ICYMI – Islam in Germany: Muslims prefer to be talked to rather than talked about | DW | 03.10.2017

Understandable concerns of German Muslim communities:

On a day celebrating German unity, many Muslims have reason to wonder if “German unity” applies to them in light of recent federal election results. The third strongest party in the Bundestag will be the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), a party which has rejected the Islamic faith as part of German cultural identity.

October 3 is the country’s national holiday and, for many Germans, just a day to sleep in or earn some extra cash at work. For mosques around the country, however, it’s the day of their national open house: neighbors can take a tour, satisfy their curiosity about Islam and local Muslims and – of course – eat.

To be Muslim and nonpartisan

Indeed the smell of oil and charcoal wafting into the prayer room is the only indication that something different is going on at this Cologne mosque. The plush Bourdeaux carpeting of the sacred space seems to absorb all outside sounds – and our feet – as Tarik Yilmaz and Mustafa Karatas talk community outreach.

“Our religion is at the forefront of our work. Not politics,” Karatas tells DW.

Germany’s mosques began annual open houses in 1997 and have carried forth the tradition ever since. Technically, though, most mosques in Germany are open year round to the public upon appointment

Muslims have become the center of many heated debates over public safety, women’s rights and even loyalty to the German state in recent years. Hence, dispelling misconceptions is one of their priorities. However, they emphasize that this work is nonpartisan, just like their cooperation with local religious groups and charities.

“It’s a mosque community so it’s a good idea not to be politically active,” the board’s representative explains.

Yilmaz, a 27-year-old theologian who recently started working at the primarily Turkish house of worship, agrees: “People come here to pray or because they have friends here and to eat some food. We don’t really talk politics.”

Still, in a community where they have strong partnerships, what do they make of the AfD winning over 9 percent in their constituency? An answer is out of the question.

Feeling the pain of neo-Nazi terrorism

Just a few blocks away from that mosque and theology school in northeastern Cologne is the site of a nailbomb attack perpetrated by the neo-Nazi National Socialist Underground (NSU). It was a hit on the Turkish community and an attack on social cohesion and multiculturalism in Cologne.

The wounds of the attack lie much deeper than the shrapnel that left over 20 injured in June 2004. The terrorist attack on Keupstrasse was one of a dozen the NSU carried out between 2000 and 2007. Yet, despite the attackers’ identities being known to police in the late 1990s, it wasn’t until a botched robbery brought the right-wing terror cell to light in 2011 that officials cleared members of the Turkish community of suspicion.

The bomb planted by the NSU sent over 700 nails flying through Keupstrasse. For several years, officials interrogated locals suspecting the crime to be linked to Turkish mafia

The case has raised questions about right-wing sympathizers among police and a how large the blind spot to right-wing extremism in Germany is.

And, with the rise of the a party like the AfD – one whose leaders have made racist and Islamophobic comments, as well as relativized the Holocaust and have been known to use Nazi rhetoric – critics worry that a far-right party in parliament could embolden the country’s radical right-wing scene.

Rising violence toward Muslims

For Ahmed Erdogan, like many on Keupstrasse, the swift rise of the far-right AfD has been a shock. “Where will this lead?” he wonders.

Tucked away from the frilly bridal dress shops and bounteous bakery display cases that line Keupstrasse, the local mosque is easy to overlook. It’s one of the oldest in the Cologne neighborhood of Mühlheim, where over 40 percent of the population has foreign roots. According to Erdogan, who’s on its board, it has been and remains very active in community outreach and cooperation – making the AfD’s popularity all the more puzzling.

Infografik AfD Bundestagswahl 2017 Bundesländer ENG

This year, there have nearly 20 attacks on Muslims and nearly 400 incidents of “Islamophobic crimes,” ranging from hate speech, threats and damage to property, according to a governmental inquiry from the Left party. As it’s the first year officials have assessed the crime rate against Muslims, no previous data for comparison has been analyzed.

Meanwhile, the AfD’s rhetoric surrounding Islam has also raised concerns. In addition to dismissing the religion – one practiced by over 4 million people in Germany – as being a part of German society, the AfD also wants to prohibit minarets and the call to prayer.

“The AfD sees a great danger to our state, our society and our set of values through the spread of Islam and the presence of over 5 million Muslims, whose numbers are increasing,” the AfD said in its party platform, which states that Muslims who obey the law and are “integrated” are “valued members of society.” The far-right party denies all accusations of Islamophobic or racist rhetoric.

