Young Islamists have ′very scant′ knowledge of Islam, study finds | DW | 11.07.2017

Interesting analysis of texts among young radicalized Muslims:

Young Muslims who become radicalized often invent a patchwork, imagined version of Islam that has little or nothing to do with the Koran. That’s the conclusion drawn by scholars at the universities of Bielefeld and Osnabrück. They’ve just published a book analyzing 5,757 messages from a WhatsApp group of 12 young men ahead of a spring 2016 terrorist attack.

The messages came from a mobile phone, seized by police, that had belonged to one of the young men involved in the attack. The researchers say that the chat offers unique insights into the radicalization process and mindset of Islamists in Germany.

The messages also illustrate the enormous differences between Islamism and Islam. Many of the self-styled “true Muslims,” the experts found, themselves have little valid knowledge of the Koran or the rest of their religion.

“The result is a kind of ‘Lego Islam’ that can be continually adapted to new requirements and in practice has nothing to do with the forms of traditional Islam practiced by the majority of mosque communities in Germany,” write co-authors Becem Dziri and Michael Kiefer.

The authors omitted the names of those involved in the chat and didn’t specify the attack, although the time reference strongly suggests that it was the bombing of a Sikh temple in Essen in April 2016. At the time it was reported that the young people involved in that attack were radicalized via social media, and three of them, all teenagers, were later convicted of attempted murder and conspiracy to murder.

Deutschland Anschlag auf Sikh Tempel in Essen (picture-alliance/AP Photo/M. Kusch)Luckily no one was killed in the temple bombing

Budding Islamists mix jihad and genies

The conversations leading up to that act of violence suggest that the youths were willing to kill for a faith of which they had only a rudimentary understanding.

“The religious education within the group is very scant,” writes co-author Rauf Ceylan. “Often they didn’t even know the simplest Islamic theological basics. The members of the group are laymen and autodidacts who pick and choose information from the internet and communicate it to the rest of the group.”

Excerpts from the chats often seem like comedy sketches sprinkled with sometimes misused Arabic words and phrases and English slang. In one, a participant responds to a self-appointed leader’s call for a meeting to discuss the jama’a (group) by saying he didn’t have any Islamic clothing. The leader responds: “You can also were sweatpants or something like that. If you want I can loan you something for the day.”

Another message reveals that the author doesn’t even own a copy of Islam’s main religious text.

“I need a Koran,” he writes. “I’ll get one soon from lies [a Salafist group that gives away Korans on the street in Germany]. If I see abu nagi, I’ll tell him he’s a kafir [infidel] because he thinks erdogan [sic] is a Muslim.”

When asked what the most absurd detail of the chats was, Ceylan told DW that participants interwove the belief in magical genies in their pseudo-theology.

“Over the course of the chat protocol, you can see how a religious world gets invented in which supernatural beings can have real effects on the young men,” Ceylan said. “They take fragments of the Koran and cobble them together. That’s why we call it ‘Lego Islam.'”

Salafisten verteilen Korane (picture-alliance/dpa/B.Roessler)Salafists pass out free Korans on German streets

Careers as ‘pop preachers’

Scholars also say that the chat illustrates the process by which young Muslims get radicalized. Key is the role of the “amir,” the self-appointed leader, who “instructed” the others despite lacking any theological credentials himself.

“He’s an alpha male like you have in school,” Ceylan told Deutsche Welle. “The people who act as Salafist preachers aren’t theologians. They’re people who have sometimes failed in life, but if they have a gift for being alpha males, they can become superstars overnight. This shouldn’t be underestimated. You can make a whole career of being a pop preacher.”

The second ingredient in the making of a radical Islamist, the scholars explain, is a young person with the right biography. Emancipation from parents – becoming an adult – gets conflated with emancipation from the mainstream community as one of the “chosen ones.” Ceylan cites the example of a young man who became radical after discovering that his father was having an affair and telling his mother, which led to a divorce.

“These are fundamentally young people who are trying to overcome a crisis in their lives or a biological ruptures,” said Ceylan. “The timing is crucial. Who do I meet in this phase?”

Social media platforms often play a role in radicalizing young people

The importance of language

Ceylan says that although bogus theology is part of the problem, religious instruction is not enough to combat radicalization. He calls for more money for German language imams, psychological therapists in prisons, where many young people get radicalized, and interventions in schools.

