German Turks ponder “existential” election results, gain 14 MPs

Germany’s federal elections of September 24th have propelled the far-right AfD party into parliament with 13 per cent of the popular vote, making it the third-largest group in the Bundestag.

Given the AfD’s anti-immigrant and anti-Islam platform, German-Turkish political scientist Said Rezek observed that for many German Turks the AfD’s rise poses an “existential” challenge.((http://www.migazin.de/2017/09/25/bundestagswahl2017-eigeninteresse-deutscher-muslim/))

Rise of anti-immigrant ethnonationalism

At heart, the AfD’s message has been an ethnonationalist one. Throughout the electoral campaign, the party plastered Germany’s streets with billboards encouraging the birth of larger numbers of ethnically German children or castigating the spread of Islam.

On election night, AfD leader Alexander Gauland vowed that his party’s entry to the Bundestag was only the first step on the long march to “take back our country and our people” – an allusion that to many appeared to play on the AfD’s fantasy of an ethnically pure Germany.

Public façade

To be sure, when invited to certain public fora, the party leadership often strikes a different tone. In a pre-election debate with German-Tunisian rapper Bushido, founding father of the German gangster rap genre, the leading AfD politician Beatrix von Storch claimed as a matter of course that the AfD considered the rapper and his children – all of whom hold German citizenship – as an integral part of the “German people”.((https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R3juZ-CwXG8))

This façade of inclusivity is quick to unravel, however. During a post-election TV debate among the major parties’ leading candidates, Alexander Gauland complained that Germany was too ethnically mixed and that true, ethnic Germans were becoming a rarity in the country’s cities. For the AfD, “our” people is thus always pitted against the immigrant “them” living in our midst.((https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PrSk4wBArc))

German Turks go public after the elections

Against this backdrop, the voices of the targets of the AfD’s vitriol – who are often somewhat marginalised in German political discourse – have been more prominent than usual after the elections. The most vocal group in this respect have been German Turks. By virtue of their higher social capital compared to recently arrived immigrants they also serve as a proxy voice for the German Muslim community.

Many German Turks have come out with their thoughts on the elections, expressing their fears of increased discrimination, as well as their hopes that German constitutional safeguards might be able to prevent the AfD from doing more damage.((http://www.huffingtonpost.de/2017/09/27/bundestagswahl-afd-migration-migrationshintergrund-deutschland-zukunft-_n_18105126.html))

German Turks’ electoral participation

With respect to German Turks’ political participation at the ballot box on September 24th, no figures have been published yet. Joachim Schulte, analyst at the Data4U analytics company asserted that he had not been commissioned to gather data on German Turks’ voting behaviour.

After the 2013 elections, Data4U had conducted a survey among German Turkish voters at the behest of the UETD, a group with close ties to the AKP. Four years ago, 70 per cent of German Turks holding a German passport had gone to the polls. The Social Democrats had secured 64 per cent of the German Turkish vote, followed by 12 per cent for Greens and 12 per cent for The Left.((http://www.tagesspiegel.de/berlin/deutschtuerken-bei-bundestagswahl-erdogans-boykott-aufruf-blieb-unerhoert/20381760.html))

In the run-up to the 2017 elections, the persistence of these tendencies – particularly the stability of German Turks’ affiliation with the political left – had been questioned. SPD leader Martin Schulz had taken a strong stance against the accession of Turkey to the EU. Moreover, President Erdoğan had urged German Turks to boycott CDU/CSU, SPD, and Green parties for being ‘hostile to Turkey’.

Limited impact of Erdoğan’s call for boycott

Yet the fact that the pro-Erdoğan UETD has not asked Data4U (or another company) to conduct another survey might point to the fact that the Turkish President’s call for boycott went relatively unheeded among German Turkish voters.

Speaking to the Tagesspiegel newspaper, members of Berlin’s Turkish community stressed that they saw the federal elections as unconnected to events in Turkey. As a consequence, they did not feel that President Erdoğan had the authority or the qualification to issue electoral recommendations.

