On 30th June 2023, a 400 paged report titled as Anti- Muslim Hostility- A German Balance Sheet 2023 ( Muslimfeindlichkeit – Eine deutsche Bilanz 2023) [fn]https://www.bmi.bund.de/SharedDocs/downloads/EN/publikationen/2023/BMI22030.pdf?__blob=publicationFile&v=1[/fn] was produced by the Independent Group of Experts on Anti-Muslim Hostility UEM (Unabhängigen Expertenkreis Muslimfeindlichkeit) under the auspices of Germany’s Interior Ministry. The twelve-member[fn]
The twelve members of the UEM were officially appointed by the State Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Interior (BMI), Dr. Markus Kerber. The nominees represent a broad scope of professional and scholarly expertise the topic of Islamophobia. They are:
- Prof. Dr. Iman Attia, Alice Salomon University of Applied Sciences Berlin
- Karima Benbrahim, Information and Documentation Center for Anti-racism Work e. V. (IDA)
- Saba-Nur Cheema, Bildungsstätte Anne Frank e.V.
- Dr. Yasemin El-Menouar, Bertelsmann Foundation
- Prof. Dr. Karim Fereidooni, Ruhr University Bochum
- Prof. Dr. Kai Hafez, University of Erfurt
- Özcan Karadeniz, Association of Binational Families and Partnerships e.V.
- Prof. Dr. Anja Middelbeck-Varwick, Johann Wolfgang Goethe University Frankfurt am Main
- Nina Mühe, CLAIM – Alliance against Islam and Muslimophobia
- Prof. Mathias Rohe, Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nuremberg
- Prof. Dr. Christine Schirrmacher, Friedrich Wilhelm University Bonn and Catholic University of Leuven
- Dr. Yasemin Shooman, German Center for Integration and Migration Research (DeZIM)
[/fn] group was commissioned in September 2020 [fn]https://www.bmi.bund.de/SharedDocs/pressemitteilungen/DE/2020/09/expertenkreis-muslimfeindlichkeit.html[/fn] by the government of former chancellor Angela Merkel after a rightwing extremist shot and killed nine immigrants at a Shisha bar in Hanau in 19th February 2020 [fn]On February 19, 2020, a 43-year-old German man named Tobias Rathjen first opened fire at the Midnight bar, killing three people, before driving to the Arena Bar & Cafe where he shot and killed another five persons. After fleeing the second crime scene, Rathjen returned home where he murdered his mother and then killed himself. Rathjen had posted a racist manifesto prior to the shootings, citing conspiracy theories and a desire to exterminate non-white people and Muslims. The attacks sent shockwaves through Germany and reignited debates about far-right extremism in the country. For more details: https://ctc.westpoint.edu/hanau-terrorist-attack-race-hate-conspiracy-theories-fueling-global-far-right-violence/[/fn].
With approximately 5.5 million Muslims as of 2020 [fn]https://www.bamf.de/SharedDocs/Anlagen/EN/Forschung/Forschungsberichte/Kurzberichte/fb38-muslimisches-leben-kurzfassung.pdf?__blob=publicationFile&v=14#:~:text=The%20data%20of%20the%20MLD,million%20and%205.6%20million%20persons.[/fn] making up 6.6% of the population, Germany has the second-largest Muslim population in Western Europe after France.
The report of the UEM group offers an unflinching look at the extent of Islamophobia spreading through all sections of German society. It draws from surveys, police data from 2020-2022, documented cases of anti-muslim sentiment collected by anti-discrimination agencies, counselling organisations and, other NGOs as well as testimonies from Muslim communities. According to the report, German Muslims face discrimination regardless of ethnicity, citizenship, age, or gender. German-born Muslims are widely seen as “foreign”, while Muslim women who wear the hijab face “particularly dramatic forms of hostility”.
Almost half of Germans believe that Islam does not belong to Germany, and perceive Islam as a “backward religion”. In addition, 40% of the population of Germany would not accept a Muslim mayor. According to the report, 90% of the popular German films broadcast during the period of the study, associate Islam and Muslims with “terror attacks, wars, and the oppression of women”. [fn]https://www.themayor.eu/en/a/view/50-of-germans-are-ok-with-islamophobia-study-finds-11948[/fn]
A central feature of the UEM’s work was to venture into areas that had not received adequate attention such as education, the media, culture, administration and everyday life. The report highlights that there is a need to determine whether and to what extent equal participation of citizens independently of their religious or ethnic background, has actually been implemented in the present, and where there are still deficits.
Equal Participation in Democratic States:
Muslims, a marginalized minority, should experience unbiased interaction and equal rights. Combating discrimination shouldn’t rest solely on affected individuals.
