German Islamic associations and their mosques between political demands and institutional deadlock

The role for mosques after recent attacks

The German government’s Commissioner for Migration, Aydan Özoğuz (SPD), has called on the country’s mosques to be more proactive in preventing radicalisation among young Muslims. Mosques could make an important contribution to signalling the presence of extremist, or so Özoğuz argued.((https://www.tagesschau.de/inland/oezuguz-moscheevereine-101.html))

Her intervention comes after Germany has been shaken by two ISIS-linked attacks – the first ones on its territory – in late July: first, a 17-year old Afghan refugee injured several people by assaulting them on a train with a knife and an axe; subsequently, a Syrian man killed himself without injuring others in a suicide-style attack outside a music festival. In both cases, video material and pledges of allegiance were released by the Islamic State’s Amaq news agency.

The political debate surrounding DITIB and its mosques

Even prior to these attacks, however, the political debate surrounding German mosques and their position in de-radicalisation efforts had become more and more heated. For decades, national politicians and local authorities had been happy to delegate responsibility for the religious needs of the large and predominantly Turkish Muslim population to DITIB, an offshoot of the Turkish Presidency for Religious Affairs (Diyanet).

With recent diplomatic and political woes between Germany and Turkey on the rise, however, the old reliance on DITIB now appears problematic, with DITIB seen as a potential Trojan horse under the command of President Erdoğan. Numerous German politicians have voiced fears that the Turkish government could use DITIB’s close to 1000 imams to advance its own agenda and thereby influence Turkish-German Muslims, inducing them not only to favour Erdoğan’s authoritarian policies but also what his increasingly conservative stance on religious matters.

Leading Green Party politician Cem Özdemir, for instance, has lauded the social and welfare activism of individual members of DITIB mosques but denounced DITIB and its Imams as “a prolonged arm of the Turkish state”. The Social Democratic mayor the Neukölln district in Berlin, an area often in the spotlight in public debates on issues of integration has voiced her unease about “foreign-directed mosque associations” and criticised Imams who “are not formed according to the German understanding of fundamental values and have not grown up here”.((http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/islam-in-deutschland-predigen-aus-der-tuerkei-entsandte-imame-1.2963893))

Unresolved questions about the institutional position of Islam

These issues touch upon a raw nerve in ongoing debates about the institutionalisation of Islam in the German constitutional-legal framework. While the German Basic Law allows religious communities to exercise wide ranging prerogatives (including the right to oversee religious instruction in state schools, as well as the right to control the training of religious practitioners), in the case of the Muslim communities in the country, this institutionalisation process has been dogged by numerous political and procedural difficulties. Consequently, the (Sunni) Muslim religious infrastructure in the country is still comparatively weak, in spite of the progress of recent years.

Yet in the current political and security climate, a growing number of demands is placed on this underdeveloped infrastructure: Muslim associations are asked to develop a ‘liberal Islam’ or a ‘state Islam’, compatible with the Basic Law and German values.((http://www.euro-islam.info/2016/03/01/a-peoples-islam-volksislam-as-an-enrichment-breaking-linguistic-taboos-in-the-german-political-debate/)) They are, in Özoğuz’s words, tasked with detecting and combating radicalisation. And they are, ultimately, supposed to become fora in which a positive, meaningful and theologically sophisticated Muslim spirituality is elaborated and allowed to grow.((http://dtj-online.de/islam-versus-dschihadismus-wir-machen-propaganda-fuer-den-is-77574))

Vicious cycle of mistrust and underdevelopment

These abstract exhortations do not, however, necessarily translate into real progress. To be sure, at the local level, especially where conditions are favourable and financing available, there are many initiatives that bring together administrations, civil society broadly conceived, and Muslim communities.

However, at the national level and in larger political discourse, no viable path forward has been offered: On the one hand, large Muslim associations and their mosques have been treated with ongoing suspicion and thus remained shut out of existing political, fiscal, and legal frameworks. On the other hand, the fact that that they remain outside of these frameworks reinforces their ‘otherness’, which justifies their continued marginalisation: Because they are not ‘insiders’ of the German scene, they continue to depend e.g. on foreign financing (for instance from the Turkish state).

Thus, mistrust invites marginalisation, and marginalisation invites mistrust. If Aydan Özoğuz’s demand that mosques and Muslim communities play a greater role in the prevention of radicalisation is to be taken seriously, then this vicious cycle needs to be broken. Calling upon mosques and communities to develop answers to pressing questions is right and important, yet they must also be structurally enabled to deliver these answers.

