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.
In March 2010, young engaged Muslims met to initiate a networks called Zahnräder “gear wheels”.
The network´s aim is to provide a professional networking platform for young well-educated Muslims, who either engage in politics, economy, media or the social sector.
Since 2012, the network´s capabilities were boosted when being supported by organizations such as the British Council, the aid organization Islamic Relief, and the education network of North Rhine-Westphalia. Ali Aslan Gümüsay is one of the founders of “gear wheels” and the current board of directors. Gümüsay, is a doctoral candidate at the Said Business School of Oxford University. He underlined the necessity for Muslims to network and participate in German society. Zahnräder does not require participants to subscribe a membership. So far, there are around 90 active people and a German wide circle of contributors participating at Zahnräder’s online forums and annual national conferences in Germany.
German police has started a raid against German Salafists in the States of Hesse and North-Rhine Westphalia. The German police focused its raid at cities such as Frankfurt am Main, Oberhausen, Gladbeck, Solingen und Wuppertal. The Ministry of Interior declared that more than twenty investigations have been initiated against suspects. The Minister of Interior Hans-Peter Friedrich (CSU) describes the raid as an act against violent extremist individuals and extremist associative structures. The Ministry has banned the associations DawaFFM (Invitation Frankfurt am Main) and Al Nusrah, which is a sub group of the banned Millatu Ibrahim. These groups have been suspected to send radicalized Muslims to Mali and Syria to fight for Jihad.
Having observed the German Salafist movement, the Ministry suspects Salafist groups to propagate an aggressive rhetoric against the free democratic basic order. It is said, that the number of Salafists in Germany has doubled up to a number of 4500.
Moreover, German police reports the arrest of two militant Islamists in the cities of Bonn and Essen. Enea B. and Marco G. are suspected to plan a plot against Markus Beisicht, leader of the right-wing extremist party Pro North-Rhine Westphalia. According to the police, weapons and explosive chemical materials were found in the apartments of the suspects. Security experts expect a list of persons, who have been targeted by Islamists.
The Minister of Interior Friedrich sees no correlation between the arrests and the raid. In 2012, Salafists and the right-wing extremist Pro NRW have been clashing in the city of Solingen after an anti-Islam cartoon campaign of Pro NRW.
Düsseldorf, capital city of the German State North-Rhine Westphalia was the location for the first meeting between mosque centers and the German police to discuss extremism among young Muslims.
The Imams and the central council for Muslims underline the necessity of Imams and Islamic representatives through dialogue and discourse when approaching young Muslims. Religious authorities would be more promising in speaking to Muslims than State authorities. State initiated “Exit programs” would deter young Muslims and offer them no incentives to discuss their motivations and frustrations.
A far-right movement in the western state North Rhine–Westphalia (Pro NRW) has initiated a German wide “Muhammad cartoon contest”, displaying provoking Muhammad cartoons in front of mosques. On May 1st, Pro NRW gathered a group of its adherents in the German city of Solingen. The German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich had previously raised concerns about these activities, which would provoke violent clashes and threaten German security.
Some 30 radical Islamist Salafists used this opportunity to protest against the anti-Islamic cartoons. The Salafist protest turned to violent confrontation, when some radical Islamists begun to attack German police by throwing stones and wielding poles from protest banners.
The federal government of North Rhine-Westphalia is planning on initiating a political forum to intensify and improve the dialogue and cooperation with Muslims and Muslim organisations. Similar to the national “Islam Conference”, the “Dialogue Forum Islam” is meant to address important issues related to Muslims, such as their structural integration, educational opportunities, and inter-religious dialogue. Chair of the forum is going to be North Rhine-Westphalia’s integration minister Guntram Schneider.
Various German newspapers report about the celebrations of Eid around the globe. As reported by the Ostthüringer Zeitung and the Ahlener Zeitung, Muslim communities in Thüringen and North Rhine Westphalia celebrate the holiday and have established ways of making sacrifices that are in line with German rules and regulations. In light of current celebrations, the central council of Muslims in Germany emphasised the importance for Muslims to contribute to the fight against prejudice; furthermore, the German non-Muslim majority had to fully accept Islam and its practices as part of German society.
In an interview with Die Welt, a national German newspaper, North Rhine-Westphalia’s former Integration Minister (2005 – 2010), Armin Laschet (CDU), has defended the freedom of speech in Germany and revealed his fear of similar attacks on German ground. According to Laschet, recent events in Norway and Breivik’s references to critiques of Islam must not lead to any taboos in talking about Islam or integration. It should be possible to criticize aspects or talk about certain deficits – yet, this should be done without creating and communicating horror scenarios (such as done by certain blogs; e.g. the blog “Politically Incorrect”). After his statements about the freedom of speech, Laschet also revealed that he was concerned about copy-cats, planning similar events in Germany.
The federal states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Saxony are planning to introduce Islamic religious education in state schools, starting at the beginning of the school year of 2012/ 2013 (as reported). The new subject is not only meant to impart knowledge and introduce children to Islamic practices, but also offers opportunities to promote tolerance and acceptance for people of different faiths. However, currently, the states are concerned about the lack of teachers to successfully implement these plans in practice.
To enable potential teachers for Islamic education to complete basic (and obligatory) university studies in theology, Federal Minister of Education and Research, Annette Schavan, is planning on introducing (and funding) Islamic Theology at four universities throughout Germany. The universities of Münster/ Osnabrück and Tübingen, for instance, offer some courses in the next academic year. Similar to the lack of teachers, the demand for lecturers and professors cannot be met domestically. Therefore, personnel will initially be recruited from abroad.
Last week, the Administrative Court in Arnsberg/ North Rhine-Westphalia had to deal with a lawsuit against the construction of a mosque (by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat Group) filed by a local resident. The presiding judge indicated very early on that the lawsuit was not likely to be successful. However, not the lawsuit filed be the resident, but changes in the development plan for the local area might impact on the plans to build the mosque. It is now the task of the local council to amend the development plans for the area – which is decisive for the Muslim community’s plans to build their mosque. While the community is awaiting a final decision, they emphasize the existing positive relations with other Christian communities in the area.