The report states that in the German Bundestag, the national parliament of the Federal Republic of Germany, 8.2 per cent of MPs are currently from immigrant families, while citizens from immigrant backgrounds represent 26 per cent of the total population.These MPs are affiliated with Die Linke[fn]Die Linke (“The Left”) a socialist and left-wing populist political party in Germany. It was formed in 2007 by a merger of the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) and the Electoral Alternative for Labor and Social Justice (WASG)[/fn] accounting for the highest proportion of migrants and CDU/CSU the lowest at 4.1 per cent. The report stresses that there is a need to determine whether and to what extent of equal participation independent of religious or ethnic background, has actually been implemented in the present, and where there are still deficits.
The “Othering” Phenomenon and Widespread Effects:
The report uses the term “Anti-Muslim Sentiment (Muslimfeindlichkeit)” instead of “Islamophobia” which is the more established English term for the phenomenon addressed. It acknowledges the complexity of naming this phenomenon, with terms like “Islamophobia,” “anti-Islam sentiment,” and “anti-Muslim racism” used inconsistently. However, the UEM chose “anti-Muslim sentiment” specifically to focus attention on attitudes and hostility targeting individual Muslims, which can be concretely measured through surveys and statistics. Unlike “Islamophobia,” anti-Muslim sentiment emphasizes prejudices against people rather than just criticism of Islam as a religion.
The report argues the term “sentiment” captures subtle manifestations of bias, exclusion and discrimination that often go unexamined. A key goal was highlighting anti-Muslim prejudice as a societal problem – not just an issue for those targeted. The report aims to describe open and hidden anti-Muslim attitudes permeating Germany, providing data to inform policy remedies. By centring the term “anti-Muslim sentiment,” the UEM report keeps the focus on tangible evidence of racism and its impacts on Muslim communities.
The report avoids the usage of the term “Islamophobia” coined by the British think tank Runnymede Trust in 1997[fn]https://www.runnymedetrust.org/publications/islamophobia-a-challenge-for-us-all[/fn], because it implies that negative attitudes towards Muslims or Islam are irrational fears rather than prejudices. In Germany, the term “Islamfeindlichkeit” (anti-Islam sentiment) is more commonly used instead of Islamophobia. It also more explicitly conveys the idea that discrimination of Islam should be understood as a problem for society as a whole—and not just a problem for the people affected by it.
Anti-Muslim sentiment, also termed anti-Muslim racism, encompasses the ascription of essentialized, monolithic, and overwhelmingly negative traits to Muslim communities. It refers to the attribution of immutable, regressive traits to Muslims, constructing them as fundamentally foreign and threatening. This stereotyping precipitates multidimensional exclusion and subordination of Muslims through interpersonal hostility, structural barriers, cultural misrepresentations and disproportionate security policies. As a sociocultural schema with material effects, anti-Muslim sentiment ranges from latent bias to overt violence, comprising processes of social exclusion that take place discursively, individually, institutionally, and structurally. The working definition of the Independent Expert Group on Anti-Muslim Sentiment also includes the aforementioned structural dimensions:
Like other forms of discrimination, anti-Muslim sentiment affects processes within society and the state as a whole. It is crucial that those who are not directly discriminated against also show solidarity. The essence of the rule of law lies in the protection of minority rights, sometimes contrary to majority opinion, as in the case of the impermissible restriction of the religious rights of minorities. This report therefore addresses all people and organizations in Germany, for instance, in the sense of political education that is necessary at all levels.[fn] Unabhängigen Expertenkreis Muslimfeindlichkeit (UEM)(2023): Report of the Independent Expert Group on Anti-Muslim Sentiment-2023, Pg 9. Available at:https://www.bmi.bund.de/SharedDocs/downloads/EN/publikationen/2023/BMI22030.pdf?__blob=publicationFile&v=1[/fn]
According to the report, for about 20 years various studies have repeatedly shown how widespread anti-Muslim sentiment is in Germany: one in two persons in Germany has an anti-Islamic attitude and this high figure has remained almost unchanged over time. Forty- five per cent of the population rejects a Muslim mayor for their own municipality—purely on the grounds of religious affiliation. [fn]https://www.siekd.de/islam-und-musliminnen-in-deutschland-die-sicht-der-bevoelkerung-und-ihre-erwartungen-an-die-kirche-zum-christlich-islamischen-dialog/[/fn] Every third person is in favour of restricting Islamic religious practice, which is at odds with the fundamental right to freedom of religion (see Baumann/Schulz/Thiesen 2022: 422).
