German Islamic organisations publish an “electoral compass” for Muslim voters

In preparation for the upcoming federal elections on September 24th, three German Muslim institutions have joined hands in order to provide an electoral guidance on topics of particularly high relevance to the country’s Muslim population.

The Islamische Zeitung newspaper (IZ), the German Muslim League (DML), and the Central Council of Muslims in Germany (ZMD) have published the “German-Muslim Electoral Compass”. The Compass is based on a questionnaire sent to Germany’s major parties. All of them – bar the openly Islamophobic AfD – replied, allowing a broad comparison of different parties’ approaches.

An alliance bypassing the Turkish associations

IZ, DML, and ZMD had already published the Electoral Compass ahead of the last two federal elections. Yet the fact that these particular three players have joined hands again reflects not only their established patterns of cooperation. It is also indicative of ongoing schisms within Germany’s Muslim community.

In fact, both the IZ and the DML have their roots among German converts to Islam. Traditionally, they are politically and ideologically sceptical of the large traditionalist Turkish-dominated Islamic umbrella organisations (such as DİTİB, VIKZ, and IRD/IGMG).((For an academic study of the difficult relationship between ethnically German converts to Islam and the majority of Germany’s ethnically Turkish and Kurdish Muslims, see Esra Özyürek (2015), Being German, Becoming Muslim: Race, Religion and Conversion in the New Europe, Princeton: Princeton University Press. ))

Vying for political influence

This makes IZ and DML excellent allies of the ZMD, a predominantly non-Turkish Islamic association whose ambitious chairman Aiman Mazyek has striven for a long time to dethrone the Turkish organisations as the leading representatives of Islam in Germany.

With President Erdoğan having called upon German Turks to boycott the established parties,((https://dtj-online.de/erdogan-zu-deutsch-tuerken-waehlt-nicht-die-tuerkeifeindliche-cdu-spd-oder-die-gruenen-872222 )) Islamic associations with strong ties to the Turkish state are in no position to engage in a political dialogue ahead of the election. The ZMD with Aiman Mazyek has gladly used the opportunity and mounted a flashy advert campaign calling upon Muslims to vote on September 24th.(( http://islam.de/29128 ))

Broad-ranging questionnaire

Topics covered in the “Electoral Compass” include general questions on Islam and religious freedom, racism and Islamophobia, hijab bans, dual citizenship, as well as foreign policy issues (notably arms exports, relations with Turkey, and the German army’s deployment in Afghanistan).(( The questionnaire and parties’ responses are available at http://deutsch-muslimischer-wahlkompass.de/. ))

Overall, the differences between the parties’ responses are gradual yet noteworthy, if not too surprising in their content. Commenting on the results of the “Compass”, Stefan Sulaiman Wilms, editor in chief of the IZ, noted that parties had shown different positions on Islam and Muslim life, ranging from “liberal” to “conservative”.

Yet Wilms was contented to observe that no party had “shown a fundamental resentment against our way of living” and that all had declared their wish to “protect and respect our civic rights.”(( https://www.islamische-zeitung.de/irgendwo-zwischen-konkretem-und-allgemeinem/ ))

Does Islam belong to Germany?

Particularly striking about Chancellor Merkel’s CDU/CSU was its continuous stress on the need for an Islamic practice in line with “our fundamental liberal-democratic order”. The CDU/CSU also implicitly refused to endorse the statement that ‘Islam belongs to Germany’, although Muslims do.

This touches upon a long-standing debate, in which Conservatives have regularly emphasised the notion that while Muslims may belong to German society, ‘Islam’ cannot be part of a country that is exclusively defined by its ‘Judeo-Christian’ traditions.

State “neutrality” and the headscarf

Other potential conflicts revolve around the notion of ‘state neutrality’ emphasised by the economically liberal FDP: ‘neutrality’ clauses have often been interpreted as necessitating a ban on hijabs in public functions or at the workplace.