Given the need for dialogue these days, mosques can choose to stay out of politics, but as a Muslim it’s hard to “keep out it,” Erdogan tells DW.

The Keupstrasse mosque doesn’t participate in the national open house because it’s open to anyone everyday, just like most mosques. And if there’s one point Erdogan and his colleagues at the neighboring mosque agree on, it’s this: dialogue – and not fear – is the only way forward.

Source: Islam in Germany: Muslims prefer to be talked to rather than talked about | Germany | DW | 03.10.2017

Advertisements

Germany’s election and the educational polarisation of voters | Times Higher Education (THE)

Interesting analysis:

Germany has voted. Angela Merkel is weakened, but she remains chancellor and is now seeking new coalition partners for government.

Instead of focusing on what the election means for German higher education and research policy – which probably won’t become clear until months of coalition negotiations have concluded – I want to highlight some interesting voting patterns among German graduates.

In the United States and the UK, it’s now a commonplace observation that voters seem increasingly divided by levels of education rather than traditional cleavages like levels of income. In the ballots of 2016 and 2017, graduates tended to take the side of more open, pro-cosmopolitan parties and politicians (Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour, Hillary Clinton, Remain in the UK’s EU referendum) against more closed, nationalistic forces (Theresa May’s Conservatives, Leave, Donald Trump).

You can certainly quibble with these groupings, but the overall trend is unmistakable.

For example, in this year’s UK general election, graduates were 10 percentage points less likely to back the Conservatives, and nine percentage points more likely to vote for Labour, than the broader voting public.

The divide was even starker last year during the EU referendum, when 68 per cent of graduates voted to remain.

Meanwhile, in the US election, Clinton won college graduates by a nine percentage point margin, while Trump won everyone else by eight points. “This is by far the widest gap in support among college graduates and non-college graduates in exit polls dating back to 1980,” according to the Pew Research Center.

Is the same thing happening in Germany? Ostensibly not – German graduates seem more in line with their fellow citizens than in the UK or the US. This is most clearly visible when you look at the graduate vote share for Germany’s political parties arranged on the left to right political spectrum:

In terms of the bigger parties, graduates were a little less likely than other voters to vote for Merkel’s conservatives (CDU/CSU) – but exactly the same was true of the social democrats (SPD).German graduates voting patterns

Graduates were both more likely to opt for the radically left-wing Die Linke – and the almost diametrically opposed (at least on economic matters) Free Democratic Party (FDP). This feels very different from the US and UK, where graduates have come down heavily on one side or the other in the votes of the past two years.

Why might this be? A couple of potential reasons spring to mind. Germany is famed for the quality of its vocational education, which, although under pressure, still offers the hope of a well respected and remunerated life course that does not require university. Non-graduates are perhaps less likely to be economically “left behind” than in other countries.

There is also still no real equivalent of the Ivy League, Oxbridge or the grandes écoles in Germany, meaning that attending (a certain type of) university is arguably less of a prerequisite for power and influence.

But have a look at the chart again – there are nonetheless signs that educational polarisation is beginning to take root in Germany.

Graduates heavily backed the Greens, who, aside from their environmental policies, are known as supporters of multiculturalism, and have several high-profile leaders with a Turkish family background. The AfD on the other hand are emphatically against multiculturalism and have leaders who have made a series of brazenly racist statements; they were largely shunned by voters who have been to university.

As the AfD’s entry into parliament shows, Germany is not immune from the divisions afflicting the UK, the US and many other European countries. It will be interesting to see if the country becomes just as polarised on educational grounds as well.

Source: Germany’s election and the educational polarisation of voters | Times Higher Education (THE)

German Elections 2017: How Russia Helped AfD’s Rise | Time.com

Interesting analysis of AfD’s support:

While fighting for a seat in the German parliamentover the last few months, Sergej Tschernow, a candidate for the right-wing Alternative for Germany, or AfD, knew that he could only rely on a few media outlets to give his party the coverage it craves: the Russian ones.

“They show our points of view in full,” he told TIME on Election Day, Sunday Sept. 24, when the AfD became the first far-right movement to enter into the German legislature since the end of World War II, winning a remarkable 13% of the vote and going from zero to more than 90 seats in a chamber of 631 lawmakers.