These conscious/ unconscious biases, and misinformation, not only generalize fear but also structural discrimination, leading to a hostile division of society into an “us” and “them,” contrary to the rule of law. The “others” are ascribed with (supposedly) unchangeable and negative characteristics, which are first and foremost in contrast to the self-image of the “we” group. This “othering” is a widespread phenomenon that affects not only Muslims but also other marginalized groups—as clearly demonstrated in the reports on anti-Semitism [fn]Unabhängiger Expertenkreis Antisemitismus (2017): Antisemitismus in Deutschland – aktuelle Entwicklungen. Zweiter Bericht des unabhängigen Expertenkreises Antisemitismus. Published by BMI. Berlin. Available online:https://www.bmi.bund.de/SharedDocs/downloads/DE/publikationen/themen/heimat-integration/expertenkreis-antisemitismus/expertenbericht-antisemitismus-in-deutschland.pdf%3Bjsessionid=4B6563E7B6F3D594DF5E159E997BE5B0.1_cid332?__blob=publicationFile&v=9[/fn] and anti-Romani sentiment. [fn]Unabhängige Kommission Antiziganismus (2021): Perspektivwechsel. Nachholende Gerechtigkeit. Partizipation. Published by BMI. Berlin. Available online: https://www.bmi.bund.de/SharedDocs/downloads/DE/publikationen/themen/heimat-integration/bericht-unabhaengige-kommission-Antiziganismus.pdf%3Bjsessionid=C5EA304D7D59A65E8348C76CF8EEA9F9.1_cid287?__blob=publicationFile&v=3[/fn] The report echoes its predecessors’ work [fn]Die Beauftragte der Bundesregierung für Migration, Flüchtlinge und Integration/Die Beauftragte der Bundesregierung für Antirassismus (2023): Lagebericht Rassismus in Deutschland. Ausgangslage, Handlungsfelder, Maßnahmen. Berlin. Available online: https:// www.integrationsbeauftragte.de/resource/ blob/1864320/2157012/77c8d1dddeea760bc13 dbd87ee9a415f/lagebericht-rassismus- komplett-data.pdf?download=1[/fn] revealing striking parallels between Anti-semitism and Anti-Muslim Sentiment.
This convergence is further evident in the inaugural “Racism in Germany” situation report released by the Federal Government Commissioner for Anti-Racism in January 2023. [fn]On January 11th, 2023, Federal Integration Commissioner and Anti-Racism Commissioner Reem Alabali-Radovan presented a report titled “Racism in Germany: Starting Position, Fields of Action, Measures.” The 100-page document by the Commissioner for Migration, Refugees and Integration is the first report solely focused on racism, characterizing it as a threat to democracy. The report provides a comprehensive look at the current state of racism in Germany across various areas of society, and outlines priority fields of action and measures to combat racism at the governmental level. Available online: https://www.integrationsbeauftragte.de/resource/blob/1864320/2157012/77c8d1dddeea760bc13dbd87ee9a415f/lagebericht-rassismus-komplett-data.pdf?download=1[/fn]
Anti-Muslim Hatred(AMR): OR ANTI-MUSLIM RACISM?
According to the report, Muslims face systemic prejudice, exclusion and discrimination fueled by growing anti-Muslim persists in Germany—across different populations and age groups. It has become so normal in parts of society that it is not even noticed. Numerous studies reveal high rates of biased treatment against Muslims in housing, employment, education and public spaces. This prejudice and bias is termed as anti-Muslim racism. Anti-Muslim racism (AMR) refers specifically to hostility directed at Muslims based on their religious identity. It entails negative stereotyping of Muslims as well as systemic Discrimination in society. AMR intersects with racism against ethnic minorities, as those perceived as Muslim encounter ‘double discrimination’.
Existing statistics expose alarming levels of discrimination. According to the “Second European Union Minorities and Discrimination Survey (EU-MIDIS II)[fn]An extensive EU survey conducted on more than 10,500 Muslim immigrants by the ِEuropean Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) in 2018 across 15 EU member states.[/fn], 39% of the Muslim respondent declared experiencing day-to-day discrimination due to their migrant background. 53% faced bias in housing and 44% in jobs specifically due to their name or appearance. 17% reported religion-based discrimination. 31% of visibly Muslim women endured harassment.
In Germany, Muslims consistently report far more discrimination than other groups – over 80% of Turkish-origin respondents in one study, conducted by the Center for Turkish Studies (Zentrum für Türkeistudien und Integrationsforschung) in North Rhine-Westphalia in 2010.
Controlled experiments demonstrating bias against Muslim names and headscarves in German housing and job applications were conducted in 2016 by the IZA Institute of Labor Economics and in 2018 by the WZB Berlin Social Science Center, showing that Muslim names and headscarves substantially reduce callbacks for housing and employment compared to identical applicants without these attributes.
Qualitative research provides further insights into the everyday exclusion Muslims face, from verbal harassment to prejudice from teachers. Visibly Muslim women, especially those wearing headscarves, disproportionately encounter gendered Islamophobic attacks and restrictions.