In North-Rhine Westphalia – home to the largest number of German Turks – the openly Erdoğanist Alliance of German Democrats (ADD) party only managed to secure 0.4 per cent of the popular vote. Many saw this as a sign that even those supportive of the Turkish President and his authoritarian turn were unwilling to put ‘Turkish’ concerns first in a German election.((http://www.tagesspiegel.de/berlin/deutschtuerken-bei-bundestagswahl-erdogans-boykott-aufruf-blieb-unerhoert/20381760.html))

Fourteen German-Turkish MPs on the left

The election also propelled fourteen German Turks to the Bundestag as parliamentarians – up from eleven after the 2013 poll. Six Social Democratic MPs, five Green party MPs, and three MPs of The Left are of Turkish extraction.

Conversely, the right-of-centre parties – Angela Merkel’s conservative CDU/CSU, the free-market Free Democrats, and the far-right AfD – field no parliamentarians of Turkish descent. Cemile Giousouf, the CDU’s first and only Muslim MP failed to gain re-election.((https://dtj-online.de/14-tuerken-ziehen-in-den-bundestag-88537))

A relatively homogeneous Bundestag

Overall, the Bundestag is still far removed from capturing the diversity of the country’s population. Of 709 MPs, only 57 (8 per cent) have a ‘migration background’ – the official bureaucratic term connoting a person with at least one foreign-born parent.

This represents a minor uptick compared to the last Bundestag; yet it is still nowhere close to equalling the 22.5 per cent of Germany’s population that have a ‘migration background’. In terms of female representation, the current Bundestag is a step backwards (mainly because of the entry of the overwhelmingly male AfD party), with only 30.7 per cent of MPs being female – the lowest share in 20 years.((http://www.taz.de/!5448373/))

Cem Özdemir as foreign minister?

Beyond this modest increase in MPs, German Turks might be able to console themselves for the AfD’s rise by pointing to the fact that Cem Özdemir, co-leader of the Green Party, is dubbed to become Foreign Minister. Özdemir and Social Democrat Leyla Onur had been the first German MPs of Turkish heritage upon their entry to parliament in 1994.((http://www.taz.de/!5448373/))

Yet Özdemir’s relationship with the German Turkish community is anything but easy. The 51-year-old has been an extremely vocal critic of the Erdoğan administration; and together with the other German Turkish MPs, he supported the ‘Armenia Resolution’ of the Bundestag in 2016: via this decision, Germany officially designated the killings of Armenians in Turkey during WWI as a genocide.((https://dtj-online.de/14-tuerken-ziehen-in-den-bundestag-88537))

The passage of the Armenia Resolution has occasioned deep rifts between German Turkish politicians and an electorate that is still strongly wedded to the Turkish national account of history. Satisfaction with having a German Turkish voice figure prominently on the German political scene is thus counterbalanced by a fear that this voice might ‘sell out’ and adopt the discourses and positions of the political mainstream.

London hate crime raises questions about media coverage

Guardian correspondent, Masuma Rahim, writes that the limited media coverage of acid attacks against South Asians is a symptom of larger media biases and the absence of minority representation in the news industry.

Rahim is, in particular, responding to a hate crime by a white man, John Tomlin, against two South Asian, Muslim relatives. Resham Kahn, who was celebrating her 21st birthday, was sitting in traffic with her cousin, Jameel Mukhtar, when Tomlin attacked. Both cousins have survived but suffered severe, life-changing injuries and disfigurement.

Mukhtar expressed frustration at low media and investigative police response. He claims these institutions would have labelled this attack as a terrorist attack if the religion/ethnicity of the victims and attacker were reversed.

Rahim writes that this attack and other similar ones should be taken more seriously as an issue that affects the whole of society and not just a minority.

Government launches reform of “Islam in France”

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Following the January terror attacks in Paris, the French government has launched a reform of the “Islam of France,” pushing for a “dialogue forum,” which is believed to better represent Muslims in their diversity.

