Islam in Germany


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Germany has the largest Muslim population in Western Europe after France. Approximately 3.0 to 3.5 million Muslims live in Germany, and 80% of them do not have German citizenship; 608,000 are German citizens. ((The Federal German agency for statistics (Statistisches Bundesamt) does not provide any data about the religious orientation of the population in Germany. Only data on the basis of citizenship is available and can serve as a basis for estimations, see: Koenig, Matthias, Staatsbürgerschaft und religiöse Pluralität in post-nationalen Konstellationen. Zum institutionellen Wandel europäischer Religionspolitik am Beispiel der Inkorporation muslimischer Immigranten in Großbritannien, Frankreich und Deutschland (Citizenship and Religious Pluralism in Post-National Constellations. About the Institutional Change of European Religious Politics – The Example of the Incorporation of Muslim Immigrants in Great Britain, France and Germany) (PhD, University of Marburg 2003). Koenig mentions a total figure of 3,040,000 Muslims. This estimate refers to the number of immigrants from Islamic countries. Blaschke speaks of an estimated number of up to 3.2 million Muslims in Germany, see: Blaschke, Jochen, Tolerated but Marginalised – Muslims in Germany, in: Parabolis Verlagsabteilung im Europäischen Migrationszentrum (eds), State Policies towards Muslim Minorities. Sweden, Great Britain and Germany (Kempten 2004), 41-197.)) 100,000 of them are German converts to Islam. ((Blaschke (2004).)) Recent statistics show a continuing increase in their numbers. ((Islam Institute Soest, Frühjahrsumfrage: Neue Daten und Fakten über den Islam in Deutschland, 1/2006 (Soest 2006):

70% of the Muslim population is of Turkish origin. ((Koenig (2003): 80%; (Blaschke, 2004, 78): One third.)) Turkish immigration to Germany began in the 1960s in response to a German labor shortage. While these laborers were expected to leave Germany after their work was completed, half of them ended up staying in the country. At first the immigration was predominantly men, but they were eventually followed by their wives and families. ((Wolbert, B., Migrationsbewältigung [Coping with Migration] (Göttingen 1984).)) Muslims settled around the industrial areas of Berlin, Cologne, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Dortmund, Essen, Duisburg, Munich, Nurnberg, Darmstadt and Goppingen, and Hamburg. Only a few Muslims live on the territory of the former German Democratic Republic.

The second largest Muslim population is of Bosnian and Herzegovinan origin (around 167,081), followed by Iran (81,495), Morocco (79,794), and Afghanistan (65,830), Lebanon (46,812), Pakistan (35,081), Syria (29,476), Tunisia (24,533), Algeria (16,974), Indonesia (12,660) and Jordan (10,448). ((Mühe (2007), 15; Other sources speak about far more Iranians. Stern speaks for instance about 120,000: Iranians in Germany, see: Palestinian refugees often entered Germany from third countries, but their numbers are estimated to be close to 60,000. ((Larzillère, Pénélope, Palästinensische Studenten in Deutschland und Frankreich [Palestinian Students in Germany and France], in: Escudier, Alexandre/ Sauzay, Brigitte /Thadden, Rudolf von (eds), Der Islam in Europa: Der Umgang mit dem Islam in Frankreich und Deutschland; [Islam in Europe. The Exposure to Islam in France and Germany; 5] (Göttingen 2003), 107-120.)) The German Afghan population, which has diminished significantly since the fall of the Taliban, is the largest in Europe. ((Blaschke (2004), 88.)) Compared to other countries of Western Europe, Germany also has the highest number of Kurds amongst its immigrant population. The German Arab population is approximately 290,000 (in 2002). ((Blaschke (2004), 91.))