The report criticizes the authorities’ lack of grasp of the AMR dynamics. While awareness is rising, anti-Muslim hostility has become more overt and normalized recently. As Muslims increasingly speak out, far-right movements mobilize anti-Muslim sentiment. AMR must be acknowledged as systemic, needing cross-sectorial government action. Concrete policy changes along with public education can foster an inclusive society.
The report outlines recommendations focused on improving support services, data collection, training, and platforms for those facing anti-Muslim racism to mobilize collectively. Sustained research and policy efforts focused on Muslim experiences are critical to challenge discrimination. As AMR normalizes across Europe, ensuring an inclusive society demands giving marginalized voices prominence in shaping more just outcomes.
Widespread Anti-Muslim Attitudes
The report paints a concerning picture of persistent anti-Muslim prejudice in German society. Drawing on data from long-running attitudinal surveys like the ‘Mitte-Studien’ by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation [fn]https://www.fes.de/referat-demokratie-gesellschaft-und-innovation/gegen-rechtsextremismus/mitte-studie[/fn] and the ‘Religionsmonitor’ by the Bertelsmann Foundation,[fn]https://www.bertelsmann-stiftung.de/fileadmin/files/BSt/Publikationen/imported/leseprobe/1_740_Leseprobe.pdf[/fn]the report shows that around one-third to 40 percent of German population have strong anti-Muslim reservations.
For instance, according to the Friedrich Ebert Foundations ‘Mitte-Studie’ series survey, 32 to 35 per cent of respondents agree with the following statement “Because of the many Muslims, I sometimes feel like a stranger in my own country.” Similarly, in the Bertelsmann Stiftung’s ‘Religionsmonitor’ survey, 41% of respondents have little or no trust in Muslims. [fn]https://www.bertelsmann-stiftung.de/fileadmin/files/BSt/Publikationen/GrauePublikationen/Religionsmonitor_Vielfalt_und_Demokratie_7_2019.pdf[/fn] Across multiple surveys going back over 15 years, around half of respondents view Islam itself as threatening rather than enriching. Those on the political right show greater prejudice, with anti-Muslim views held by 77% of this group.
The prevalence of such attitudes is corroborated by incidents of discrimination and violence targeting Muslims and their institutions. Since 2017, Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office has recorded ‘anti-Islamic crimes’ as a sub-category of hate crime. The number of anti-Islamic crimes totaled 1,075 cases in 2017, 910 in 2018, 950 in 2019, 1,026 in 2020, and in 2021 this figure dropped for the first time to 726 cases. In addition to the statistics compiled by the Federal Criminal Police Office, the report also uses the data regarding the anti-Islamic attacks as documented by various civil society actors like the anti-discrimination office of the Turkish-Islamic Union of the Institute for Religion (ADS DITIB), which has documented attacks on mosques and other religious institutions since 2015. [fn]https://jugendhilfeportal.de/institution/tuerkisch-islamische-union-der-anstalt-fuer-religion-ev#:~:text=Die%20T%C3%BCrkisch%2DIslamische%20Union%20der,Ihr%20geh%C3%B6ren%20870%20Vereine%20an[/fn]
Alongside such recorded incidents, the UEM report also mentions the Minorities and Discrimination Surveys conducted by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (EU-MIDIS II)[fn]https://fra.europa.eu/sites/default/files/fra_uploads/fra-2017-eu-minorities-survey-muslims-selected-findings_de.pdf[/fn] which suggests that most anti-Muslim discrimination goes unreported, with only 12% of affected individuals contacting authorities. This implies actual levels of anti-Muslim prejudice far exceed documented cases.
While the UEM report avoids drawing definitive conclusions about trends, it notes an increase in discrimination during specific events like the 2015-16 “refugee crisis” [fn]https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/04/syrian-refugee-crisis-why-has-it-become-so-bad[/fn] or terrorist attacks in Germany.
The widespread prevalence of anti-Muslim views revealed by survey data demonstrates that much work remains to be done tackling prejudices among the broader German population.
Anti-Muslim Bias Persists Across Germany’s Education System
The report reveals concerning levels of bias and discrimination against Muslims across the country’s education system from early education through to higher learning.
School textbooks display reductive views of Islam and Muslims. A 2023 study [fn]https://www.gei.de/forschung/projekte/muslimfeindlichkeit-in-schulbuechern-schumu[/fn]commissioned by UEM analyzing 761 textbooks found that Muslims are primarily mentioned in the context of conflict, while few individual Muslims are named. The report argues such narratives help ingrain anti-Muslim bias from an early age.
