Formation of the ‘Alliance for Open-Mindedness’: An attempt at inter-religious dialogue in a toxic political climate

Leading representatives of Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim religious organisations, as well as the heads of employer associations and unions, and of umbrella associations in the fields of culture, sports and social welfare joined hands in the creation of the ‘Alliance for Open-Mindedness’. According to Zekeriya Altug, spokesman of the Coordination Council of Muslims in Germany, the Alliance’s objective is to speak out against fringe movements – especially those from the populist far-right – claiming to represent the societal mainstream. This sentiment – a thinly veiled reference to right-wing protestors to chant ‘We are the people!’ at their anti-immigrant and anti-Islam rallies – was echoed by the leaders of the other confessional organisations. The Alliance conceives of itself as a civil society platform without any party affiliation, seeking to offer a space for religious and social dialogue. Under the header ‘human dignity shall be inviolable’, the Alliance issued an initial proclamation demanding a less hysterical debate on questions of immigration and integration that would remain mindful of fundamental commitments to human rights and to the German Basic Law.

Islam scholar in Münster under pressure

January 10, 2014

 

Prof.Dr. Mouhanad Khorchide, a scholar at the Centre for Islamic Theology (ZIT) at the University of Münster has been under recent public pressure. In an open statement, students of the centre raised their concerns about these issues, which would negatively effect the reputation and image of the ZIT.

Prof. Khorchide has been accused of plagiarism having used content and ideas of the Syrian Koran interpreter Muhammad Shahrour, inappropriately for his book “mercifulness”. The central council of Muslims in Germany spread the news as well as the daily news paper in Vienna “Standard”.

The central council of Muslims does not recognize Prof. Khorchide as a theologist. Yet, the accusations against Prof. Khorchide have not been verified. In his book, Khorchide is said to demand the modernization of Islam, which has been criticized by Muslim associations such as the coordination council of Muslims. In 2010, the coordination council permitted Khorchide to teach as a certified religious scholar. The same council is aiming to dispose Prof. Khorchide.

 

Die Zeit: http://www.zeit.de/studium/hochschule/2014-01/khorchide-muenster-islamische-theologie-kritik

Students’ statement (In German): http://fachschaftzit.blogspot.de/?m=0

Cooperation of the State North Rhine-Westphalia with Muslims

Sep 17th

 

The Minister of Integration in the German State of North Rhine-Westphalia, Guntram Schneider (SPD) has announced the constitution of the dfi “dialogue forum Islam”. It will be represented by members of Muslim associations and the German State of North Rhine-Westphalia. The dfi will consult the State dealing with issues such as Muslim life in Germany.

 

The program will last three years until 2016. Issues will emphasize “pluralism of Islam” and “security for Muslims”. Furthermore the dfi will be involved in issues such as Islamic funeral ceremonies, prevention of extremism, Islamophobia, welfare and care of the elderly for Muslims.

According to the Minister Schneider, the State will be discussing the recognition of Islamic associations as corporations under public law.

 

Aiman Mazyek, chair of the central council of Muslims in Germany and speaker of the cooperation council of Muslims underlined the determination to support every attempt for the institutional equalization of Islamic associations and communities. Yilmaz Karahan representative of the Alawites in Germany expressed the hopes of his community for more cooperation and dialogue through the forum.

 

The dfi will be represented by two, constantly represented groups of parties. The first group includes all members of the coordination council of Muslims: The Turkish-Islamic Union Institute of Religion (DITIB), the Islam Council of Germany, the association of Islamic centers of culture (VIKZ), the central council of Muslims in Germany (ZMD) and the Alawite community of Germany. The second group is represented by the Ministries of North Rhine-Westphalia and policy experts. Criteria for membership in the dfi is the ability to present a comprehensive coverage of community structure across the State.

 

The German State of North Rhine-Westphalia counts a Muslim population of 1.5 Millions. The total population of Muslims in Germany is about 4.3 Millions. Thus the headquarters of the biggest Islamic associations are based in North Rhine-Westphalia.

Avicenna Scholarship for Muslim students

Talented Muslims students are given the opportunity to finance their studies through the Avicenna-Studienwerk, which was established in March 2012. Two students called Matthias Meyer (University of Konstanz) and Beschir Hussain (WHU and Columbia University) had the initial idea to create a foundation for Muslim students. The association was founded in March 2012 by researchers and students in Osnabrück. The director of the Institute for Islamic Theology Bülent Ucar spoke about a historical step towards recognition and equality of Muslims in Germany.

Selected undergraduate students receive 670 Euros per month and doctoral students receive 1050 Euros per month. The Mercator foundation is supporting the Avicenna-Studienwerk with 1 Mio. Euros for the duration of five years. The Ministry for Education and Science will support the Avicenna-Studienwerk with another 7 Mio. Euros.

The average rate of Muslims in Germany is about 4.6% to 5.2%. However the Muslim representation rate is just below 3% at German Universities.  The aim of the Avicenna-Studienwerk is to create equal opportunities for talented Muslims to participate and engage in German society.

Commemoration for Marwa El-Sherbini

June 28

 

The council for Muslims participated at the commemoration ceremony for the Egyptian Marwa El-Sherbini, who was murdered four years ago in the court of the city of Dresden. The pregnant woman was murdered in front of her husband and her son. The murder had planned the action and was motivated by his hatred against Muslims. The court sentenced him to lifelong imprisonment.

 

Aiman Mazyek, head of the council for Muslims is also the speaker of the coordination council of Muslims in Germany. He described El-Sherbini as an idol for civil courage, who has paid with her life for the freedom of religion and tolerance.  