Sarkozy and Juppé clash over Islam in France

Source: http://www.lefigaro.fr/politique/le-scan/citations/2016/06/14/25002-20160614ARTFIG00060-couple-de-policiers-tue-entre-emotion-et-colere-les-politiques-reagissent.php

June 13, 2016

 

The two leading contenders to be the mainstream right’s candidate in next year’s French presidential election have clashed over France’s relations with its Muslim population. After former president Nicolas Sarkozy denounced the “tyranny of minorities” in a speech last week, his chief rival, Alain Juppé, warned that judging Islam incompatible with the nation’s values would lead to civil war.

 

Although Sarkozy has not yet officially declared his candidacy, few doubt that he will stand in the forthcoming primary of his Republicans party and the press judged a speech he made in northern France last week to be a key step in his campaign.

 

“In the years ahead what will be left of France?” he asked a hall that was only half full, although with some 40 MPs in attendance. “That’s the first challenge. The greatest. The most fundamental.”

 

The former president called on the French people to “wake up” to defend the national identity in the face of the “abdication of the elites”.

 

A “tyranny of minorities” is “forcing the republic further into retreat each day”, he went on, declaring France to be a “Christian country” that must be “respected … by those who wish to live in it.”

 

Those minorities include demonstrating school students, militant environmentalists, vandals on demonstrations and a “handful of radical Islamists”, who left-wing multiculturalists have allowed to dictate that individual rights take precedence over “rules that should hold for all”, Sarkozy said.

 

Then he took a sideswipe at Juppé.

The “new ruling ideology” has infected some on the right, Sarkozy claimed.

“It has struck surreptitiously, singing the sweet melody of ‘sensible accomodations’,” – a reference to his Juppé’s call for dialogue with French Muslims and integration of immigrants rather than the more thoroughgoing assimilation that Sarkozy has called for.

 

Juppé, a former prime minister who is now mayor of Bordeaux, hit back on Sunday on his blog and on television, calling for “diversity in unity.”

 

“I don’t want an identity that is unhappy, fearful, anxious, almost neurotic,” he wrote on his blog. “For me identity doesn’t mean exclusion or rejection of the other”, pointing out that all the French “do not have the same origins, the same skin color, the same religion or beliefs” and declaring this “a treasure, a strength.”

 

On the TF1 TV channel Juppé declared that there are “two possible attitudes” to Islam in France.

 

“If one considers that Islam is by definition incompatible, insoluble with the republic, that means civil war,” he warned, advocating a “reading of the Koran and a practice of the religion that is compatible with the laws of the republic”, including the equality of men and women.

 

Juppé has spoken out against Sarkozy’s calls for extending the ban on the Muslim hijab now in force in schools to universities and banning of halal alternative meals in school canteens.

 

His earlier calls for tolerance have led to a hate campaign on social media, Juppé said.

 

“They call me ‘Ali Juppé’, described as the Grand Mufti of Bordeaux, they are writing everywhere that I’m spending a fortune of financing a huge mosque in Bordeaux, which doesn’t exist and will not exist,” he told TF1.

 

In reality, he has called for changes to some Muslims’ behavior, calling for imams to preach in French and to have degrees in French history and laws, and wants a special police force to monitor radicalization in France’s prisons.

 

The row is a sign that Sarkozy will return to attacking “communitarism” during the Republicans primary and the presidential campaign, as he did in the 2007 and 2012 campaigns, in part inspired by Patrick Buisson, a hard-right journalist who pushed him to bid for National Front votes.

 

Last week’s speech was partly written by Camille Pascal, a contributor to the hard-right magazine Valeurs Actuelles and was hailed by some of his allies as an attempt to engage Juppé on terrain that Sarkozy considers favorable to himself.

 

Although opinion polls show Juppé the most popular candidate for the presidency among the general public at the moment, he first has to convince the right-wing faithful to adopt him as candidate.

 

Whoever is chosen will want to attract voters tempted by the National Front in the first round of the presidential election and, according to the polls, could face the far-right party’s Marine Le Pen in a second round that is likely to provide evidence of the rejection of the political establishment that has affected much of the world recently.

 

National Front vice-president Louis Aliot weighed into the debate on Monday, declaring that there is a “problem of accountability between the religion [of Islam] in itself and the republic’s laws” and calling on Muslims to “adapt to republican rules.”