“These young people don’t get radicalized secretly, as the chat protocols show,” Ceylan said. “Their teachers see that something’s not right. A kid grows his beard out or starts saying more and more radical things. And the parents see it before everyone else.”

Above all, Ceylan says, those who do intervene with young people susceptible to Islamism need to speak the right language.

“The characteristics of the charismatic ‘self-made’ preachers…are that they speak German, use young people’s slang, make a theatrical impression, display street credibility and present themselves cleverly. That, together with the simplicity of what they teach, makes them attractive to young people.”

Source: Young Islamists have ′very scant′ knowledge of Islam, study finds | TOP STORIES | DW | 11.07.2017

Delete Hate Speech or Pay Up, Germany Tells Social Media Companies – The New York Times

Will be interesting to see the degree to which this works in making social media companies take more effective action, as well as the means that companies take to ‘police’ speech (see earlier post Facebook’s secret rules mean that it’s ok to be anti-Islam, but not anti-gay | Ars Technica). Apart from the debate over what can/should be any limits to free speech, there are risks in “outsourcing” this function to the private sector:

Social media companies operating in Germany face fines of as much as $57 million if they do not delete illegal, racist or slanderous comments and posts within 24 hours under a law passed on Friday.

The law reinforces Germany’s position as one of the most aggressive countries in the Western world at forcing companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter to crack down on hate speech and other extremist messaging on their digital platforms.

But the new rules have also raised questions about freedom of expression. Digital and human rights groups, as well as the companies themselves, opposed the law on the grounds that it placed limits on individuals’ right to free expression. Critics also said the legislation shifted the burden of responsibility to the providers from the courts, leading to last-minute changes in its wording.

Technology companies and free speech advocates argue that there is a fine line between policy makers’ views on hate speech and what is considered legitimate freedom of expression, and social networks say they do not want to be forced to censor those who use their services. Silicon Valley companies also deny that they are failing to meet countries’ demands to remove suspected hate speech online.

Still, German authorities pressed ahead with the legislation. Germany witnessed an increase in racist comments and anti-immigrant language after the arrival of more than a million migrants, predominantly from Muslim countries, since 2015, and Heiko Maas, the justice minister who drew up the draft legislation, said on Friday that it ensured that rules that currently apply offline would be equally enforceable in the digital sphere.

“With this law, we put an end to the verbal law of the jungle on the internet and protect the freedom of expression for all,” Mr. Maas said. “We are ensuring that everyone can express their opinion freely, without being insulted or threatened.”

“That is not a limitation, but a prerequisite for freedom of expression,” he continued.

The law will take effect in October, less than a month after nationwide elections, and will apply to social media sites with more than two million users in Germany.

It will require companies including Facebook, Twitter and Google, which owns YouTube, to remove any content that is illegal in Germany — such as Nazi symbols or Holocaust denial — within 24 hours of it being brought to their attention.

The law allows for up to seven days for the companies to decide on content that has been flagged as offensive, but that may not be clearly defamatory or inciting violence. Companies that persistently fail to address complaints by taking too long to delete illegal content face fines that start at 5 million euros, or $5.7 million, and could rise to as much as €50 million.

Every six months, companies will have to publicly report the number of complaints they have received and how they have handled them.

In Germany, which has some of the most stringent anti-hate speech laws in the Western world, a study published this year found that Facebook and Twitter had failed to meet a national target of removing 70 percent of online hate speech within 24 hours of being alerted to its presence.

The report noted that while the two companies eventually erased almost all of the illegal hate speech, Facebook managed to remove only 39 percent within 24 hours, as demanded by the German authorities. Twitter met that deadline in 1 percent of instances. YouTube fared significantly better, removing 90 percent of flagged content within a day of being notified.

Facebook said on Friday that the company shared the German government’s goal of fighting hate speech and had “been working hard” to resolve the issue of illegal content. The company announced in May that it would nearly double, to 7,500, the number of employees worldwide devoted to clearing its site of flagged postings. It was also trying to improve the processes by which users could report problems, a spokesman said.

Twitter declined to comment, while Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The standoff between tech companies and politicians is most acute in Europe, where freedom of expression rights are less comprehensive than in the United States, and where policy makers have often bristled at Silicon Valley’s dominance of people’s digital lives.

But advocacy groups in Europe have raised concerns over the new German law.