The CDU/CSU, as well as the Greens stressed their commitment to anti-discrimination but also greeted the ECHR’s recent ruling that allows employers to prohibit employees from wearing hijabs at work. By contrast, The Left – perhaps surprisingly for a staunchly socialist and hence atheist party – was most clear-cut in its rejection of hijab bans.

Disagreements on dual citizenship

Another dividing line opened up on the issue of dual citizenship. The Social Democrats renewed their commitment to the status quo of the nationality law enacted under the red-green coalition in 2000. This reform had eased the acquisition of German citizenship and had also created some possibilities to hold two passports.

In the “Electoral Compass”, the Greens and The Left advocated a more far-reaching liberalisation of citizenship provisions, further facilitating the acquisition of a second nationality. By contrast, CDU/CSU and FDP restated their willingness to introduce a “generational cut” – i.e. provisions that would force children to choose one passport over the other after the second generation (in the case of the CDU/CSU proposals) or the fourth generation (in the case of the plan put forward by the FDP).

Lack of questions on jihadism, counter-terrorism

A noteworthy omission from the survey were any questions dealing with the phenomenon of jihadism. Perhaps IZ, DML, and ZMD did not want to entrench the linkage between ‘Islam’ and ‘terrorism’ by touching upon the subject; perhaps they were of the opinion that the issue is already overrepresented in the media or that the current jihadist violence is inherently ‘un-Islamic’.

Yet it is surely a question of great interest to Muslim voters how different parties think about this issues. It might allow an interested electorate to gauge the stance different parties might take in the face of future attacks – for instance with respect to potentially discriminatory anti-terrorism legislation.

Equally, it would have been welcome to see the parties forced to take a clear-cut position on their willingness to enhance inter-religious dialogue and to foster existing de-radicalisation strategies. These are, after all, initiatives that would also benefit Muslims and their position in society.

No Muslim “pressure group”

On a critical note, the IZ’s chief editor Stefan Sulaiman Wilms noted that especially CDU/CSU, SPD, and Greens had remained relatively general in their answers to the “Compass”. Only The Left, he observed, had given more concrete indications on how it wished to support German Muslims in practical, everyday matters ranging from anti-discrimination to halal slaughtering.

For Wilms, the vagueness of parties’ responses is also due to a failure of German Muslims to organise and to constitute themselves as an effective lobbying group. He asserted that

“for some years, the activist discourse of some Muslims has focused a lot on empowerment. Yet so far this does not amount to anything more than the financing or funding of isolated projects. Unfortunately, we are not perceived by politicians as noteworthy addressees whose concerns could be electorally relevant.”(( https://www.islamische-zeitung.de/irgendwo-zwischen-konkretem-und-allgemeinem/ ))

Call for more civil society activism

Wilms thus called upon his brothers and sisters in faith to step up their civic and societal engagement. German Muslims could only make themselves an incontrovertible political player by become organised and more socially involved. Their disproportionately strong charitable activism in the domain of refugee and asylum aid showed German Muslims’ potential, or so Wilms argued.(( https://www.islamische-zeitung.de/irgendwo-zwischen-konkretem-und-allgemeinem/ ))

Indeed, German Muslims’ socio-political activism as well as their religious organisations are in urgent need of professionalisation. Both social involvement and the provision of religious goods are still overwhelmingly done on a voluntary basis. With central organisational capacities underfunded and understaffed, Muslims’ public voice and political impact continue to be limited.

Need for political engagement

Against the backdrop of these limitations, Cemile Giousouf argues that German Muslims should not devote all their energies to civil society activism only. In an interview with the JUMA network – with JUMA standing for Young, Muslim, Active – Giousouf urged Muslims to help influence the political process by joining political parties.