Legislators pass bill that had been nixed over Islamic law

BOISE, Idaho — The Idaho Legislature approved federally mandated child support rules Monday, undoing a rejection that had jeopardized U.S. involvement in an international treaty and threatened to collapse the state’s payment system.

Idaho’s rejection last month — by one vote on the last day of the legislative session over fears it could subject the U.S. courts to rulings made elsewhere under Islamic law — threatened an international effort intended to make it easier for parents to receive funds.

NY Times Op Ed: Free Speech vs. Hate Speech

There is no question that images ridiculing religion, however offensive they may be to believers, qualify as protected free speech in the United States and most Western democracies. There is also no question that however offensive the images, they do not justify murder, and that it is incumbent on leaders of all religious faiths to make this clear to their followers.

But it is equally clear that the Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest in Garland, Tex., was not really about free speech. It was an exercise in bigotry and hatred posing as a blow for freedom.

French Muslims defend Christians from the East

The French Council of the Muslim Faith came to the defense of Christians from the East, denouncing the “barbarity” of jihadists and a “crime against humanity” in a solemn appeal made at the Great Mosque of Paris.

“The Call of Paris,” will be followed by responses on September 12 in every French mosque and in Europe during the Friday prayer. The organizers also expect to host an international conference in Paris in which religious and political leaders will gather “to adopt strong resolutions” against jihadist violence.

The signatories include Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Great Mosque of Paris and President of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, and Patrick Karam, president of Coordination for Eastern Christians in Danger (Chredo.)

The Call affirms the “inalienable right of our Christian brothers in the East to stay and live in their land with the dignity and security to practice their faith in freedom.” In The Figaro, Boubakeur refutes in advance “cynical pouts about the alleged impotence of such a call.” “We are now in a cultural war. With the force of arms, we oppose the spiritual strength and power of the mind,” he said.

Minister of the Interior Bernard Cazeneuve applauded this initiative which “bears witness to the capacity of religions to unite for human rights and the values of the Republic.”

“It is a firm denial to those who wish to create amalgamations between terrorism and the Muslim religion at the risk of pitting Frenchmen against one another,” he wrote in a statement.

Valls: The Republic stands alongside Muslims

June 26, 2014

Prime Minister Manuel Valls stated, “It’s up to Muslims themselves to act, to refuse fundamentalism and radicalism, which use religion to spread hate and terror. And in this fight—and I want to acknowledge the beautiful text published by the French Council of the Muslim Faith, the Republic will always be on their side.”

His support was voiced at the exposition “Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca” presented at the Arab World Institute in Paris. Valls presented in front of several prominent Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders.

“This is a nation that recognizes the greatness and diversity of Islam,” said Valls. “This is a nation that also says that Islam has its place in France, because Islam is a religion of tolerance, of respect, a religion of light and of the future, miles away from those who twist and corrupt its message,” he stated.

The Prime Minister affirmed that “as in each year,” he would have the opportunity to meet Muslims at the meal breaking the fast during the month of Ramadan.

He promised to send Muslims “A message of confidence; a message which underscores that France is a land of freedom that respects all beliefs, and one that considers the fact that Islam is the second largest religion as an opportunity for France.”

New draft law for dual citizenship

March 30, 2014

 

The central council for Muslims assesses the new draft law for dual citizenship as a relevant and right step for migrants. Aiman Mazyek chair of the council interpreted the law as an important step towards modern citizenship, but regretted that the law would not apply to a large part of the migration community. Senior and retired migrants would not be subject of the new draft.

The CDU/ SPD led government has agreed to disclaim the “option duty”, which requires migrants to choose between one citizenship. The new draft will grant children of non-German parents to keep both citizenships, given that until the age of 21, they have lived for at least eight years in Germany or visited German school for at least for six years. Up to now, children born and/or raised in Germany, possessing the German and a further passport are obliged to choose for one citizenship at the end of their 23 age. This law mainly applies to German-Turkish children, which are the largest ethnic minority in the Federal Republic of Germany.

 

Central council for Muslime: http://islam.de/23441

European conundrum: Integration of Muslims or securitisation of Islam?

December 2, 2013

 

Across Europe, the general feeling is that integration of Muslim immigrants has failed and that multicultural policies are responsible for this failure.

However, a closer look at data on integration of Muslims reveals a more nuanced reality, writes Jocelyne Cesari, Senior Research Fellow at the Berkley Center of Georgetown University and Director of the Islam in the West programme at Harvard University.