The party’s rise has been caused by a range of factors, not least the widespread frustrations with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose political party, the Christian Democratic Union, had one of the worst showings in its history on Sunday. It won only 33% of the vote – most likely enough to secure Merkel a fourth term in office, but hardly the commanding lead the CDU anticipated.

With its nativist stance against immigration and its attacks against the European Union, the AfD has managed to siphon a lot of votes away from Merkel by harnessing the anti-establishment sentiment that has swept through Western democracies in recent years. But one uniquely German reason for the party’s success has been the broad support it enjoys among the Russian emigrant community — bolstered by the noisy partisan reporting of Kremlin-backed broadcasters, whose reports on the elections reached millions of German voters through satellite dishes, on cable and online.

Who really votes for AfD

The AfD has estimated that about a third of its support comes from Russian-speaking voters, several million of whom have settled in Germany since the 1980s; they now make up as much as 5% of the population. On Sunday night, one of the leaders of the AfD, a vocally anti-immigrant and nationalist party, appeared to concede – somewhat paradoxically – that its core constituents are themselves immigrants.

“Take a look at who really votes for the AfD, and where we have the strongest numbers,” Jörg Meuthen, the AfD party whip, told Chancellor Merkel and other leading politicians during a post-election debate on German television. “It is precisely among these migrants, among people with an immigrant background who lead integrated lives here and who cannot believe what is happening to this country.”

While he did not specifically identify the Russian community, his party has devoted substantial resources to swaying this group of voters during the race this year. It translated its fliers and brochures into Russian, ran information stands and outreach programs in Russian-speaking neighborhoods, and catered its platform to the interests of this community. Among the AfD’s core pledges on foreign policy is to lift German sanctions on Russia and seek warmer relations with President Vladimir Putin. 

Source: German Elections 2017: How Russia Helped AfD’s Rise | Time.com

ICYMI: German government adopts international anti-Semitism definition | DW | 20.09.2017

Most comprehensive article I have seen. Just in time before the AfD’s relatively strong result.

But no article appears to mention what the small differences in the definition consist of:

The official definition of anti-Semitism was drawn up by the government’s conservative Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere and Social Democratic Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel. It is almost identical to the one proposed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) used by countries around the world, including, for instance, Britain and Austria.

The IHRA definition reads: “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

The definition was adopted after the government’s regular Wednesday morning cabinet meeting. De Maiziere stressed the importance of consensus on the term in Germany, which is still plagued by various manifestations of anti-Semitism.

“We Germans are particularly vigilant when our country is threatened by an increase in anti-Semitism,” said the interior minister. “History made clear to us, in the most terrible way, the horrors to which anti-Semitism can lead.”

Defining anti-Semitism may seem to be self-evident, but it took considerable time and effort for Germany to agree to a specific wording. Other countries were quicker take up this definition.

“I very much welcome the adoption of the working definition of anti-Semitism by the German government,” said Felix Klein, head of the German delegation to the IHRA and the Foreign Ministry’s special representative for relations with Jewish organizations. “In order to address the problem of anti-Semitism, it is very important to define it first, and this working definition can provide guidance on how antisemitism can manifest itself. We are proud to join Austria, Israel, Romania, Scotland and the United Kingdom in affirming that there is no place for anti-Semitism in any society and we call on other states to follow.”

The cabinet has recommended that law-enforcement and other public officials use the official definition.

A first step and framework

The adoption of the IHRA definition fulfills one of the recommendations of an independent expert commission on anti-Semitism issued in April. Commission member and Green parliamentarian Volker Beck called it “a first step.”

“The adoption of the definition sets out a framework,” Beck said in a statement. “Government action on various levels – from legal prosecution to educational measures to the sensitization of the judicial system – is now more binding. We can create a common understanding in government of the problems and challenges and a evaluation framework for preventing and combating [anti-Semitism].”

Critics of the IHRA definition say it fails to distinguish between anti-Semitism and legitimate criticism of Israel

Beck had previously criticized the government for failing to act on the commission’s recommendations. A definition, the commission argued, was essential for classifying and prosecuting anti-Semitic crimes and for distributing money to prevention programs. In the past, the task of cataloging anti-Semitic crimes as such has fallen to private organizations like the Antonio Amadeu Foundation.