Among Muslim students, over 60% of discrimination cases reported in 2021 to the Berliner Anlaufstelle Diskriminierungsschutz a Schulen (Berlin Contact Point for Protection against Discrimination in Schools (ADAS) came from teachers, while 30% came from classmates.[fn]https://adas-berlin.de/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/Diskriminierung-an-Berliner-Schulen-ADAS-berichtet.pdf[/fn] Incidents include provocative questioning of female students wearing headscarves and blanket judgement of Muslim students’ behaviour as culturally backward.
The report argues such treatment arises from essentialist assumptions like a Muslim student’s decision to take a break after graduating from high school and not to study for a is attributed to a “Muslim tradition of getting married quickly. Muslim female students are repeatedly addressed at schools as incapable victims of assumed patriarchal structures incapable of making informed choices, among other grievances.
Muslim boys face the stigma of being violent and potentially radical Islamist Muslims. Discrimination also emerges through school assessments, with migrant children often graded lower than warranted by ability. At the university level, the report finds anti-Muslim bias evidenced in research funding priorities disproportionately focused on extremism regarding Islam over other topics. The report notes university anti-discrimination offices likely only cover a fraction of relevant issues.
While increased funding has expanded educational programs countering racism, the report argues that anti-Muslim racism remains inadequately addressed in political education. Providers like the Federal Agency for Civic Education have only recently expanded materials on anti-Muslim bias as a phenomenon distinct from general xenophobia.
Additionally, the report highlights gaps, like the lack of data on prejudice among younger students below the age of 18. The question as to whether and to what extent anti-Muslim prejudices can already be found among children has not been thoroughly investigated through empirical studies. In Germany, there is a notable research gap concerning the perpetuation and encounters with racism during childhood.
Terror, Islamization, and Orientalism: The focus on the arts and culture scene
Muslim animosity can also be observed in art and culture. An extensive analysis of the portrayal of Islam in German-language films reveals that nearly 90 per cent of the films contain negative references to Islam and Muslims. Stories about terrorist attacks, radicalization, wars, and the oppression of women are central, narrowing down the cinematic themes related to Islam to a few conflict and crisis topics. An overrepresentation of problem-oriented film genres (drama, thriller, crime) and the widespread use of visual Islamic stereotypes (women wearing headscarves as a cinematic reference to “ghettos”) contribute to the portrayal of Islam as threatening, repressive, and not belonging.
The diversity of Muslim lifestyles and stories remains largely invisible in German-language film productions. Instead of utilizing the potential of fictional entertainment media to tell new and everyday stories, countering the conflict-oriented news agenda, the latter is further perpetuated and solidified in the film sector.
Islam-related themes on German theatre stages suggest a similar issue. Although research in this area is sparse, the UEM obtained an initial assessment through a relevant expert, Azadeh Sharifi [fn]Azadeh Sharifi is a Visiting Assistant Professor (DAAD-Gastprofessur) at the University of Toronto who is currently working on the history of migrant and minority artists in Germany since 1955 (“Post-migrant German theatre history”)[/fn]. According to her, anti-Muslim narratives like “Islamization” are acted out on German theatre stages with some regularity. She points to various adaptations of Michel Houellebecq’s novel ‘Submission‘, which addresses the fear of an “Islamization of Europe.” [fn]https://www.dw.com/en/michel-houellebecqs-new-novel-unleashes-islamophobia-row/a-18174103[/fn] The theatrical treatment of the “Islamization” narrative can be part of permissible criticism of Islam. However, reproducing media discourses depicting Islam as an enemy risks perpetuating conflict-focused agendas, rather than an open approach to Islam. If productions predominantly present Islam in terms of conflicts, they reinforce culturalist stereotypes instead of engaging in nuanced Islamic critique.
In the realm of museums, the challenges, both in terms of content and structure, were outlined by the experts consulted for the report: Prof. Klaus Hesse, [fn]Prof. Klaus Hesse is a renowned German graphic designer[/fn] and Dr. Staci Gem Scheiwiller,[fn] Dr Staci Gem Scheiwiller is an Associate Professor of Modern Art History in the Art Department at California State University, Stanislaus.[/fn] argue that anti-Muslim stereotypes influence the ways Islam is portrayed in German museums today. They identify issues like depicting Islam as a “closed, foreign world” distinct from Europe, reflecting Orientalist notions of separate cultural spheres. Displays often focus narrowly on Sunni Islam and the Middle East, lacking visibility for Islamic diversity. Cultural practices tend to be simplistically linked to religion and migration, reducing Muslim identities.
For example, exhibits portraying everyday migrant culture through objects like kebabs conflate Muslim and migrant identities. Educational materials exoticize Islam through desert scenes and “oriental” recipes. Contemporary Muslim artists feel pigeonholed by expectations to represent “Islamic art”, rather than being seen as individual creators.