These Turkish labor migrants, along with laborers from North Africa and Yugoslavia, who arrived in the 1960s and 1970s represent the first wave of Muslims to arrive in Germany. ((The height of the Muslim labour migration was in 1968, see: Schiffauer, Werner, Turks in Germany, in: Melvin Ember (ed), Communities: Encyclopedia of Diasporas, Vol. 2. (New York 2005), 1130-1140, 1130. In November 1973, recruitment was officially stopped.)) Since the early 1980s, the number of Muslim asylum seekers began to increase, especially those from Turkey (Kurds, Yezidis and Assyrians) ((Schiffauer (2005), 1131.)) and the former Yugoslavia. A number of mostly secular Muslims, especially students, also began to migrate from Iran in the 1960s. Today Iranians are one of the most integrated communities in Germany, evidenced by the fact that the relative number of Iranian academics and business people is far above average. Lastly, Bosnian and Kosovar Muslims who were fleeing wars in the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, generated large flows across Europe and came to Germany in numbers more than 300,000.

The Muslim population in Germany, however, is rather fluid since many older Muslims from Turkey return to their land of origin for retirement. Today Muslims of four generations live in Germany. One third of Muslims of Turkish origins were born in Germany but do not have German citizenship. 16.5% of the Bosnian immigrants, 8.7% of the Iranians, 21.0% of the Moroccans, and 12.6% of the Afghans were born in Germany without having German citizenship. ((Federal Government, Commissioner on Migration, Bericht über die Lage der Ausländerinnen und Ausländer in Deutschland, 2005:

Approximately 65% are Sunni, but there are also populations of Alevites (12%), Yezidi (7%), Turkish Shiites (2%) and some Imamites. ((Mühe (2007), 5.))

Islamic Practice

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Around 10% of the Muslims in Germany are active in the religious community, whereas 30% adhere to fasting and religious holidays. ((Gerdien, Jonker/ Kapphan, Andreas (eds), Moscheen und islamisches Leben in Berlin [Mosques and Islamic Life in Berlin], Ausländerbeauftragte des Senats [Commissioner of the Senate on Foreigners] (Berlin 1999), 21; Blaschke considers this figure to be as underestimated, see: Blaschke (2004), 70.))

There are at least 2,500 Muslim places of worship in Germany, with close to 140 proper mosques with domes and minarets. The process of building mosques is regularly contested by the German population and by local governments.

No general ban exists concerning the wearing of the headscarf, although there is an ongoing debate in regards to teachers wearing the headscarf. In 2003, the Federal Constitutional Court ruled against the Land Baden-Württemberg in its effort to ban a Muslim teacher from wearing the headscarf. However, the court left a back door open for Länder (Federal States) level bans. Various states have passed laws banning the hijab for teachers. The state of Hessen, for example, has banned it even for all public officials. The conflicts over the hijab at schools continue.

Halal slaughter was challenged legally for many years. In 2002, however, the Federal Constitutional Court ruled that Muslims have the right to exemption from animal protection legislation in respect of their religious beliefs. Nevertheless, conflicts over slaughter continue. Since the 1960s so-called ‘ethnic businesses’ have been set up to satisfy the growing demand for goods and services from Muslim labour migrants. ((Blaschke (2004), 124.)) One of the most influential is the Association of Independent Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (MÜSIAD), whose members are religious entrepreneurs. ((Blaschke (2004), 125.))

Labor Market

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Employees’ religious backgrounds are not registered in German employment statistics. Thus, estimations are based primarily on national origins. Unemployment rates are consistently twice as high for non-Germans, with Turkish nationals appearing to be in the worst situation. ((Vollmer, Bastian, German Employment Strategies towards Immigrants and Ethnic Minorities, in: Blaschke, Jochen/ Vollmer, Bastian (eds), Employment Strategies for Immigrants in the European Union (Berlin 2004), 131-200, 143; Blaschke (2004), 122.)) In some Länder, the unemployment rate among the young Muslim population is estimated to be around 30%. (( Blaschke (2004), 123.)) Even when comparing foreigners to Germans without any qualifications, a greater proportion of foreigners (three quarters) than Germans (one third) are unemployed.