Mirko Hohmann and Alexander Pirant of the Global Public Policy Institute in Berlin criticized the legislation as “misguided” for placing too much responsibility for deciding what constitutes unlawful content in the hands of social media providers.

“Setting the rules of the digital public square, including the identification of what is lawful and what is not, should not be left to private companies,” they wrote.

Even in the United States, Facebook and Google also have taken steps to limit the spread of extremist messaging online, and to prevent “fake news” from circulating. That includes using artificial intelligence to remove potentially extremist material automatically and banning news sites believed to spread fake or misleading reports from making money through the companies’ digital advertising platforms.

Islam in Germany: Berlin Mosque Where Burqas Are Banned and LGBT Muslims Welcome Defies Fatwa

Says something about the Turkish and Egyptian religious authorities:

The woman who opened a mosque in Berlin where men and women pray together and face-covering headscarves are banned has vowed to defy a fatwa from Egypt’s highest Islamic authority and criticism from the Turkish government.

German-Turkish women’s rights activist Seyran Ates, 54, pioneered the opening of the Ibn Rushd-Goethe Mosque in the Moabit neighborhood of Berlin on June 16. Ates said that the mosque was open to all, including LGBT Muslims, and would seek to provide a liberal counterpoint to extremist interpretations of Islam espoused by groups like the Islamic State militant group (ISIS).

But the mosque has not been received well by traditional Islamic authorities in Egypt and Turkey, where Ates was born. Al-Azhar University in Cairo, which is widely regarded as the world’s highest authority on Sunni Islamic theology and sharia law, issued a religious judgement (or fatwa) criticizing liberal mosques in general, according to The Guardian.

Egypt’s state-run Islamic institution, Dar al-Ifta al-Masriyyah, issued a statement on June 19 heavily criticizing the Berlin mosque, saying that men and women praying side by side was a violation of Islam and stating that such liberalization of Islamic values was not the way to combat extremism.

In Turkey, the criticism has been widespread and virulent. Turkey’s main religious authority, Diyanet, said that the Berlin mosque’s practices “do not align with Islam’s fundamental resources, principles of worship, methodology or experience of more than 14 centuries” and described them as “experiments aimed at nothing more than depraving and ruining religion.”

Turkish media outlets have also accused Ates of ties to Fethullah Gulen, a U.S.-based cleric. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blamed Gulen for the failed coup in July 2016, which has led to a massive crackdown on freedom of speech and political opposition in Turkish society.

But Ates told The Guardian that she took heart from the criticism. “The pushback I am getting makes me feel that I am doing the right thing,” she said. “God is loving and merciful—otherwise he wouldn’t have turned me into the person I am.”

The mosque is housed in part of an old Lutheran church and is open to Muslims of all traditions, including Sunni and Shiite, as well as people of other religions or no faith. Ates, who is in training as an imam, has led prayers at the mosque; the position of imam is traditionally reserved for men in mainstream Islam.

She also banned the wearing of burqas and niqabs—the former covers the whole face except the eyes; the latter covers the entire face, with a mesh for the wearer to see through—at the mosque as she considered such practices to be “political statements,” Ates said in an interview with German magazine Spiegel.

Ates told The Guardian that the congregation has dwindled since the mosque opened as would-be worshippers stayed away due to the controversy. She said that the mosque had nothing to do with Gulen or his followers, and added that she has been the subject of abuse and death threats herself.

Preaching at the mosque on Friday, Ates called upon her critics to be “brave enough to show their true face” and voice their concerns publicly. “Allah knows their true face anyway. And it is Allah to whom they are accountable, not us,” she said.

On its website, the mosque says that it seeks to promote a “secular liberal Islam that separates secular and religious power” and “strives for a contemporary and gender-oriented interpretation of the Qu’ran and ‘hadith.” The hadith is a collection of sayings about the life and practice of the Prophet Muhammad, which mainstream Sunni Muslims interpret as a normative guide for religious belief and practice.

Ates’ project has defenders as well as critics. Following the statement from Turkey’s Diyanet, a spokesman for the German Foreign Ministry, Martin Schaefer, said that he “rejected all comments that clearly intend to deprive people in Germany of their right to freely exercise their religion and to limit the right to free expression of opinion,” Reuters reported.