According to experts like Prof. Alexandra Karentzos, [fn] Alexandra Karentzos is an art historian and Professor of Fashion and Aesthetics at the Technical University of Darmstadt [/fn] issues stem partly from the legacies of colonialism shaping Islamic collections and displays. But they also point to a lack of diversity among museum staff and leadership, with few having expertise in Islam. Smaller museums in particular fear right-wing backlash over engagement with Islam.
However, some pioneering initiatives counter stereotypes, like Berlin’s Museum of Islamic Art partnering with refugees as tour guides. Independent art spaces offer the potential for complex engagement with identity and belonging regarding Islam. Overall though, experts argue German museums largely reflect and potentially reinforce anti-Muslim societal narratives. Overcoming this requires a structural change in staffing, content, and approach.
Muslims as Security Risk
The UEM report raises concerns about German security agencies viewing Muslims as a general security threat, leading to institutional discrimination. Academics like Prof. Werner Schiffauer [fn]Werner Schiffauer is a Professor of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the European University, Viadrina, Frankfurt, Germany[/fn] criticize state suspicion policies as exaggerated, non-transparent and stigmatizing. Particularly concerning is the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution listing some 30,000 members of observed Islamist organizations as anti-constitutional, despite these groups officially accepting Germany’s constitution. Prof. Schiffauer argues such blanket suspicion of entire organizations is illegitimate and counterproductive.
The report details Muslim complaints of being targeted as alleged terrorists and facing discrimination in education, housing and healthcare due to the state’s focus on Islam as a threat. Muslims feel accepted only as security partners, while their equal citizenship is questioned. Prof. Schiffauer praises the founding of the German Islam Conference in 2006 [fn]https://www.bmi.bund.de/EN/topics/community-and-integration/german-islam-conference/german-islam-conference-node.html#:~:text=The%20Federal%20Ministry%20of%20the,authorities%20and%20Muslims%20in%20Germany.[/fn] for initiating government dialogue with Muslims. But he argues the conference agenda remains shaped by security concerns, with the Office for the Protection of the Constitution holding more sway in practice over Muslims’ lives than the token dialogue initiative.
The report underscores the profound relevance of the security system in the daily lives of Muslims, significantly influencing their experiences and affecting the integration prospects of those who are willing to assimilate into society. Furthermore, it sheds light on a critical gap—there is a notable absence of research into anti-Muslim biases within security agency personnel. The cases reported to the UEM, where Muslims were not hired in public service not because of proven criminal offences but due to the criteria established by either the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution or relevant state offices. To avoid unintentional institutional discrimination stemming from inappropriate vetting processes aimed at averting threat criteria, it is imperative to openly discuss how these different offices define such criteria, their validity, and the evidence basis.
Political Engagement and Representation
The UEM report highlights issues around the political participation and representation of Germany’s Muslims, the largest minority group at around 6.5% of the population. It notes Muslims face structural disadvantages in asserting political interests independently due to their minority status in an electoral system dominated by non-Muslim majorities.
While Muslims have rights protecting religious freedoms, the report argues they require active support from established parties to voice concerns politically and avoid institutional discrimination. However, studies find mainstream parties like the CDU (Christian Democratic Union of Germany) have focused more on demanding assimilation than promoting participation. [fn]https://www.middleeasteye.net/opinion/germany-conservatives-crusade-muslim-civil-society#:~:text=The%20CDU%2FCSU%20had%20already,under%20the%20existing%20framework%20conditions%22.[/fn]
The report commissioned research analyzing party programs and parliamentary debates from 2015 to 2021. It found the far-right AfD (Alternative for Germany)expresses outright anti-Muslim ideology across state and federal programs, depicting Islam as fundamentally incompatible with Germany and a threat. The desired restrictions on religious freedom violate the principles of secular democracy. [fn]https://www.france24.com/en/20160502-germany-right-wing-afd-party-adopts-anti-islam-manifesto[/fn]
According to the report, among other parties, latent anti-Muslim sentiment emerges in a reduced recognition of Islam and conflict-focused discourse. But they now acknowledge anti-Muslim racism as an issue, despite unclear positions. The report sees no major discursive shift to the right besides the AfD’s presence enabling anti-Muslim speech in parliament. However, the strong security focus on Islam in parliamentary debates continues even among non-far-right parties. There is little discussion of reforms to counter structural racism in state institutions. Overall, the report concludes Muslims lack effective political representation, though they are not fully marginalized.
Part of the problem lies with Muslim voting behaviours. Muslims largely view the CDU/CSU(regional Bavarian Christlich-Soziale Union) as their political home, despite latent anti-Muslim elements. In 2021, 50% of Muslims voted for the CDU/CSU, versus just 16% for the SPD (Social Democrats). The Greens received 13%, the Left 7%, the FDP 6% and the AfD just 1% of the Muslim vote. This loyalty stems from the CDU’s former welcoming rhetoric of recognition of Islam as a part of the German nation or culture. The report argues that this recognition is inconsistent as they fail to consistently combat institutional racism on the level of discursively locating Islam as an enemy image (terrorism, etc.) as well as passive and often unstructured attitudes—in recent years, moreover, strangely with their diminishing solidarity.