Giousouf, who is the CDU/CSU’s first Muslim member of the Bundestag, asserted that Muslims would have to engage more directly with the intricacies of policymaking in order to effectuate more durable change: “It is decisive that your [i.e. young Muslims’] concerns become part of everyday political work and are not only formulated in Muslim civil society initiatives”, Giousouf observed. (( http://www.juma-ev.de/2017/09/ich-finde-es-schade-wenn-religion-als-uncool-bewertet-wird-cemile-giousouf-integrationsbeauftragte-der-cducsu/ ))

As of now, roughly 1,000 Muslims have become members of the CDU/CSU.((https://www.islamische-zeitung.de/muslime-und-die-wahl-es-fehlt-an-daten/ )) It remains to be seen whether Cemile Giousouf’s party as well as other political players will gradually become the home of a more distinctly Muslim voice.

In 2015: UK government delayed Muslim Brotherhood classification

In light of the American consideration of classifying the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation, we share this 2015 UK news about the British experience on this topic. 

In 2015, British then-Prime Minister David Cameron pulled a report which was expected to say that the Muslim Brotherhood is not terrorist organisation. The government likely did not publish the report because it would have hurt the UK’s relationship with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates, countries which have all banned the Muslim Brotherhood and consider it to be a terrorist organisation.

Chris Doyle, the director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding, critiqued the unpublished report for being too political and for possibly contributing to the stigmatisation of Muslims within the UK.

Dutch Muslim news paper to publish glossy of the prophet Muhammed

The Dutch Muslims new paper called Moslimkrant has announced that it will publish a glossy on the Prophet Muhammed. The Muslim news paper writes: “The glossy magazine Muhammed will be about the different faces of Muhammed. Muhammed the husband and father, the general and strategist, the trader and merchant, the strict protector of norms and the emphatic bon vivant, just and charitable. Muhammed was all of them.”

The reason for the making this glossy by the Dutch Muslim newspaper are the continuing misconceptions and minimal knowledge on the Prophet, according to the main editor Brahim Bourzik. “In 63 full color pages articles explain the relationship of the Prophet’s various roles and the current dilemma’s and people in today’s Nethelands. Additionally the glossy Mohammed will provide recipes for delicious meals inspired by the live of the Prophet. They will be liked by Dutch people of all colors, Muslims and non-Muslims!” the editor stated.

The publication is aimed to be during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

An interview on the glossy Mohammed can be seen via this link (in Dutch): http://www.republiekallochtonie.nl/moslimkrant-maakt-glossy-magazine-over-profeet-mohammed

Tackling Radicalisation of Young British Muslims (VIDEO)

17 February 2011

The Government is to publish its review of Britain’s strategy to stop young British Muslims becoming radicalised and potentially committing terrorist acts. State money has been given to voluntary groups to help protect vulnerable youngsters from terrorist recruiters and the coalition might change the way projects are delivered. BBC spoke to former Communities Secretary Hazel Blears MP, and Hanif Qadir of the Active Change Foundation.

Franciscans publish imam’s book on Allah and his prophets

Yahya Pallavicini, imam of the mosque al-Wahid in Milan, vice-president of the Italian Islamic Religious Community and founder of the International Committee of Imams, and Rabbis and Christians for Peace UNESCO in Paris, has decided to publish his last book “The Merciful. Allah and his Prophets” with a major catholic publishing house in Italy, Edizioni Messaggero.

It is a strong choice in a country that fights the veil and mosques. In Veneto, worshipping space is denied to Muslims and non-catholic religious symbols aren’t accepted. Pallavicini believes that courage is necessary to enhance dialogue, the only way to overcome isolation, prejudices and contrasts.

Spreading knowledge about Allah’s prophets (the same for Muslims, Jewish and Catholics), discusses how to foster integration while avoiding suspicion, fear and ignorance about different traditions. The book tries to facilitate the encounter of two worlds. Following what San Francesco once said regarding the Crusades: “We don’t have to go against anybody, rather we have to go among everybody”, the book seeks to meet the Others upon ideas of mercy and dialogue.