A Malaysian female imam based in the U.S., Ani Zonneveld, hit back at criticism received in her home country after she led the call to prayer at the Berlin mosque, while Mona Eltahawy, a prominent Egyptian Muslim feminist and author, expressed her solidarity with Ates.

Source: Islam in Germany: Berlin Mosque Where Burqas Are Banned and LGBT Muslims Welcome Defies Fatwa

ICYMI: Liberal mosque opens in Berlin – The Washington Post

Interesting example of how Islam can evolve in the West:

Inside the red-brick building that now houses the German capital’s newest and perhaps most unusual mosque, Seyran Ates is staging a feminist revolution of the Muslim faith.

“Allahu akbar,” chanted a female voice, uttering the Arabic expression “God is great,” as a woman with two-toned hair issued the Muslim call to prayer. In another major break with tradition, men and women — typically segregated during worship — heeded the call by sitting side by side on the carpeted floor.

Ates, a self-proclaimed Muslim feminist and founder of the new mosque, then stepped onto the cream-colored carpet and delivered a stirring sermon. Two imams — a woman and a man — later took turns leading the Friday prayers in Arabic. The service ended with the congregation joining two visiting rabbis in singing a Hebrew song of friendship.

And just like that, the inaugural Friday prayers at Berlin’s Ibn Rushd-Goethe Mosque came to a close — offering a different vision of Islam on a continent that is locked in a bitter culture war over how and whether to welcome the faith. Toxic ills like radicalization, Ates and her supporters argue, have a potentially easy fix: the introduction of a more progressive, even feminist brand of the faith.

“The intention is to give liberal Islam a sacred space,” Ates said. “I feel very discriminated by regular mosques where women have to pray in ugly backrooms.”

The subject of withering criticism as well as hopeful support, the house of worship is part of a small but growing number of liberal mosques founded all or in part by women.
Seen by their backers as an antidote to gender bias that often leaves Muslim women praying in smaller spaces, the new kind of “feminist mosques” amount to a rallying cry for change, observers say.

In London, for instance, the female-founded Inclusive Mosque Initiative opened its doors in 2012. Female imams routinely lead prayers in spaces that welcome male and female Muslims of any sect — gays and lesbians included. More recently, mixed-gender or all-female prayers have spread to boutique mosques from California to Switzerland to Denmark.

Women and men traditionally pray separately in mosques for reasons of modesty. Some argue that the Koran does not explicitly call for separation, but others say that female voices should not be heard during prayer.

Source: Liberal mosque opens in Berlin – The Washington Post

German government rejects conservatives’ call for Islam law – The Washington Post

Of note:

The German government says there’s no need for new legislation to regulate Islamic organizations in the country.

Members of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Union party have called for a ban on foreign funding of Islamic organizations, and for Muslims to get statutory rights to pastoral care from an imam in prisons and hospitals.

Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said Monday that such a law was “a non-issue” at the moment and noted that religious freedom is guaranteed by the German constitution.

The arrival of hundreds of thousands of Muslim migrants in Germany in recent years has rekindled public debates about the country’s relationship with Islam.

A recent report by public broadcaster ARD found that the Islam preached in some mosques is more conservative than in many Muslim countries.

Dual citizenship in Europe: Which rules apply where?

Ongoing German dual citizenship debate, likely prompted by concerns of Turkish campaigning under Erdogan’s authoritarianism, along with a summary of the policies of other EU countries:

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrat Union (CDU) aims to tighten citizenship laws. At the CDU conference last December, party officials launched a debate on possible restrictions on dual citizenship. The subject of the dispute is what is known as the “obligation option,” which means that children of immigrants obtain both nationalities at birth, but must choose one when they reach the age of 23. In 2014, the coalition government agreed that children born and raised in Germany would be allowed to keep both nationalities as adults.

Infografik doppelte Staatsbürgerschaft Europa ENG

German news magazine “Der Spiegel” reports that the CDU plans to campaign against dual citizenship. “We must make far-reaching changes to the policy of the exceptions,” Cemile Giousouf, the chairman of the CDU’s integration network, told the magazine. A paper that will be integrated into the CDU’s election platform suggests that grandchildren of first-generation immigrants may only have German citizenship.

Merkel rejected the demands in December. According to “Spiegel” she is now ready to back a new regulation, probably as a consequence of Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s verbal attacks on German politics and the fact that many Turks living in Germany identify with the Turkish president.