The report mentions the debate in the German Bundestag on 12 January 2021 regarding the resolution of the motion titled “Anti-Muslim Racism and Discrimination against Muslims in Germany” [fn]Deutscher Bundestag (2021): Entschließungsantrag. Antimuslimischer Rassismus und Diskriminierung von Muslimen in Deutschland. Available online:https://dserver.bundestag.de/btd/19/257/1925778.pdf[/fn] by Die Linke. The CDU/CSU paid lip service to oppose anti-Muslim sentiment, yet obstructed reforms to address institutional racism. They rejected the term “anti-Muslim racism” as supposedly contrived, despite data on violence against Muslims. While condemning attacks, the CDU/CSU blocked initiatives to expand discrimination documentation, curb racial profiling, and mandate training against anti-Muslim bias in public services. Their rhetoric claims to support Muslims, but by denying policy changes to tackle structural racism, the CDU/CSU effectively reinforce suspicion and exclusion of Muslims in Germany. Their inconsistent stance exposes a gap between nominal opposition to anti-Muslim hatred and substantive action needed to achieve equal belonging.
Key recommendations for action
The UEM report recommends comprehensive state protection for Muslims in public spaces. It argues that anti-Muslim sentiment should be considered in tandem with racism, as it involves racist motives beyond just reservations about Islam.
The report advocates establishing an expert council and federal commissioner to combat anti-Muslim sentiment through public information and consultation. It calls for a Federal Government strategy to promote equal participation and representation of Muslims across institutions, with binding targets.
The report stresses training against anti-Muslim racism for professions like teachers, police, civil servants and healthcare workers should become mandatory. It recommends expanding counselling services and empowerment measures for those facing anti-Muslim discrimination.
Along the same line, school curricula and textbooks should be revised to remove anti-Muslim content and encourage critical examination of anti-Muslim attitudes. It argues political education programs against anti-Muslim racism need expanding and consolidating.
For culture, it advocates promoting film, theatre and museum projects showcasing Muslim diversity, to counter stereotypes. In media, it recommends diversifying reporting beyond conflict-focused Islam coverage and tackling anti-Muslim online hate speech.
The report advocates for fortifying anti-discrimination laws both nationally and at the state level. This involves proactive measures to prevent discrimination, thorough documentation of laws to assess their potential discriminatory impact, and granting associations the right to initiate class-action lawsuits. It calls for systematic documentation of anti-Muslim practices in state authorities, with full reporting in statistics.
It recommends expanding judge training to cover past and present racism like anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim sentiment. Finally, the report says all political parties should develop strategies to fight anti-Muslim racism, promote related parliamentary debate and boost Muslim political representation.
Federal Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser thanked the expert group for its work and declared: “Muslim life is a natural part of Germany. We want all people in our diverse society to have the same opportunities and rights. This makes the findings of this first comprehensive report on Muslim hostility in Germany all the more bitter: many of the 5.5 million Muslims in Germany experience exclusion and discrimination in their everyday lives – up to and including hatred and violence. It is very important to make this visible and to create awareness for still widespread resentment.”
Karima Benbrahim, one of the authors of the study, said that a joint effort is needed by society and its institutions to both make people aware of Muslim hostility and fight it.“Muslim hostility is something that affects everyone in this society and not just those concerned,” she said. [fn]https://www.independent.co.uk/news/ap-muslims-berlin-turkish-arabic-b2366540.html[/fn]
Fatina Keilani, Berlin bureau chief of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, noted that the report “regards almost every critical statement about Islam as anti-Muslim” although “speech and counter-speech, criticism and counter-argument are essential to a free society.”[fn]https://www.nzz.ch/meinung/der-andere-blick/fragwuerdiger-bericht-zur-muslimfeindlichkeit-in-deutschland-ld.1744941?reduced=true[/fn]
Conversely, German lawmaker Christoph de Vries described the report as being “one-sided” and “looks more like an activist position paper than a balanced expert report.” He added that the report “gives the impression that criticism of Islam and Islamism should be completely suppressed.” [fn]https://islamism.news/news/german-government-produces-report-about-anti-muslim-hostility-with-islamist-help/[/fn]
The head of the Frankfurt Research Center on Global Islam, Susanne Schröter, commenting on the report said, “The report follows the strategies of the Islamo-Left, which for years has tried to denounce as anti-Muslim any criticism of Islamism or the downside of immigration from Muslim countries.”