Young immigrants are also concentrated in unskilled or semi-skilled jobs and often receive training in a narrow range of professions, such as the mining, textile, and car industries and in commerce, handicraft, and other types of self-employed jobs. They are tremendously underrepresented in the field of public service. ((Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (eds.), Berufsbildungsbericht 2001 (Bonn 2001), 82.)) Young Muslim women, who often have worse chances than do Muslim men, work mostly as hairdressers, dentist assistants, or medical secretaries. Higher status employment lags in the apprenticeship countries, so there is some trade-off between the goals of high employment and employment in high places.

Generally, Muslims face the same disadvantages as do other immigrants in the German labor market, namely informal discrimination and formal discrimination because of their insecure residence status and lack of German citizenship. ((Mühe (2007), 6-7, see also Blaschke (2004), 123.)) Individuals without German citizenship are generally only entitled to work if no unemployed German or member of an EU country can be found for the job. Thus, in the context of high unemployment rates, finding employment has become increasingly difficult for Muslim migrants. Recruitment of Muslims in the German civil service is restricted by the fact that most Muslims do not have German citizenship. Thus, there are very few police officers, for instance, in Germany with a Muslim background. Asylum seekers often do not have work permission or face long waiting periods before the permission is granted. Before 2004 foreigners residing in Germany were granted access to the labor market after five to six years of official residence. A new law for the regulation of immigration (Zuwanderungsgesetz) extends this right to additional groups of foreigners, such as accepted refugees or accepted asylum seekers. ((Report of the Commissioner of the Federal Government on Migration (Berlin 2005), 74.))

Along with the general hardships which most immigrants face, there also barriers in obtaining employment that are specific to migrant Muslims. Discrimination is often more significant in semi-skilled jobs than in more highly qualified ones. In such an environment, Muslims regularly face their employers’ intolerance towards their religious duties such as the Friday prayer and the daily prayers, and canteens which do not serve halal food, since no legal regulations exist with regard to these matters. Members of certain Muslim organizations which, although legal, have been officially labeled ‘Islamist’ are excluded from several fields of employment, such as civil service in the field of security. In these fields a Regelanfrage (regular application) at the Verfassungsschutz is obligatory. ((Schiffauer, Werner, Der unheimliche Muslim. Staatsbürgerschaft und zivilgesellschaftliche Ängste [The Weird Muslim. Citizenship and Fears of the Civil Society], in: Tezcan, Levent/ Wohlrab-Sahr, Monika (eds), Konfliktfeld Islam in Europa [Islam in Europe as Field of Conflicts] (Munich 2006).)) Muslim women sometimes encounter additional barriers to employment, as evidenced by the ban of the headscarf.

Apart from formal and informal discrimination, which appears to be significantly influential, ((Goldberg, Andreas, Dora Mourinho/ Kulke, Ursula, Arbeitsmarkt-Diskriminierung gegenüber ausländischen Arbeitnehmern in Deutschland [Discrimination in the labour market against foreign workers in Germany], Employment Department – International Labour Office International Migration Papers 7 (Geneva n.d.), 12.)) high unemployment rates among Muslims may also be attributed to lower education levels.


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There are an estimated 700,000 German pupils with a Muslim background currently in schools and higher education. ((Mühe (2007); Havva Engin mentions 6%, see: Engin, Havva, Islam in Deutschland: Wenn sechs Prozent aller Schüler Muslime sind: Islamischer Religionsunterricht an deutschen Schulen? Eine Bestandsaufnahme” [Islam in Germany. When Six Percent of All Pupils Are Muslims: Islamic Religious Education in German Schools? A Review of the Situation], in: Der Bürger im Staat 4 (2001). The overall number of pupils with an immigrant background is estimated to be 22%, see: PISA-Konsortium (Manfred Prenzel, Jürgen Baumert, Werner Blum, et al.), PISA 2003. Ergebnisse des zweiten Ländervergleichs – Zusammenfassung [Results of the Second Comparison of Federal States – Summary]. In collaboration with Claus H. Carstensen, Clemens Draxler, et al. Published by IPN – Leibniz-Institut für die Pädagogik der Naturwissenschaften (Kiel 2003), 32. Fluctuating between 10% in the new Länder and 36% in some old Länder. On Education of Muslims in Germany: Islam and Identity in Germany Crisis Group Europe Report 181, 14 (2007), 6-11.)) However, official statistics only refer to foreign students. ((Statistisches Bundesamt (ed.), Allgemeinbildende Schulen, Ausländische Schüler/innen nach Staatsangehörigkeit:

The latest PISA studies provide evidence that immigrants and children of immigrants do not do as well in German schools as do those with German backgrounds. They are much more likely to be in lower division schools (within the German threefold school system) and to leave school without a degree. Three times as many foreign children (pupils who do not hold German passports but who pursued their education in Germany) as German children advance only to Hauptschule (lowest secondary school) after primary school, with no further or higher education after that. ((Statistisches Bundesamt (ed.), Allgemeinbildende Schulen, Ausländische Schüler/innen nach Staatsangehörigkeit:

47% of the foreign-born have less than a secondary education and fewer than 15% have a higher degree. The OECD collects data on education from various statistical agencies within the country, the majority of which comes from census data from the year 2000. The OECD classifies educational achievement using the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED): ISCED 0-2: Less than upper secondary; ISCED 3-4: Upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary; ISCED 5A: “Academic” tertiary; ISCED 5B: “Vocational” tertiary; ISCED 6: Advanced research programs. 0-2 are considered low, 3-4 as medium, and 5 and above are considered high. This data is not reported by religion but does have country of origin as reported by the respondent. It is thus possible to construct an approximate picture of the educational achievement of the population in the country with ancestry from predominately Muslim countries. One significant problem is that some countries, such as India and Nigeria, have large Muslim populations, but the immigrant population cannot be readily classified as predominately Muslim or non-Muslim. As such, the educational data is split by predominately Muslim origin, predominately non-Muslim origin, and a separate category for those for whom classification would not seem justified. Proportions are for all reported data, and individuals with no reported ancestry or education are excluded.

Members of Bundestag with Muslim Background

Lale AkgünSDPTurkish Background
Ekin DeligözGreenTurkish Background
Hakki KeskinLeftTurkish Background; former SDP member of Hamburg Regional Parliament (1993-7)
Sevim DagelenLeftTurkish Background
Huseyin Kenan AydinLeftTurkish Background

The last Pisa studies showed that in Germany, in contrast to all other countries, children who were born in the country (mostly “second generation” children) had even worse results than those who immigrated even after starting school. ((Mühe (2007), 6.)) One reason for this is the concentration of immigrant children in schools where the majority of pupils are disadvantaged, in terms of their economic and social background, since their families often come from rural, social disadvantaged backgrounds without any higher education. Thus the Hauptschule, sometimes also known as Restschulen, is sometimes called Türkenschulen (schools for Turks). ((Radtke, Frank-Olaf, Bildungsreserve Migration. Plädoyer für eine lokale Bildungspolitik. Bildung und Qualifizierung von Migrantinnen und Migranten – Anhörung des Forum Bildung in Zusammenarbeit mit der Beauftragten der Bundesregierung für Ausländerfragen (Educational Reserve Migration. Pleading for a Local Educational Policy. Education and Qualification of Migrants – Hearing of the Education Forum in Cooperation with the Commissioner of the Federal Government on Foreigners) (Berlin 2001), 4. See also: Radtke, Frank-Olaf (2001), Das Bild des Fremden in den Schulbüchern [The Image of the Stranger in Schoolbooks], in: Islamrat Deutschland, Islam im Schulbuch: Dokumentation zur Fachtagung: “Das Bild des Islam in Deutschen Schulbüchern” (Islam in the Schoolbook. Documentation of the Symposium “The Image of Islam in German Schoolbooks”) (Kandern, 2001), 19-33.))

The early separation of pupils after primary school has thus been criticized as being discriminatory towards immigrant children by figures such as the Commissioner of the UN on the right to education, Vernor Munoz, during his visit to Germany in 2005. ((Mühe (2007), 28.)) In addition, children with a Turkish background and other Muslims with a refugee background face particular difficulties with the German language. Furthermore, children of refugees with unstable residency status have limited opportunities for further education and training.