As the commission detailed in its report, today’s anti-Semitism takes forms as different as extreme-right xenophobic fears of a global Jewish conspiracy and Israel-focused hostility toward Jews among Arabs and other Muslims. Other government cabinet members stressed that anti-Semitism in Germany could not be reduced to any single group.

“Unfortunately, anti-Semitism is pervasive throughout this society,” said Minister for Family Affairs Katarina Barley in Berlin.

That sentiment was seconded by the director of the Anne Frank Education Center in Hessen, Meron Mendel, who warned against reducing modern-day anti-Semitism to Muslim migrants and refugees.

Arson against a synagogue as ‘non-anti-Semitic’

Critics of the IHRA definition say it fails to distinguish adequately between anti-Semitism and legitimate criticism of Israel. But Jewish groups in Germany welcomed the cabinet’s decision precisely because its description of anti-Semitism also applies to excessive criticism of Israel as a “Jewish collective” and not a nation like many others.

“It’s as important to combat anti-Semitism dressed up as putative criticism of Israel as to fight against the old stereotypes about Jews,” said the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Joseph Schuster.

Schuster added that Wednesday’s decision would be of help to police – a sentiment seconded by Deidre Berger, the director of the Berlin Ramer Institute for German-Jewish Relations of the American Jewish Committee.

“The lack of a unified definition has led to anti-Semitic incidents being all too often ignored in recent years,” Berger said. “The fact, for example, that the courts considered an arson attack on a synagogue in Wuppertal as non-anti-Semitic illustrates the necessity of a definition.”

Berger called for police training on the subject and for the next government to appoint a permanent anti-Semitism commissioner to ensure that the commission’s recommendations were implemented.

Source: German government adopts international anti-Semitism definition | Germany | DW | 20.09.2017

Brexit in Germany: ′Citizenship is not a panacea′ for Brits | DW | 13.09.2017

People having to make choices and the instrumental nature of citizenship:

Along with financial settlement and trade, the rights of citizens are a crucial part of the divorce talksbetween the UK and EU. But progress has been slower than many had hoped. In the meantime, anxiety grows among many of the three million EU citizens in the UK and 1.2 million Brits living and working in the EU. Chancellor Angela Merkel has sought to reassure the 100,000 Britons living in Germany that no one will be sent home, but with an election on the horizon, future conditions are anything but clear. Merkel’s advice? Go for German nationality, as she told one British expat: “to put yourself on a completely safe track.”

In Germany, Brits have been scrambling to get citizenship, which they seem to see as an insurance policy, not only to be able to remain in the country but also to retain the broader palette of rights they enjoy as EU citizens. Germany’s Statistics Office released figures in June revealing an “extraordinary increase” in the number of British citizens granted German passports in 2016. Overall naturalizations increased by 2.9 percent in comparison to 2015, whereas the number of Brits granted German citizenship soared by 361 percent to 2,865. While the agency does not specifically gather information on motivation to acquire citizenship, it did note that the surge was “quite obviously due to Brexit.”

For those who are well settled in Germany, applying is an administrative burden, but the requirements are not especially onerous: Those who have lived in the country for eight years (seven, if they pass a German-language integration test) — or for three years and been married to a German for two — are eligible to apply. Other requirements include proof of language proficiency, financial independence, a clean criminal record and a fee of 255 euros ($304).

Time limit for dual citizenship

Nick Wolfe, 29, a lawyer in Munich, says his recent application is “purely pushed on by Brexit” as well as the tight timeframe: “If you want to take German citizenship, you have to renounce your previous one, unless you are an EU citizen. What the relevant authorities here have been saying is that if you actually receive your German citizenship before March 2019, you’re okay. If you receive it afterwards, you will have to give up your British nationality to take up your German one.”

…And if it came to it, Wolfe would find it hard to give up his British nationality: “There’s a very emotional connection to it. So that’s why it’s obviously best if you can have both.”

Indeed, time is running out to submit a citizenship application. The city of Munich received 271 in the first six months of this year and granted 88. But each local authority handles applications separately, and requirements and processing times can vary wildly. In some places applicants wait up nine months just for an initial appointment, a further few months for an appointment to submit their application and then six to 12 months for processing, taking the amount of time to receive citizenship beyond the March 2019 deadline.

“It’s really complicated and there’s no one that gives you any real guidance on it,” Nick Wolfe said. “So you’re kind of at their mercy.”