Studies portray Muslims in German media

May 3

 

The Expert Council of German Foundations on Integration and Migration (SVR) has published a study appraising the views of more than 9,200 people in the summer of 2011. According to the study, 74 per cent of interviewees with a migrant background and almost 71 per cent of interviewees without a migrant background described the portrayal of Muslims in the German media as either “negative” or “much too negative”. More than 82 per cent of the Muslims polled share this view.

 

The survey outlines that although the integration of second generation Muslims in Germany has been successful, the political and media would narrow the debate to “failed integration of Muslims”. In the past, German public focused at the ethnic background of immigrants debating about the “failed integration of foreigners”. The policy brief describes the negative connection of Islam with terrorism and extremism.

 

Aiman Mazyek, chairman of the Central Council for Muslims in Germany (ZMD), pointed out the increasing number of news linked to Islam. With regard to the lack of differentiation Mazyek says: “The prejudiced view that immediately associates extremism with Islam – and therefore also with Muslims – is still far too prevalent in the German media”.

 

Margreth Lünenborg, professor of journalism and director of the International Journalists’ College at Berlin’s Free University (FU), expressed her concern about the increasingly stereotyped portrayal of Muslims in the German media.

 

The Bertelsmann Foundation has published a study monitoring the attitudes of Germans towards religions. The international study involved thirteen countries including Germany: totally, 14,000 people have been interviewed about their attitudes towards Islam and other religions. More than half of the interviewees in Germany do not see Islam as an integral part of Germany. However, 85 per cent of the interviewees claim to be tolerant and open minded towards all religions. Albeit 60 per cent perceive religious plurality as enrichment, 64 per cent of the interviewed describe religion as the source of conflict.

 

The study investigated also perceptions about politics and showed that there is a high acceptance for democracy: 79 per cent of the Muslim interviewees and 88 per cent of the Christian interviewees agree strongly with the democratic political system of Germany.

Religionsmonitor_Deutschland

Medienbild-Muslime_SVR-FB_final

Council of Muslims in Germany proposes the inclusion of two Islamic holidays in public calendar

March 28

Aiman Mazyek, representative of the council of Muslims in Germany has proposed the inclusion of two holidays into the public calendar, one holiday for Eid Al-Adha (sacrifice) and one holiday for Ramadan. The integration of Muslims in Germany would be strengthened through the recognition of Islamic holidays. These holidays would be useful to the entire German society, as Muslims could step in and replace their non-Muslim colleagues during other public holidays.

Conservative politicians such as Wolfgang Bosbach (CDU) disagree with the proposal, since Germany would not have an Islamic tradition.

A study of experts, released by the Robert Bosch Foundation has confirmed the claim of Muslims for being treated unequal.

 

German Muslims demand consequences after right-wing terror

Dec 13

 

Erol Pürlü, speaker of the coordination council of Muslims, thanked the German commission of inquiry for its efforts to shed light to unsolved questions related to the right-wing terror series. He criticized the distorted picture of Islam in the public, which would enhance the stigmatization of Muslims.

 

Aiman Mazyek, chairman of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, demanded consequences after the terror series of the NSU (National Socialist Underground). The right-wing motivated terrorist attacks against Muslims would be the “German September 11th”. Mazyek raised concerns about the belittlement of society toward right-wing extremism and ignorance toward daily racism against Muslims.

 

Warning against Salafi action

October 8

 

The president of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution Hans-Georg Maaßen has warned the public against activists of the German Salafi movement. Since its legal banning, members of the organization Millatu Ibrahim allegedly left Germany and went to Arab countries in the Middle East and North Africa in order to mobilize and call Muslims for Jihad actions. Among other activities the Salafi are apparently attempting to build up a new German-speaking media center, based in foreign countries. The goal is to address young Muslims in Germany.

 

The former Rap musician and convert Denis Cuspert, also known as Deso Dogg, and the activist Mohamed Mahmud have left Germany and are wanted by German security forces.

Reaction to Anti-Muslim movie in Germany

September 24

 

A large number of demonstrators has gathered in the streets of several German cities last weekend. Approximately 1000 Muslims have protested against the public show of the “Muhammad movie”, which was perceived as a religious insult. Last week, the right-wing extremist party Pro Germany had announced their intention to show the movie in a cinema in Berlin.

 

Reactions from representatives of Muslim communities in Germany were different, but mostly called for a peaceful discussion on the topic.

 

Aiman Mazyek, the chairman of the Central Council for Muslims in Germany declared that he would not want the video to be banned. The video, which pictures the prophet Muhammad in offensive terms, “only aims at creating hatred and conflict”, he declared. Instead, he said, it is necessary to avoid that and he therefore called for public peace and tolerance. Mazyek called Muslims to stay calm and not to react to the provocation of Pro Germany. He added that the violent protests in the Muslim world are not representative, and do not follow the norms of Islam.

 

Also Lamya Kaddo, the chairwoman of the Liberal-Islamic league, is against the ban of the movie. In her opinion, sensitive topics such as this one should not become a taboo. To do this, she declared, would not be constructive, but actually lead to an increase of diffidence and hostility towards Muslims.

 

The Imam Halima Krausen, one of the few female Imams in Germany, has criticized the video as an insult against a religious group. At the same time Krausen, who is also a theologist, declared that violence could not be approved as a just reaction. As a result, she expects an increase of Islamophobia in Germany, as people would not differentiate between regular, ordinary, Muslim citizens and radical Islamists.

 

The Islam expert Rauf Ceylan also disagreed with the proposal to ban the movie. In his words, this would only upgrade its status and increase its importance.

 

A more critical position was expressed by Ali Kizilkaya, the speaker of the coordination council of Muslims in Germany. He defined the movie as “deep insult”, which would not be justified by freedom of expression.