Foreigners, including many Muslims, also have fewer chances in professional education. In 1998 about one third of young foreigners (20 to 29 years old) remained without a professional qualification, compared to only 8% of the Germans of the same age group. ((Gogolin (2001).)) This same negative trend can be observed on the higher education level. Only half as many foreign students, as compared to German, can be found in universities and Fachhochschulen (universities of applied sciences) at the age of 22; and by the age of 26, the number of German students in these areas is nearly three times higher than foreign ones.

Islamic Education

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German practice is to provide denominational religious instruction in schools. Instruction is to be provided by religious communities under government supervision. By law, any community with a sufficient number of students may take part in the program. In various federal states, religious instruction has been offered to children of the Islamic faith on a voluntary basis. ((Sen, Faruk/ Hayrettin Aydin, Islam in Deutschland (Islam in Germany) (Munich 2002), 95.)) Nevertheless, it has been extremely difficult for Muslims to establish religious instruction due to regional governments failing to recognize Islam as a religious community, as there is no consensus organization. However, over the last few years some federal states have reached agreements with various Islamic groups concerning instruction. Alevites have been especially successful, and Turkish groups have also managed a small measure of success. In Berlin, the Islamische Föderation (Islamic Federation) has been authorized, although it has been sharply criticized by the media. ((See, for example: Die schleichende Islamisierung: Schulalltag in Berlin” (The creeping Islamisation: the

everyday schoolday in Berlin), in: Die Tageszeitung (1 December 2004):,149,Die_schleichende_Islamisierung_Schulalltag_in_Berlin,news.htm))

Although religious education at state schools is a constitutional right in Germany, it has been argued in public debate that these guarantees only apply to Christian religions, or “to the religions traditionally present within Western Europe, thus excluding Islam” (Robbers, 2000: 148). Muslim religious education lessons have generated public controversy. ((Ilka Mohr, Lehrtexte für den islamischen Religionsunterricht aus Nordrhein-Westfalen, Wien und Rotterdam. Beispiel muslimischer Selbstverortung im Vergleich (Teaching Texts for the Islamic Religious Education from Nordrhein-Westfalen, Vienna and Rotterdam. Examples of Muslim Self-Perception in Comparison) (Berlin 2004); Wehner, Marlies, Die öffentliche Debatte über den Islamischen Religionsunterricht: Über den Umgang mit einer religiösen Minderheit. (The public debate over Islamic Religious Education. Dealing with a religious minority) (2000):

According to the Central Institute of Islamic Archives in Germany, less than 20% of all Muslim school children attend Quran schools. ((Islam Instiutut Soest (2006).)) Islamic training is provided for Islam at three major institutions: the Muslimische Akademie für Religiöse und Soziale Bildung, DITIB, and the Institut für Islamishe Bildung. There are several other smaller institutions.

Fearing that students who are not involved in state-supervised religious courses may be exposed to extremism in unsupervised Quran classes, there has been some impetus for authorities to take action by initiating Islamic religious lessons at public schools.

In general, there is a lack of Muslim teachers with the languages skills needed to teach Islamic religious courses in Germany, although a study course on Islamic religious teaching has recently been created at the University of Munster. In 2005 the university started a teacher training program in order to help with shortages of competent instructors and promote more equal treatment of Muslims at German schools. Professor Muhammad Sven Kalisch was appointed professor for Islamic sciences for the subject “Religion des Islam” at the University of Munster. Munster was the first German university that allowed for the qualifying of teachers for Islamic religious education. In 2007 the University of Osnabruck also started to educate Islamic religious teachers through its Master program “Islamic Religious Education” (Islamische Religionspädagogik). However, by 2007 only four students had enrolled in Osnabruck. Twenty applicants from Turkey were rejected since they didn’t fulfill the entrance requirements. (( There has also been political pressure for the training of more imams in German universities, championed for instance by Claudia Roth of the Green Party.