Brits abroad as bargaining chips

Ingrid Taylor heads the Bavarian branch of the “British in Germany” campaign, which along with the broader “British in Europe” coalition represents UK citizens in the EU, and is awaiting the outcome of a citizenship application she submitted last November.

She speaks scathingly of the lack of support from the British government: “Because we are disenfranchised no one cares about us,” she says, referring to the fact that Brits lose their right to vote in Britain after 15 years of residence abroad. “They’re not going to look after our interests — because we can’t vote, there’s no gain in it for them.”

But fast-track citizenship cannot be the sole solution, according to Jane Golding, chair of the British in Europe: “Citizenship is not a panacea for all the issues. What we’ve had as EU citizens is a really complex bundle of interlinked rights: your right to free movement; to residence; to equal treatment; to work; to have your qualifications recognized; all sorts of rights about pensions and healthcare, all in one bundle. And you need all of them in order to live and work and have a life in another country.”

For Golding, it’s now crunch time: The bargaining-chip status of Brits in the EU must end, and rights must be guaranteed.

“We are a finite group of people who in good faith, and with legitimate expectations, thought that our rights were for life. What we are asking is that all of our rights, our complex bundle of rights are simply guaranteed.”

And as the withdrawal agreement is taking much longer to draw up than hoped, they are also asking for citizens’ rights to be ring-fenced for the rest of the negotiations: “Because we are people, these are people’s lives, and we have been living in limbo and uncertainty for all this time.”

Source: Brexit in Germany: ′Citizenship is not a panacea′ for Brits | Germany | DW | 13.09.2017

Muslims assimilate well in Germany, even though many Germans don’t like them: study

Interesting contrasts between Germany and Britain and France:

Muslim immigrants in Germany have an easier time finding a job and building a community than those in Switzerland, Austria, France and Britain.

That’s according to a new study from the Bertelsmann Foundation. The researchers spoke to more than 10,000 Muslims who were either born in Europe or arrived before 2010, which means they did not interview the millions who travelled to Europe from Syria and the Middle East during the recent refugee crisis. In 2015, Germany took in nearly a million migrants and asylum seekers.

There are 4.7 million Muslims in Germany. According to researchers, 96 percent said they felt connected to the country.

About 60 per cent now hold a full-time job, and an additional 20 per cent are employed part time. These rates are similar to those for ethnic Germans, and higher than Muslim employment rates in the other western European countries studied. It’s probably thanks to Germany’s booming economy. “The international comparison shows that it is not religious affiliation that determines the success of opportunities for integration, but the state and the economic framework,” Stephan Vopel, an expert on social cohesion at the Bertelsmann Foundation, told German broadcaster DW.

Muslim migrants do lag, however, when it comes to finding good jobs – they make less money than their German peers. And the most religious Muslims, who often dress differently and require time to worship during work hours, struggle to find employment in Germany. Devout Muslims had an easier time finding employment in the United Kingdom. Bertelsmann Foundation researchers suggested that that was because Britain has done a better job of levelling the playing field for pious Muslims, allowing female police officers, for example, to wear headscarves.

Critics say that the most recent data from Germany’s Federal Agency for Labor paints a less rosy picture. About half of the able-bodied employees without work right now are migrants.

The report also found that 73 per cent of the children born in Germany to Muslim immigrants now speak German as a first language. (Those numbers are high in France, too, as many Muslims came from countries that used to be French colonies.) And 93 per cent of German-born Muslims said they spent free time with Muslims and non-Muslims.

On education, things don’t look quite as good: 36 per cent of Muslim youths leave Germany without having completed any degree. (That number is much lower – about 11 per cent – in France.)

Although Muslims feel welcome in Germany, Germans aren’t always so eager to have them – about 19 per cent of non-Muslims in Germany said they don’t want Muslim neighbours. Those rates were high across Europe – more people said Muslims were their least preferred neighbours than any other demographic category, including foreigners, gays, Jews, people of colour, atheists, Christians and big families. (One exception: In the U.K., those surveyed preferred Muslim neighbours to big families.)

“When it comes to participation of Muslims in society, [it] isn’t as bleak as it is often presented in the media,” Ayse Demir, spokeswoman for the Berlin-based Turkish community organization TBB, told DW. “It shows that a lot of Muslims feel integrated, but there is a lack of acceptance – and that’s also our perception. Participation isn’t a one-way street: It needs to come from both sides.”

Source: National Post

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