Essen CDU-Bundesparteitag Rede Merkel (picture-alliance/dpa/K. Nietfeld)‘I don’t think we are having an election over dual citizenship,’ said Merkel in December.

France

Most EU states, including France, now allow dual citizenship. French nationals have had the right to dual or multiple nationalities since 1973. In 2009, France stood against the first article of the European Council’s “Convention on the Reduction of Cases of Multiple Nationality and on Military.” The aim of the agreement was to “to reduce as far as possible the number of cases of multiple nationalities, as between member states.”

In France, “jus soli,” meaning birthright citizenship, is practiced. Anyone who is born in France is granted French citizenship regardless of the parents’ nationality.

Sweden

For a long time, Sweden, like Germany, adhered to the “avoidance of dual citizenship” principle. A law adopted in 2001, however, allows Swedish nationals to apply for a different nationality without losing their Swedish passport, provided that the laws of the country permit this. In turn, immigrants in Sweden do not necessarily have to give up their foreign citizenship when they are naturalized.

The sociologist Thomas Faist sees Sweden as a potential role model for other countries. Two passports are seen “not as a problem, but rather as a contribution to integration,” Faist told the German media agency “Integration.” Other Scandinavian countries have similar regulations. In 2014 Denmark passed a law which allows dual citizenship. In Finland, a similar law had already gone into effect in 2003. In Norway, however, dual citizenship is permitted only in exceptional cases.

Schweden Integration von Migranten Schulunterricht (Getty Images/D. Ramos)Sweden has long been a country of immigration, but it has tightened its asylum law in recent years

Central and Eastern Europe

Under the nationality law in Poland, Polish citizens cannot be recognized as citizens of other countries at the same time. The possession of a foreign passport, however, is tolerated. Polish citizens cannot avoid civic obligations by using a foreign citizenship to get out of them.

Ukraine does not recognize dual citizenship. Under current laws, newly naturalized Ukrainian citizens must give up other nationalities within two years. Some countries in Eastern and Central Europe, on the other hand, such as the Czech Republic and Romania are open to multiple nationalities. Bulgarian, Serbian and Croatian citizens are entitled to hold dual citizenship, but foreigners wishing to be naturalized must renounce their previous nationality.

Spain

In principle, Spain permits dual citizenship for immigrants from Portugal, Andorra, the Philippines, Equatorial Guinea and Latin American countries with which it has concluded dual citizenship agreements. According to the Spanish constitution, immigrants from other nations must renounce their foreign nationality if they wish to hold Spanish citizenship. Spanish citizens are entitled to dual citizenship if they inform the authorities within three years that they wish to keep their Spanish passport.

Depending on the country, laws differ throughout southern Europe. Monaco and Andorra, for example, prohibit dual nationality but in Portugal, it is permitted.

Source: Dual citizenship in Europe: Which rules apply where? | Germany | DW.COM | 28.03.2017

How German cops learned to ignore political correctness to get tough on refugee crime

Another take on profiling or targeting those deemed at greater risk of crime:

Those who have branded Europe, and Germany in particular, too weak and politically correct to stop a purported wave of crime brought on by the arrival of more than a million asylum seekers, should pay attention to the news. German police haven’t taken long to get their act together, and immigrant crime is down sharply. Their methods, which include a sort of racial– or at least behavioural –profiling may be controversial, but they are proving effective.

On New Year’s Eve, 2016, more than 500 women were sexually assaulted, and 22 raped, in the vicinity of the central station in Cologne by crowds of young men, many of them of North African extraction. Police were outnumbered and humiliated. A few days later, the city’s police chief was fired. Mayor Henriette Reker was ridiculed for advising women to stick to a “code of conduct” that included keeping at “arm’s length” from strangers. It made Germany look enfeebled and confused, and the many critics of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to open the country’s borders to asylum seekers had a field day.

On Dec. 31, 2016, the central station neighborhood in Cologne was flooded by 1,700 police. They were checking documents and pushing young men, more than a hundred at the last count, into vans. While this was going on, a tweet appeared on the Cologne police force’s account: “At Central Station, several hundred Nafris are being checked.” Nafris is shorthand for North Africans, and it set off waves of predictable criticism from left-wing politicians who called the term “dehumanizing” and accused Cologne police of racial profiling. The police chief, Juergen Mathies, apologized for “Nafris” — it was only a “working term” police used, he said — but not for his officers’ actions. After all, only a handful of assaults, and no rapes, were reported.