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Exact data concerning Muslims in the housing market is not available. Once again, studies predominantly focus on Turkish migrants or the immigrant population in general and do not refer explicitly to religious backgrounds. ((Hanesch, Walter, et al., Armut in Deutschland. Der Armutsbericht des DGB und des Paritätischen Wohlfahrtsverbandes [Poverty in Germany. The Report on Poverty of the DGB (German Labour Union Alliance) and the Charity Paritätischer Wohlfahrtsverband] (Reinbek 1994).)) Official information about the housing situation of immigrants is provided by the Federal Commissioner for Integration (Beauftragte der Bundesregierung für Integration). In the annual report, the Commissioner also refers explicitly to the Muslim population. ((Bericht des Beauftragte der Bundesregierung für Integration (Berlin 2005), 123.))

Migrants are more likely to be found living in overcrowded and poor conditions with less access to amenities, and paying comparatively higher rents. Foreigners are generally disadvantaged in the housing market. They have less secure rental contracts, live in poorer quality residential environments, and are less likely to be home owners. It is also found that migrants still have significantly less space at their disposal in comparison with Germans without a migration background. Migrants, however, pay more on average on rent (€ 422) than Germans do (€ 407). This is probably due to the fact that foreigners have less choice in the housing market. ((Zwick, Martin, Von der Baracke zum Eigenheim. Zur Veränderung der Wohnsituation von Ausländern in Deutschland [From the Barracks to the Home. About the Changing Housing Situation of Foreigners in Germany], in: Ausländer in Deutschland, 19/ 2 (2003), 3-4.))

Segregation, however, remains a key problem in Germany. Muslims in Germany, especially Turks, still live mainly in urban areas where they are often concentrated in so-called ‘ethnic districts’ in central locations. In these areas, inhabitants normally identify with their surrounding district, forming a Kiezkultur (neighbourhood culture). It is especially the case that young German Muslims with immigrant backgrounds, who do not feel accepted by the German majority society, identify more with their respective Kiez (neighborhood). Segregation is a social, economic, as well as an ethnic and religious issue—poor people often live in the same areas as migrants, since both groups are disadvantaged on the housing marked and do not have much choice. It is significant to note that segregation is growing rather than decreasing. While public debate regularly accuses immigrants of a voluntary self-segregation from society, segregation has been present since the beginning of Turkish worker immigration and was even forced by German discrimination on the housing market.

Desegregation of Muslim migrants is a key concern in Germany. Proposals have been introduced to reduce the concentration of migrants in certain districts by prohibition on foreigners moving in, or the forced relocation of foreigners. However, these measures have been neglected by Muslim organizations as well as by various politicians from all parties. Muslim organizations, such as the Türkische Gemeinde in Deutschland (Turkish Community in Germany, TGD), suggest that public policies should encourage the German population to move into these areas by making them more attractive in terms of school education and living conditions. The TGP pleads for affordable accommodation in all quarters of a city to promote better contact and understanding between different people and cultures.

In a positive development, it appears that the equipment of the apartments is constantly improving. Old and barely renovated apartments that have been allocated to labor immigrants in the 1960s and 1970s are steadily improving. In recent years many Muslim migrants of the second generation have moved out of workers’ accommodation and rented their own apartments—mostly in regular inner-city areas. ((Schiffauer (2005) 1131.))

To confront discrimination (also on the housing market), Germany adopted the General Law on Equal Treatment in 2006, realizing four different EU directives. ((Mühe (2007), 7-8.)) However, the law seems to be weak in several points. In the housing market the new law still permits unequal treatment of Muslims, since it allows landlords to refuse to take non-German tenants when they feel that this is necessary to enjoy a balanced socio-cultural mixture in houses and neighborhoods.

Asylum seekers are accommodated in central reception centers and then dispersed throughout the country. There are no general guidelines guaranteeing minimum standards for accommodation, and their freedom of movement is restricted. ((Mühe (2007), 7-8; Blaschke (2004), 126.))

Political Participation and Muslims in Legislatures

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The majority of Muslims in Germany have no German citizenship and are therefore excluded from the right to vote and actively participate in the political sphere—the basis of real integration into German society. ((Blaschke (2004), 113.))