First, it is important to distinguish between socio-economic, cultural and political integration.

On the economic front, the results are daunting. Despite the emergence of a Muslim middle class, the high number of Muslims in lower socio-economic groups is reaching the point that some talk of a Muslim underclass.

This means that Muslims are affected by lower social mobility and persistent discrimination, even when their levels of education or resources are comparable to other immigrant groups. In other words, discrimination seems to exist for immigrants or citizens with a Muslim background.

When it comes to political integration however, data gathered across European countries show that Muslims do participate politically and on some occasions even more so than their ‘non-Muslim’ peers. They also present specific features. For example, they tend to participate less in formal politics (vote/party membership) than in informal political activity like civic action or voluntary work.

Muslims also display higher left-leaning political identification than their non-Muslim fellow citizens.

The most striking finding is that they not only identify themselves highly with Islam, but also to European citizenship. The opposite is true for non-Muslims who do not express the same attachment to their religious tradition. This difference does not exist in the United States, where Muslims perform at the same level as other religious groups when it comes to religious self-identification.

Therefore, the alarming political discourse on the lack of cultural and religious integration of Muslims is ill-placed.

The perception of Islam as a threat is one reason for this gap between the social reality of Muslims and the political discourse on Islam. Anti-terrorism and security concerns fuel a desire to compromise liberties and restrict Islam from the public space.

The outcome is an increasing securitisation of Islam that includes a number of actions through which the normal rule of law is suspended in favour of exceptional measures. This is justified by extraordinary situations that threaten the survival of the political community.

This securitisation aims to respond to Islam as if it were an existential threat and therefore justifies extraordinary measures to contain it. Securitisation of Islam is discernible in speech and rhetoric, such as the justification for the War on Terror and the persistent linking of Islam with political violence.

Our research shows, however, that securitisation not only encompasses speech acts but also administrative and political measures not directly related to terrorism. For example, limitations on Islamic practices (minarets, the hijab, the burqa, male circumcision) as well as the restriction of immigration and citizenship. In this regard, these measures reinforce the perception of Islam and Muslims as ‘others within the West’.

Consequently, Muslims are under increased political scrutiny and control, especially those who assert their religious affiliation through their dress and engagement in public religious activities. Furthermore, the signs of these activities, such as mosques and minarets, have become highly suspect. In these conditions, not only radical groups are seen as a threat but also all visible aspects of the Islamic religion.

Securitisation of Islam regards Islam as a monolithic ideology spreading from Europe all the way to Iraq and Afghanistan. According to this perception, Muslims are determined by history and fit a mold from which they cannot escape. They are defined by their so-called conformity to the past and their inability to address the current challenges of political development and liberal religious thinking.

This perception justifies the imaginary creation of an insurmountable boundary between modern and pre-modern times, between secularism and Islam, and therefore supports exceptional political measures to fight against supposedly anti-modern and anti-Western forces. It leaves very little space for Islam in liberal democracies and it fuels the extreme polarisation of Islam versus the West on which European and Muslim extremist groups thrive.

One way to overcome the exclusion of Muslims in the West would be to include Islam in the narratives of European countries through a reframing of national history textbooks to locate this religious tradition and its diverse cultures within the boundaries of each national community. Another proven way to increase the legitimacy of any given group is through greater political representation in mainstream institutions (political parties, assemblies, and governmental agencies). Concrete action on these ideas has yet to materialise.

 

World Review: http://www.worldreview.info/content/european-conundrum-integration-muslims-or-securitisation-islam

Young Muslims in Germany ”Berlin Needs You!”

While the debate about Muslim integration in Europe sometimes seems dominated by fears and division, Berlin-based writer Julia Hoffmann highlights one German effort to help promote diversity in the public sector

“Islam is not a part of Germany” read a headline in the German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung before the start of a high-profile conference on Islam sponsored by Germany’s Ministry of the Interior. Headlines like these show how controversial political discourse on Muslim integration is in Germany.

But these do not represent the whole reality of Muslim integration in the country. There are many examples of initiatives on both local and regional levels that are successfully addressing integration in Germany – especially when it comes to young people.

One of these initiatives is “Berlin needs you!”, a campaign borne out of the need to support immigrant youth, including 2nd and 3rd generation immigrants, in Berlin. The majority of participants come from Muslim backgrounds, and the programme helps them navigate the German vocational training system and find careers in the public sector.