Following the January terror attacks in Paris, the French government has launched a reform of the “Islam of France,” pushing for a “dialogue forum,” which is believed to better represent Muslims in their diversity. Government spokesman Stéphane Le Foll announced that the “dialogue forum” would be instituted by this summer, highlighting the “willingness to work to engage in in-depth discussion with Islam’s major players.” Similar to the current situation put in place for Catholicism’s leaders, the forum will meet with the Prime Minister twice annually, stated Minister of the Interior Bernard Cazeneuve.

The body will address questions such as the training of imams in France, ritual slaughter, or the security of places for worship, “with the utmost respect for the principles of secularism,” stated Mr. Cazeneuve, insisting on the “Islam’s compatibility with the Republic.”

The idea is to provide more public representation than the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) currently provides. The CFCM was created in 2003 and has been criticized for its lack of representation of France’s Muslim community, estimated to contain between 4 and 5 million people. The CFCM will continue to exist, but “it is up to [the group] to assume its place,” stated Mr. Cazeneuve.

“The CFCM will represent the majority of the new forum and will maintain a pivotal role,” stated one of its vice presidents Anouar Kbibech. Currently, meetings will be held to determine possible members: associations, intellectuals, key figures, etc. The government denies any notion of a “takeover.” The initiative remains within the boundaries of the 1905 law, and the State “has neither the authority to organize a religion nor to determine who are the right Muslims,” indicated a source.

For Mohamed-Ali Adraoui, political scientist and research at IEP-Paris, this announcement is “a Jacobin response to a more complex question. We risk quickly encountering a paradox: in a supposedly secular state where the government is not allowed to interfere in religious affairs, I’m not sure if we’re following a secular approach.”

Another expected measure in a time of “great sensitivity to radicalization,” is the training of imams and chaplains, now encouraged to obtain a university diploma of civic and civil training, which will be instituted in a dozen institutions by the end of the year.

Certain imams have “an insufficient knowledge of the language and the laws,” said Mr. Cazeneuve. The idea is to “support the beginning of a generation of imams fully integrated into the Republic.” Many of the 2,300 mosques and prayer rooms in the country do not have a permanent imam, creating a void within which self-proclaimed imams can gain influence. Other proposed measures include the development of funding for PhD students and reinforcing control of educational establishments.

The reform was long awaited, but the attacks, which prompted increased risk of stigmatization, accelerated the process. 176 Islamophobic acts were reported in January 2012, altogether more than in 2014.

Luz: “The majority of Muslims don’t care about Charlie Hebdo”

Charlie Hebdo illustrator Luz stands outside the magazine's offices after it was firebombed in 2011. (Photo: Revelli-Beaumont/SIPA/Rex Features)
Charlie Hebdo illustrator Luz stands outside the magazine’s offices after it was firebombed in 2011. (Photo: Revelli-Beaumont/SIPA/Rex Features)

Luz, the illustrator who escaped the January 7 attack at the Charlie Hebdo office, conducted a video interview with Vice. He recounts what he saw that day and discusses the magazine’s controversial headline.

“I was really lucky. It was my anniversary on January 7 and I stayed in bed with my wife for a long time. As a result, I was stupidly late to the meeting. When I arrived at Charlie, I saw people who stopped me and whole told me ‘Don’t go in there, there are two armed men who just entered the building.’”

Luz saw the two terrorists leave and reenter the building several minutes later. “I began to see traces of bloody footsteps. I understood after: it was the blood of my friends. I saw there were people on the ground. I saw a friend face down on the ground.” He continues between sobs: “They needed belts to stop the bleeding. I realized I didn’t have a belt. So now I wear belts.”

Since the attack there has been controversy surrounding the representation of Muhammad. Several demonstrations against the magazine have occurred in the Muslim world. “I think that the majority of Muslims don’t care about Charlie Hebdo,” says Luz. “I think that people who assume the right to say that the entire Muslim community was offended are people who take Muslims to be idiots.” He adds that it’s “sad” that newspapers such as The New York Times decided not to publish the cover.

