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Germany agonises over Islam - Expatica, Netherlands

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  • Zafar Khan
    Germany agonises over Islam Concern that religious tensions along the lines of those sparked in the Netherlands by the brutal killing of Islam-critical
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 28, 2004
      Germany agonises over Islam

      Concern that religious tensions along the lines of
      those sparked in the Netherlands by the brutal killing
      of Islam-critical filmmaker Theo van Gogh could spill
      over into Germany has triggered a fresh debate among
      Germans about integrating the nation's large foreign
      population. Leon Mangasarian reports.


      Muslims comprise 4 percent of Germany's population
      While Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has stepped-up a
      campaign calling on the country's big Muslim community
      to fit with the country's laws and its democratic
      principles, leading political figures in the nation
      have claimed that multiculturalism has failed in

      This comes in the wake of a mass demonstration of
      Muslims in Germany against terror and growing alarm in
      the country over the torching of mosques, churches and
      schools in the Netherlands following the van Gogh

      There have also been press reports of a link between
      the van Gogh murder and Germany, with claims that one
      of those involved in the killing in the Netherlands
      lived in neighbouring Germany.

      With 3.4 million Muslims comprising 4 percent of
      Germany's population, the question was put this way by
      a banner headline in the conservative Bild newspaper:
      "Is the hate going to come here?" asked the biggest
      selling tabloid.

      The Berliner Zeitung, a left-leaning paper in the
      German capital where about 200,000 mainly Turkish
      Muslims live, claims to know the answer: "The feelings
      of hated against the majority Christian society are

      So far there has not been a high profile killing in
      Germany to match the stabbing and shooting of van
      Gogh. But a series of attacks on Jews in Berlin by
      Arab youths have sharply raised concerns.

      Germany's tough-minded interior minister, Otto Schily,
      spoke at the weekend of "a danger" to the country
      despite successes in integrating the majority of

      Schily drew headlines earlier this year with a harsh
      warning to Islamic fundamentalists: "If you love death
      so much, then it can be yours."

      German opposition conservatives are demanding a ban on
      preaching in mosques in any language other than

      Calls for such a move were fuelled by a dramatic TV
      film secretly made in a Berlin mosque.

      "These Germans, these atheists, these Europeans don't
      shave under their arms and their sweat collects under
      their hair with a revolting smell and they stink,"
      said the preacher at the Mevlana Mosque in Berlin's
      Kreuzberg district, in the film made by Germany's ZDF
      public TV, adding: "Hell lives for the infidels! Down
      with all democracies and all democrats!"

      Meanwhile, Opposition chief Angela Merkel has declared
      the multicultural society a failure.

      This was echoed by former Social Democrat Chancellor
      Helmut Schmidt in comments published in a German
      newspaper. "Multicultural societies have only ...
      functioned peacefully in authoritarian states. To that
      extent it was a mistake for us to bring guest workers
      from foreign cultures into the country at the
      beginning of the 1960s," Schmidt said.

      Speaking at the Muslims Against Terror rally in
      Cologne, Guenther Beckstein, interior minister of the
      mainly Catholic state of Bavaria, told more than
      20,000 mainly middle-class Turks: "We ask of you:
      learn German, work with us, join in our celebrations."

      There are also demands for loosening German laws to
      make it easier to expel foreign extremists, after
      years of wrangles to win approval for deportation of
      radical Turkish Islamist Metin Kaplan, the self-
      styled 'Caliph of Cologne'.

      Udo Ulfkotte, a German journalist who has received
      death threats since writing a book critical of Islam
      titled 'The War in our Cities', underlines that many
      of the group responsible for the 11 September 2001
      attacks on the US had lived in Germany.

      Asked about van Gogh's killing, Ulfkotte said: "The
      spark could jump over here at any time. We just need a
      provocation like in Holland. Islamists in Germany
      approved of (van Gogh's) murder and many of them
      actually cheered it."

      But other experts - while not downplaying threats -
      warn against being alarmist.

      Steffen Angenendt, a migration expert at the German
      Council on Foreign Relations and member of the German
      government's Council of Experts on Immigration and
      Integration, argues Germany is far better off than the

      Holland, says Angenendt, now faces "the rubble" of its
      failed policy of tolerant multi-culturalism, for which
      it was the European flagship during the past decades.

      Only limited efforts were made at integration in the
      Netherlands, after which the foreign communities were
      largely ignored, says Angenendt.

      Germany has three big advantages compared to the
      Netherlands, he argues.

      First is geography: Germany is not nearly as densely
      settled as the Netherlands and people have more room.
      "The Dutch feel as if they have no space," said

      A second plus for Germany is that unlike Holland the
      cities with big foreign populations, such as Berlin
      and Frankfurt, mostly do not have districts totally
      dominated by one group. Even Berlin-Kreuzberg, with
      its big Turkish community, is still a multi-ethnic
      society, he says.

      Thirdly, integration has generally worked better in
      Germany than in countries like the Netherlands,
      Angenendt says. This will improve further from January
      1 when Germany's new immigration law comes into force.

      Under this legislation all new immigrants will have to
      take 600 hours German language instruction plus a 30
      hour course on German society. In addition, 50,000
      immigrants already here will be eligible to take the
      courses each year.

      A further point, not directly mentioned by Angenendt,
      is the fact that 75 percent of Germany's Muslims are
      from Turkey.

      A survey by the Islam Archive in Soest - which houses
      a major collection of Islamic books and documents -
      found that the majority of Turks in Germany do not
      practice their religion.

      Says Buelent Arslan, head of the German-Turkish Forum:
      "We have an Islam which is very influenced by Turkey
      and this is the most enlightened and secular."

      Still, even a small percentage of extremists is deeply

      Germany's Verfassungschutz - the domestic intelligence
      service - estimates there are 31,000 radical Islamists
      living in Germany, of whom several thousand are
      prepared to use violence.

      The biggest group is a Turkish movement named 'Milli
      Goerues' with 26,500 members, which fights against
      integration of Turks into German society.

      In a court case which set security establishment alarm
      bells ringing, a judge ruled last week week that Milli
      Goerues membership did not justify a German airport's
      bid to ban an employee from working within its
      security zone.

      The number of reported crimes carried out by foreign
      extremists in Germany almost tripled last year
      compared with 2002, warns the Verfassungsschutz.

      November 2004

      [Copyright DPA with Expatica]

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