Norwegian Aftenposten re-publishes the Danish cartoons

After a week of debate Aftenposten decided to re-publish the Danish cartoons Friday 8. The recent attack on cartoonist Kurt Westergaard brings the re-publication of the cartoons up tp date, says aftenpostens editor in chief Hilde Haugsgjerd. -We’ve all the time defended the right to publish the drawings, and we published a facsimile of them in the beginning of the conflict in 2005. When the conflict escalated and turned international in 2006 we refrained from publishing them.

To publish or not to publish…opposing opinions concerning caricatures

In Norway the debate on the so called Muhammad cartoons is back on the agenda as a result of the January 1 attack on Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard.

Per Edgar Kokkvold, secretary general of the Norwegian Press Association, is critical of the general decision among Norwegian newspapers not to publish the caricatures. Not to publish the “harmless drawings is not to show respect of Muslim belief, but to bow down in fear of Islamist terror;” Kokkvold says. “The freedom of speech and religion is of such fundamental significance to our way of life that it is of utmost importance to draw the line,” he continues.

Akhtar Chaudhry, vice president of the Norwegian Parliament, says the attack on Westergaard is repelling, and an unacceptable attack on the freedom of speech. Even so, Chaudhry believes it is wrong to publish the caricatures in Norwegian newspapers and asks everyone to keep their calm and reconsider their responsibility not to arouse feelings that might contribute to tensions between different groups in society.

French commission set to publish recommendations on burqa in January 2010

This article points to the rise in popularity of the National Front in the polls alongside the Swiss minaret ban, in the context of the commission on niqab and burqa-use in France headed by André Gerin. It will make its recommendations in January 2010.

Dutch-Moroccans publish manifesto on youth criminality

A group of 38 Dutch-Moroccan professionals and organizations has published a manifesto calling for the cessation of criminality among Moroccan youths, intended to break the passivity in their community regarding crime among young Dutch people of Moroccan descent.

The group says it wants to increase awareness of the high crime rate among young Dutch-Moroccans being a major social problem for which their own community needs to take responsibility. The manifesto states that “our society is increasingly confronted with crime and violence committed by young Dutch-Moroccans…The criminal behavior of these young people has led to Dutch people of Moroccan descent increasingly being regarded as second-rate citizens, who more and more often are merely being tolerated, rather than accepted. In addition, the violent behavior of these young people is taking on ever more serious forms and claiming an increasing number of victims.”

The signatories plan to meet regularly to advise organisations and policy-making officials. Social worker Ibrahim Wijbenga says: “We want to emphasize that Dutch-Moroccan juvenile delinquents are not just our problem, they are a burden on society as a whole but receive too little quality attention… We lose more young people to crime than to Salafism.”

Controversy Over Novel About Muhammad’s Bride Continues

U.S. publishing company Random House will not publish a planned novel by Sherry Jones, called “The Jewel of Medina,” that was expected to hit stores on August 12th. The Islamically-themed novel explores Aisha, the child bride of the prophet Muhammad, who overcame a number of obstacles to reach her potential as a revered woman and leader in Islam. Random House said that it has been advised that the fictional novel, might be offensive to some Muslims, and “could incite acts of violence by a small, radical segment.” “The Jewel of Medina” traces the life of Aisha, who is often cited to have been Muhammad’s favorite wife, and is believed to have been engaged to the prophet from the age of six. Muslim writer and feminist Asra Nomani published a column in the Wall Street Journal, saying that she was “saddened” by the book’s scrapping, saying that the move is “a window into how quickly fear stunts intelligent discourse about the Muslim world.” Others, including Denise Spellberg, a professor from the University of Texas in Austin, said that the book was “ugly,” “stupid,” and was “soft core pornography.” The decision to indefinitely delay the novel’s release was made in consideration for the safety of the author, employees of the publisher, booksellers, and others involved in the distribution or sale of the novel.

See full-text articles:

Chronicle of Higher Education

Washington Post

The Guardian

United Press International

BBC

The Telegraph