“From the experience of last New Year’s Eve and from experience gained in raids in general, a clear impression has emerged here about which persons to check,” he said. “There were no gray-haired older men or blonde, young women there.”

Though the German Interior Ministry also winced at the “Nafris” tweet, Mathies will not be fired. His pre-emptive action has been lauded by federal and local officials including Mayor Reker, that softie from a year ago. Lip service has been paid to politically correct language, but everyone knows what the police chief had to deal with.

German police didn’t catch the perpetrator of the pre-Christmas terror attack in Berlin — an Italian patrolman ended up shooting him — but the investigation that led to a Europe-wide manhunt for Anis Amri was quick and precise. Just before New Year’s, police arrested a Syrian who had apparently planned another terror attack. Germany’s security apparatus is clearly on high alert, and it’s been increasingly well-funded. In 2016, the Ministry of the Interior received a 1.5 billion euro ($1.56 billion) budget increase compared with the previous year, and the federal police were allowed to hire 3,000 additional officers. In 2017, the ministry’s budget is set to rise by another 500 million euros to 8.3 billion euros.

High immigration — in the 11 months through November, 723,027 asylum applications were filed in Germany, compared with 476,649 in all of 2015 — is driving the budget increases. That’s based on some hard facts. In 2015, 6.5 percent of all crimes in Germany were committed by immigrants, compared with 3.6 percent in 2014. In 2016, the proportion is likely to be higher — in the first nine months, immigrants committed 214,600 crimes, more than the 206,201 registered in all of 2015, and the general crime rate in Germany has been steady in recent years. Immigrants from North Africa are the least law-abiding group: They make up 2 percent of Germany’s immigrant population, but in the nine months of 2016, they accounted for 22 percent of immigrant crime.

In the third quarter of 2016, however, crime by immigrants dropped 23 percent compared with the first three months of the year. One reason could be that police are taking account of the numbers and the trends they reflect, and they are not being too sentimental or too careful of being branded racist.

Source: How German cops learned to ignore political correctness to get tough on refugee crime | National Post

Why Islam Gets Second-Class Status in Germany – The New York Times

Interesting commentary by Alexander Gorlach:

Religion in Germany is not a private affair. Government at all levels recognizes religious communities as public institutions, and encourages participation in them — Germans who register with the state as Roman Catholics, Protestants or Jews pay a “religion tax,” which the government then sends to their respective institution. Religious groups are also allowed to give faith-based instruction in public schools: It’s not uncommon for a small-town pastor, priest or lay person to have a spot on the local high school faculty.

To enjoy this privileged status, religious communities must have a defined set of beliefs, their members must be recorded, and they must have historical and social significance. The Catholic, Protestant and Jewish religious communities are organized as public institutions; in the state of Berlin, Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormon Church are as well.

It might seem as if Islam, with 4.3 million adherents in Germany, would have qualified easily. But so far, the German government has resisted including it.

The reason is both simple and complex: Muslim communities are separated along ethnic lines as well as along denominational lines among Sunnis, Shiites and Alawites. Often there is little unity among these groups, hence they fail the most important state criterion: a unified religious body with shared goals and doctrines.

These requirements for a religion to get a privileged status in Germany highlight the anachronistic state of the secular federal republic in its approach to faith. The idea that the state can cooperate with religious groups in the same way it cooperates with, say, labor unions presumes a certain unity and hierarchy on the part of those groups. But Islam doesn’t work that way. It simply doesn’t fit within criteria written for the structured Christian churches that have shaped Europe, with bishops and baptismal registers.

For quite some time, there have been demands that the law be renamed to the Religionsrecht (State and Religion Law), and for it to include a wider diversity of religions. Though nothing much has changed on the national level, there has been progress in the states, where most of the country’s religious laws are promulgated. Bavaria, a conservative Catholic state that polls very high in measurements of xenophobia and anti-refugee sentiment, nevertheless has been running an Islamic-education pilot program in schools; it is also home to Germany’s oldest mosques. Perhaps the Bavarians, precisely because they protect their own religious and cultural traditions so ferociously, are also the most willing to recognize and support the traditions of others.

But it’s not only in Bavaria that reform is moving forward. In the Protestant-dominated north, Christian Wulff, a premier of Lower Saxony, set up training courses for future imams and Islamic religious teachers at the universities of Münster and Osnabrück. Later, when he was president of Germany, Mr. Wulff said, “Islam belongs to Germany.”

