Germany agonises over Islam - Expatica, Netherlands
- 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
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
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
The number of reported crimes carried out by foreign
extremists in Germany almost tripled last year
compared with 2002, warns the Verfassungsschutz.
[Copyright DPA with Expatica]
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