Teacher admits campaign to install Muslim staff at schools

A senior teacher at the centre of an alleged plot by religious hard-liners to seize control of governing bodies has admitted that there was a campaign to install Muslims in leading roles at schools in Birmingham. Nearly 20 schools in the city are currently being investigated over claims that male and female pupils were segregated, sex education banned and extremist clerics praised in assemblies.

 

Speaking anonymously to Channel 4 News on Sunday night, the teacher admitted there was a campaign to assert more Muslim influence in schools, describing it as “a very positive thing”. He said: “This is about the proportion of representation and leadership on boards of schools that serve predominantly Muslim children. These teachers and leaders have a deeper understanding of the view of the population in these schools. I think the needs of Muslim children have been neglected for many, many years. There even school in areas with high Muslim population that do not serve halal meat, for example.”

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.

Local chapters of the French Council for the Muslim Cult refuse reforms.

Vitre Ma Ville

16.04.2013

In an interview with the President of the Regional Council of the Muslim Cult in Bretagne (CRCM), Mustafa Aslan, he expresses  how the recent reforms made by the national chapter of the French Council for the Muslim Cult (CFCM) are rejected by a number of local chapters. The reforms do, according to Aslan, present an unjust representation of the Muslim community in France. Accordingly, 50% of the administration of the council is appointed by the federation without reforms, which possibly negatively impacts  the regional member representation and participation. Regional members will be marginalized despite holding long lasting mandates that were determined prior to the reforms voted on in the general assembly in February. The marginalization of regional representatives is accused to function in favour of those, who are closely associated with the larger urban organisations.

The reforms were past on February 23rd in the general assembly of the CFCM, which consists of a three party alliance made up between the Grand Mosque of Paris, the RMF and UOIF.

The Veil in Islam: A free and Informed Choice

By Erika Farris

March 11, 2013

 

This article discusses women and the veil. In particular the story focuses on Khalida El Khatir, born in Morocco in 1984 her father moved to Trentino for work. She makes the point that the ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi has acted in a way that subjugates women. The veil is not a representation of oppression or subjection and Islam cannot be reduced to fanatics. This is a stance seen in the video “Life Beyond the Veil” from the website series Italian Letters.

Prince Charles and The Duchess of Cornwall on royal visit to Saudi Arabia

The Prince and Duchess were in Saudi Arabia as part of their Middle East Tour. Camilla met 30 women recently made MP’s by King Abdullah, stating “they were ‘blazing such a trail’ for women’s rights”. With one reportedly responding “You coming here is an endorsement of what is happening”. The visit will also bring up Saudi Arabia’s human rights record which is seen as a priority for the royal visitors. The execution of seven prisoners convicted of armed robbery last week and their claims of torture, trials without representation the most recent to occur. Both will attend separate segregated banquets. “The Duchess attending a women-only banquet thrown in her honour by HRH Princess Hessa Bint Trad Al Shaalan, the King’s second – and favourite – wife of four, who acts as his official consort.” With Prince Charles attending a similar all male function thrown in his honour by the King of Saudi Arabia.

 

Report describes the participation of UK Muslims in governance

31 January 2013

 

One of the most comprehensive studies to date on UK Muslim-government relations, entitled “Muslim Participation in Contemporary Governance”, describes how British Muslims have been taking part in governance in the three policy fields of equality, diversity and cohesion; faith sector governance; and security. It describes how modes of Muslim representation have developed into a broader ‘democratic constellation’.

 

The report, published by Centre for the Study and Citizenship at University of Bristol, included an analysis of public policy since 1997, a total of 112 interviews with key policymakers and Muslim civil society actors, and in-depth local case studies of Birmingham, Leicester, and Tower Hamlets, London.

 

According to the report, Muslims have become increasingly visible in governance recently. This inevitably led to the debates regarding “Muslim identities, alliances, rights, claims-making and the place of Muslims and Islam within the West.” The report highlights that the current visibility of Muslims in British politics is also a result of the increasing activism of Muslims.

click here for full report