Though Mr. Wulff served just two years as president before resigning in 2012 over allegations of corruption (since dropped), his actions on behalf of Islam — and that quotation in particular — set off a debate that continues across the country. Critics of Islamic religious education in the schools, including many Muslims themselves, say that there is no group in the country that can speak for all Muslims. And indeed, it is estimated that the Central Council of Muslims and the Islamic Council for the Federal Republic of Germany, the two groups that have the best claims to speak for Islam in Germany, represent no more than 20 percent of German Muslims.

Germany is a secular country, but the German legal framework approves of institutionalized religions in a biased way. The religions must organize themselves according to state standards, and those standards are tailored toward the structures of the Christian religion.

The result is a delegitimization of the state’s relationship to religious groups in the eyes of many non-Christians, particularly Muslims — a dangerous prospect at a time when rapid integration is essential to maintain social peace. In the context of a growing Muslim community and a rising number of citizens affiliated with no religion at all, Germany may not be able to maintain an order that arose many generations ago.

Reports: Gulf States supporting ultraconservative Islam branch in Germany | DW.COM

While religious fundamentalism does not necessarily equate to terrorism and extremism, it is not conducive to integration:

Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar have increasingly been providing support to a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam, German media said on Monday citing Germany’s foreign and domestic intelligence agencies.

Religious organizations from those three countries have been sending preachers to Germany as well as financing the construction of mosques and schools, the German “Süddeutsche Zeitung” newspaper and public service broadcasters NDR and WDR reported. The intelligence reports were conducted on the behalf of the German government.

By upping their support of Salafist missionary activities, the religious groups intend to spread the ultraconservative version of Islam in Germany, the intelligence reports said.

There are currently 9,200 people involved in the Salafist scene in Germany, but the government has concerns that the increased missionary work could swell their ranks. Berlin is also concerned that the groups could play a role in radicalizing Sunni refugees.

Possible government ties

The German government has repeatedly called on the Saudi government to stop supporting radical Islamists in Germany. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, has said its religious organizations are a “stronghold” against the so-called “Islamic State.”

Although the Riyadh insists that the religious organizations are independent, Germany’s intelligence agencies concluded that the groups “are closely linked with state posts in their countries of origin.”

The intelligence agencies did note, however, that there is a lack of evidence to suggest that the religious groups support “violent Salafist structures and networks.”

Influence in schools and real estate

The intelligence reports also specifically named three religious organizations active in Germany that are believed to be supported by the state: the “Shaykh Eid Charity Foundation” from Qatar, the “Muslim World League” from Saudi Arabia and the “Revival of Islamic Heritage Society” (RIHS) from Kuwait.

Source: Reports: Gulf States supporting ultraconservative Islam branch in Germany | News | DW.COM | 13.12.2016

Angela Merkel faces party row over calls to scrap dual citizenship for children of immigrants 

Tough balancing act in overall European political context:

Angela Merkel was plunged into a new row over immigration on Wednesday when delegates at her party conference voted to end dual citizenship for the children of immigrants.

The German chancellor quickly disowned the decision by her Christian Democratic Union party (CDU), as her coalition partners said they would block it from becoming government policy.

The dispute, a day after Mrs Merkel was re-elected party leader and given an 11-minute standing ovation, threatened to mar the start of her campaign to win a historic fourth term as chancellor.

“There will be no change in the law in this parliament,” she said after the vote, in a clear rebuke to delegates. “I do not believe we should campaign on dual citizenship in the elections as we did in the past.”

In her speech to the conference on Tuesday, Mrs Merkel made a clear play for the party base who had been alienated by her “open-door” refugee policy, vowing never to repeat it and calling for a burka ban.

But the row over dual citizenship was a sign she may struggle to contain the demand for an anti-immigrant line on the party’s emboldened Right wing.

Dual citizenship is an incendiary issue in Germany, where it was not allowed until recent years, and even now is only available to citizens of other EU countries and the children of immigrants.

By a narrow majority of just over 51 per cent, CDU delegates voted to scrap laws introduced in 2014 under which the children of immigrants born in Germany are allowed to retain dual citizens as adults.

Source: Angela Merkel faces party row over calls to scrap dual citizenship for children of immigrants