Meeting Muslims, senior German affirms need for religion

German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble praised religious values as an antidote to the world economic crisis, at a meeing with Muslim leaders Monday. “The crisis has demonstrated what happens when values are no longer followed,” he told the seminar in the town hall of the southern German city of Regensburg. The meeting was a continuation of three years of official consultations between the government and Islamic leaders on how to ease friction and offer Islam classes in public schools to Muslim pupils. Speaking on how a secular system works, Schaeuble said it was not up to the state to ordain moral values. Rather it was faith groups who made a major contribution to the community by instilling moral values. He added that Germany did not privilege any one faith, adding, “A secular state is based on openness to all faiths.” The minister repeated his support for Islam classes in public schools nationwide. But he said it was up to the different Islamic organizations to settle among themselves the terms for such classes. He added that universities would need professors of Islamic education to train the teachers. The choice of Regensburg for the meeting was significant for many Muslims, as it is the hometown of Pope Benedict XVI, who upset many Muslims with a lecture at another venue, the city university, in 2006.

German interior minister speaks in Cairo on Muslim integration

In a speech at Cairo University in Egypt, German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble sought understanding for Germany’s integration policies. The speech came just ahead of the next German Islam conference in Berlin. In his Cairo speech, Schaeuble pointed out that there was legal equality for Muslims in Germany. The country’s three million Muslims have “the same rights, because our state guarantees freedom of religion and is not limited to a singular world view.” The interior minister explained it was crucial that Muslims living in Germany learnt the language and added that the successful integration of Islam into western societies will only work if Muslims accept democratic constitutions “without condition.” “Whether we like it or not, there are many people who think that Islam and democracy don’t mix. These are often people who have prejudices against Islam,” Schaeuble told the audience of Egyptian politicians and intellectuals. “But we must also not ignore the fact that there are some Muslims who also hold this opinion,” Schaeuble continued. He warned that this minority was seeing to it “that their opinion is heard worldwide.” To combat anti-democratic tendencies, Schaeuble also said that Muslim children living in Germany should receive Islamic courses in German. He supported the plan that Islamic clerics in the country should also be trained at German universities. Currently most of the clerics at Muslim mosques in Germany have received their religious training outside of Germany. This, Schaeuble stressed, could only be a temporary solution.
Ahead of his speech, the German interior minister met with several representatives of the Egyptian government, as well as Muslim and Christian clerics.

Analysis: Terror threat growing in Germany

Radical Islamic terrorism is becoming a more multifaceted and concrete threat to Germany.
“Islamist terrorism continues to be a real threat to Germans,” Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said Tuesday in Berlin at the release of the 2008 report by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, an agency that monitors all forms of extremism in the country. Germany, Schaeuble said, is home to “a considerable Islamist personnel potential that also includes German Muslim converts.” An increasing number have been traveling to the border region shared by Afghanistan and Pakistan to receive training in al-Qaida-run terrorist camps, spy agencies have learned. Heinz Fromm, head of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the government agency that compiled the 303-page report, spoke of a “new quality” of radical Islamic threats directed at Germany. “We are seeing more video threats that are addressing Germany and its military engagement in Afghanistan directly, and they are increasingly in German,” he said. Many videos are also aimed at recruiting Muslims in Germany for jihad, Fromm added. Berlin has some 4,000 troops stationed with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. In past years, authorities have foiled several attack plots in Germany that were aimed at protesting the country’s military involvement there.

But it’s not just radical Islamic terrorism that poses a security threat for Germany. The total number of right-wing extremist crimes in 2008 — a figure that also includes inciting racial hatred and spreading neo-Nazi propaganda material — shot up by 15.8 percent to 19,894, with 1,042 of the crimes violent. “The number of neo-Nazis, and this is alarming, has risen again,” Schaeuble said. The report says there are 4,800 neo-Nazis in Germany, up 400 from the previous year. The so-called Autonomous Nationalists, a group of black-clad right-wing extremists, have over the past year clashed repeatedly with left-wing extremists. “They are much more ready to use violence,” Fromm said. And it seems the neo-Nazis are not just clashing with their far-left counterparts. On May Day, a group of roughly 300 neo-Nazis attacked participants of a regular union demonstration with batons and stones — the first neo-Nazi attack on a peaceful demonstration. “That’s an escalation and a new phenomenon,” Fromm said.

Minister urges Turks to be more active by learning German

A Turkish minister underlined on Monday the importance of language in social integration. Turkey’s State Minister Mustafa Said Yazicioglu said that learning a language was important. “We are all aware of importance of learning a language, however it will be more beneficial if people learn a language in the country it is spoken,” Yazicioglu told a press conference in the German capital of Berlin. Yazicioglu earlier met German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and Maria Bohmer, the German Federal Government Commissioner for Migration, Refugees and Integration. The Turkish minister said that Turkey wanted its citizens living in Germany to be active in the society, and therefore was encouraging them to learn German. Yazicioglu said that particularly Turkish young people living in Germany were unemployed, and it was possible to reduce unemployment among those people by learning German and having an occupation. Yazicioglu said that the Religious Affairs Turkish Islam Association was exerting efforts to be taken as an interlocutor in teaching of religion in Germany.