She said that “the factuality of grievances is denied, be it extremist ideologies, clan crime, honour killings or sexual assaults,” and “anyone who names them is considered anti-Muslim.” She warned that the report’s long list of recommendations “reads like a manual for instituting censorship.” Since criticizing Islam and Islamism “is considered racist and anti-democratic, politicians are called upon to prevent this,” she said. “It doesn’t take much imagination to appreciate that state repression measures, including legal prosecution, can result from this.” [fn]https://islamism.news/news/german-government-produces-report-about-anti-muslim-hostility-with-islamist-help/[/fn]
On August 16 2023, Sigrid Herrmann, who writes the blog “Islamism and Society”[fn]https://vunv1863.wordpress.com/[/fn] and is regularly quoted by German media, announced that she was taking legal action against Germany’s Interior Ministry for publishing “false factual claims” about her and for violating her “fundamental rights” and “freedom of expression.” She has accused the Federal Ministry of the Interior of misrepresentations about her person. The reason is a passage in the report describing Herrmann, who runs a blog called “Islamism and Society” (formerly: “Forward and not forgotten”), which is listed as an example of Muslimophobia and pre-judgment of Muslims. She is demanding injunctive relief, which would require the Interior Ministry to withdraw the report and correct the errors. The Interior Ministry has rejected responsibility for the content of the report. It insists that the UEM is independent of the government.[fn]https://www.welt.de/politik/article246928320/Islamismus-Expertin-mahnt-Bundesinnenministerium-ab.html[/fn]
Christoph de Vries, a member of the German Bundestag for the opposition Christian Democratic Union (CDU) told FWI that the “reclassification” of “Islamophobia” as “anti-Muslim hostility” seeks to “portray Muslims exclusively as victims.” Critics of Islam or Islamism “are thus very quickly branded racists, a racism that is believed to be located in a large part of mainstream society,” he said. “There is no real evidence for this, but the report uses a hodgepodge of quotations, which are often taken out of context, in an attempt to prove this thesis. [fn]https://islamism.news/news/german-government-produces-report-about-anti-muslim-hostility-with-islamist-help/[/fn]
The prominent German-Jewish author Henryk Broder is also taking legal action against the Interior Ministry. The “anti-Muslim hostility” report claims that he “generally demonizes Muslims as ignorant, honor-obsessed, bloodthirsty hordes.” Broder’s lawyer, Joachim Steinhöfel, has requested an injunction to prevent that allegation from being distributed. “The fact that violations of personal rights should be permitted by merely spreading them is a very idiosyncratic interpretation of our fundamental rights, by the ministry responsible for protecting the constitution, of all things,” he said. A decision by the Administrative Court of Berlin is pending.[fn]https://www.welt.de/politik/article246928320/Islamismus-Expertin-mahnt-Bundesinnenministerium-ab.html[/fn]
An investigation by the German newspaper Die Welt revealed that Islamist groups with ties to Iran and Turkey were heavily involved in producing the report. The UEM consulted with representatives of the Islamic Community of Shiite Organizations in Germany IGS (Islamischen Gemeinschaft der schiitischen Gemeinden Deutschland), an umbrella group representing more than 150 Shiite mosques in Germany. [fn]welt.de/…/Diskriminierung-Islamistische-Verbaende-wirkten-an-Studie-des-Innenministeriums-mit[/fn]
Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, BfV), stated that IGS (Islamischen Gemeinschaft der schiitischen Gemeinden Deutschland) is controlled by the Islamic Center of Hamburg (Islamischen Zentrums Hamburg, IZH). German intelligence describes the IZH as a leading “propaganda centre” of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Europe that is dedicated to “exporting the Islamic Revolution.” The IZH is well known for spreading “anti-Western, anti-Semitic, and anti-Israel extremist ideology.[fn]https://www.verfassungsschutz.de/DE/verfassungsschutz/der-bericht/vsb-islamismus-und-islamistischer-terrorismus/vsb-islamismus-und-islamistischer-terrorismus_node.html#doc1198890bodyText5[/fn][fn]https://islamism.news/research/investigations/will-tehrans-strategic-outpost-in-germany-finally-be-closed/[/fn]
The recent 400-page UEM report makes for difficult but vital reading, despite criticisms of bias. Its unflinching portrait of anti-Muslim racism permeating German society sparked both affirmation and backlash. While some argue it silences reasonable criticism of Islamism, the report’s central message remains undeniable. Its comprehensive analysis underscores that racism targeting Muslims threatens Germany’s democratic foundations. Uprooting entrenched prejudices requires collective soul-searching, even when it unveils uncomfortable truths. By giving visibility to Muslim voices, this landmark report demands a reckoning. Heeding its call is the only path to realizing a pluralistic Germany where equal belonging extends to all faiths