons, from political protest to religious practice, from internet usage to stop and search, from friendships to mode of dress.


Study on German-Turkish living environment

12 May


In 2012, the Liljeberg Research International Institute has conducted a representative study about the living environment of German-Turkish people in Germany. In total, 1.011 persons with Turkish origins have been asked about value and live attitudes towards Germany.


Although 27 per cent of the interviewees have been born in Germany and 39 per cent of the interviewees have been living in the Federal Republic for more than 30 years, only 15 per cent would perceive Germany as their home country. In contrast to interviews in previous years, labour is not the main motivation for migration to Germany, being replaced by the choice for the marriage partner.


About 45 per cent do plan to return to Turkey. However, most of the interviewees do not consider a return before the next 10 years. The highest rate (55%) of persons willing to return is among the 30-49 years old group. Most interviewees explain their will to return by the desire to live in their “home country”. Only 6 per cent gave labour as a reason for return. In fact about 40 per cent of the interviewees are not Turkish citizens. They possess the “mavi kart” a card for “Turkish foreigners” without Turkish citizenship. It facilitates the return formalities to Turkey in terms of re-integration in the labour market. Also, it entitles subjects to receive social transfers.


70 per cent of the younger interviewees perceive their German language skills better than their Turkish. Consequently, 31 per cent of the total number of interviewees, naming the older persons, perceives their Turkish language skills as clearly better than their German.


The overall attitudes towards Germany are positive. Germany is perceived as the “modern”, “trustable”, “accountable” and “tolerant” country with high standards related to social security.


Albeit the overwhelming majority is satisfied with the migration to Germany, 63 per cent of the interviewees feel regarded as Turks by Germans in Germany and as Germans in Turkey. They feel as strangers, no matter where they migrate to. 47 per cent of the interviewees do feel unwanted and not welcome in Germany. However, maintaining the Turkish culture is important to 95 per cent of the interviewees. 84 per cent believe being a German citizen and a good Muslim would not juxtapose each other. Hence 37 per cent of the interviewees perceive themselves as strongly religious and 44 per cent claim to pray at least once a day. The high amount of religiosity among young people has been a surprising aspect for the study. This seems to be a tendency for the next years. The reservation of older Turkish-German migrants towards religion could be explained by the patterns of Kemalism and the Turkish national identify.

Complete Study Liljeberg Research International


The Ministers of Internal Affairs of Spain, Morocco, France and Portugal sign the “Rabat Declaration”

25 January 2013

The Ministers of Internal Affairs of Morocco, France, Spain and Portugal signed in Rabat the ‘Rabat Declaration’ in which they materialize a closer police cooperation among the four countries.
The statement was expressed in four main areas: management of migration flows, counter-narcotics, counter-terrorism (with special attention to the Sahel region and its consequences), police cooperation and training.

Rotterdam Population to be 45 Percent “Non-Western” in 2030

October 19 2012

Some 45% of Rotterdam’s population will be non-western by 2030, according to estimates provided by the local Centre for Research and Statistics (COS) this week. This research sent to the city council estimates that the number of non-western people in the city (of Turkish, Moroccan, Surinamese and Antillean heritage) will grown from nearly 227,000 this year to over 297,000 in 2030. The expansion will not result from increased immigration to the Netherlands but from birthrates among the city’s existing population.

The research is part of the COS population predictions for the city in the coming years from 2013-2030, and also predicts future birth and death rates, domestic and international migration, and fluctuations in life expectancy.

New book: Building a Shared Future: Religion, Politics and the Public Sphere

During the last decade, debates on the role of religion in the public space, migration, social cohesion and other issues have revealed increasing social tensions and polarisation in public opinion. Misperceptions and misinformation often dominate public dialogue about relations between Muslims and others. Although they don’t speak with the loudest voice, academics, scholars and thought leaders have a key role to play in helping to rebalance these debates by providing fact-based opinion and informed arguments. In the ‘Building a Shared Future’ series, these opinion leaders offer insights into the issues facing Muslims through American and European communities today.

How successful have European models of integration been compared with the American model of multiculturalism? How can multiple layers of identity be accommodated in pluralistic societies? This volume explores a selection of these questions.

The book is available for download here.