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Germany: Threat of Islamic terrorism ‘consistently high’, says report

The threat of Islamic terrorism in Germany remained high in 2007, according to an annual report by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution. The report said Islamic militants are increasingly setting their sights on Germany and view the country as an “operational area” and that Islamists regard Germany as a “crusader” and as an ally of the United States and Israel. American, Israeli and British institutions were at high risk, said the report, as well as Russian targets, due to the ongoing conflict in Chechnya. As an example, the report mentioned the arrests of militants on 4 September 2007, when three individuals allegedly planned attacks on American institutions in Germany and were caught with bomb-making material. By the end of 2007 there were 30 nationwide active Islamist organisations said the report, an increase of two from the previous year. Among them, 1,390 active followers of the Muslim Brotherhood, and about 900 followers of Lebanese Shia radical group Hezbollah. The report mentions Chechen militants but it said their followers in Germany have so far done it without violence. Meanwhile, Wolfgang Schaeuble, Germany’s minister of the interior and a member of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) said that Germany escaped terrorist attacks because of preventive measures taken by the security services. The report included right and left wing extremism, extremism by foreigners, the Scientology organisation, and Islamism.

Islamic Terrorism Biggest Threat to Germany, Minister Says

Islamic terrorism is the greatest threat to the security and stability of Germany, Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said in Berlin on Thursday, May 15. Germany had been lucky to escape terrorist attacks because of preventive measures taken by the security services, the minister said in presenting the annual report of the nation’s domestic intelligence service. The report by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution said Islamist terrorists are increasingly setting their sights on Germany and view the country as an “operational area.” It said Islamists regard Germany as a Crusader nation and also see it as an ally of the United States and Israel — two of the biggest foes of Muslim militants. Germany’s growing military presence in Afghanistan and its involvement in training Iraqi security forces had made it a target for Islamic terrorists, the report said. The document also spoke of a growing climate of anti-Semitism among right-wing extremists in Germany. It said neo-Nazis were making increased use of the Internet and music to reach out to other sections of the population, particularly young people.

Opinion: Islam Classes a Commendable but Long-Term Project

The teaching of Islam is to be added to Germany’s school curricula, but Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble admits the country’s 16 states as well as the Muslim community have yet to agree on the plan’s finer points. It’s hard to imagine Saudi Arabia’s interior minister inviting representatives from the country’s immigrant Christian community to a “Christianity Conference” to discuss social values and the Constitution. And then, moreover, taking the opportunity to promote better integration of Saudi Arabia’s Christian minority, ignoring public prejudices and protests against the building of new, strange-looking churches in their neighborhoods to emphasize the principle of religious freedom and call for Christianity classes in Saudi schools. Rainer Sollich reports.

Germany’s State-Run Schools to Teach Islam

A government-sponsored Islam Conference aimed at fostering the integration of Germany’s Muslims agreed to allow public schools to introduce religion classes on Islam in German. The third official Islam Conference held in Berlin on Thursday, March 13, agreed on adding Islam to the school curriculum in public schools amid heated debate and controversy about Muslims embracing Western values and the acceptance of Muslim immigrants in Germany. “In the not too far future, we — where there’s wish and need for it — will have Islam religion classes at German schools,” German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who initiated the conference, told journalists. Schaeuble said the conference had been “very drawn-out and painful” and added that the meetings would continue beyond 2009. Plans hobbled by lack of teachers. Ahead of the conference, Schaeuble said religion classes on Islam would help deter parents from sending their children to informal religious lessons taught by instructors who had not been vetted by the state. “We’re going up against hate preachers any way we can,” Schaeuble said Thursday in an interview with Stern Online. “With Islam religion classes, we’d create competition.”

German Minister Calls on EU Press to Publish Mohammed Cartoon

More European newspapers should publish the hotly disputed Mohammed cartoons, said German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble as violent protests broke out in Sudan over the recent reprinting of the caricatures. “All European newspapers should print the [Mohammed] caricatures with the explanation, ‘We also think they’re pathetic, but the use of press freedom is no reason to resort to violence,” Schaeuble told the weekly edition of Die Zeit. The minister added that he “respected” the decision of 17 Danish newspapers earlier this month to reprint a cartoon depicting the Prophet Mohammed with a turban that resembled a bomb with a lit fuse. The re-publication came a day after Danish authorities uncovered and foiled a plot to murder the cartoonist whose drawing first appeared in 2005.

German Study on Muslim Viewpoints

A German study has revealed that while many Muslims in Germany have fundamentalist viewpoints, a large majority rejects terrorist attacks.

Commissioned by Germany’s Interior Ministry, the study found that four out of 10 Muslims in Germany would justify the use of violence in case Islam was threatened by the West. The study, which questioned 1,750 Muslims all over the country, was carried out by the Institute of Criminology at the University of Hamburg.

It also found that nearly half of all Muslims living in German believe they will be granted entry to paradise if they die defending their religion.

However, an overwhelming majority of Muslims living in Germany reject terrorism. More than 80 percent reject the idea of suicide bombings, with nearly 9 percent claiming such attacks are cowardly and damaging for Islam.

Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, Germany’s top security official, told the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper the findings showed a “serious potential for Islamic radicalization.” Sociology experts, however, argue that the high level of social marginalization experienced by young Muslims and their lack of chances to succeed in society drive them toward radical views.