Today, approximately 608,000 Muslims in Germany are German citizens. The number of Muslims taking up German citizenship is decreasing despite the creation of German citizenship laws that are characterized by aspects of a ius soli (territory based law), moving beyond the traditional ius sanguinis (derivation-based law) in 2000. Now children can be born as German citizens, even if their parents do not have German citizenship. ((Mühe (2007), 16.))

In the election period of 2005-2009, five politicians with Muslim background are members of the German Parliament (Bundestag):

Educational Achievement using the International

Standard Classification of Education (ISCED)


The new German Parliament, elected in September 2009, has 20 members with a migration background ((Migazin magazine, Nine of them have a Muslim family background, of which again three explicitly state their Muslim religion on the official website of the Bundestag ((Deutscher Bundestag, The others do not wish to state it, or are secular or Christian. Three of the 20 MPs with a migration background have an Indian parent, whose religion is not stated, but two of them state to be Christian.

Members of the 2009-2013 Bundestag with Muslim Background:

Christian Democratic Union (CDU)

Michaela Noll: Born 1959 in Germany, Iranian father, Roman-Catholic

Social Democratic Party (SPD)

Aydan Özoguz: Born 1967 in Germany, Turkish background

Green Party (Die Grünen)

Ekin Deligöz: Born 1971 in Turkey, in Germany since 1979, Muslim

Memet Kilic: Born 1967 in Turkey, in Germany since 1990

Omid Nouripour: Born 1975 in Iran, in Germany since 1988, Muslim

Liberal Democratic Party (FDP)

Bijan Djir-Sarai: Born 1966 in Iran, raised in Germany

Serkan Tören: Born 1972 in Turkey, raised in Germany, Muslim

Left Party (Die Linke)

Sevim Dagdelen: Born 1975 in Germany, Turkish background

Niema Movassat: Born 1984 in Germany, Iranian parents

Two German Muslims, Vural Öger and Cem Özdemir, served in the 2004-2009 European Parliament. Although some politicians with cultural Muslim backgrounds can be found among the political elite, very few immigrants who perceive themselves as Muslims and identify with Islamic interest are present in national politics today. ((Mühe (2007), 9; Blaschke (2004), 117.)) Very few Muslims are members of German political parties. A 2001 survey by the Bundesministerium für Arbeit und Sozialordnung (Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs) showed that 96.5% of the 1003 respondents responded that they were not a member of a political party in Germany (95.1% of the men and 98.2% of the women). ((Bundesministerium für Arbeit und Sozialordnung, Situation der ausländischen Arbeitnehmer und ihrer Familienangehörigen in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland – Repräsentativuntersuchung, [The Situation of foreign worers and their families in Germany – A representative survey] (Berlin 2001).))

The problem of the low political participation of Muslims has been explained as being the result of institutional discrimination in schools and other institutions. ((Bosse, Daniel/ Vior, Eduardo J., Politische Partizipation von Migranten mit muslimischem Hintergrund in Deutschland. Entwicklung und Probleme [Political Participation of Migrants with a Muslim Background in Germany. Development and Problems] (Magdeburg 2005), 10ff.)) Insufficient education is certainly one of the reasons for reduced opportunities on the political stage.

In 2004 the Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung (Federal Office for Political Education) established the Muslimische Akademie (Muslim Academy) to encourage Muslims to participate in German politics. The aim of the organizers (most of them Muslim) was to establish a forum for discussion. However, the project has been criticized by some Muslim organizations due to the fact that they were not asked to be involved. ((A statement of the Zentralrat der Muslime (Central Council of Muslims, ZMD) on the establishment of the Muslim Academy is available online, see:

The needs of Muslim communities have also not been recognized by Germany’s political parties, due to the fact that only a small percentage of Muslims are allowed to vote. In general there is very limited Muslim political representation in Germany. Thus, Muslim’s demands for greater religious education, the building representative mosques, and other issues are rarely backed by any political party.

Politicians tried to confront the problem by the establishment of the “Islam Forum”. This is a project of the Interkultureller Rat, in cooperation with the Groeben-Stiftung and the Rat der Türkeistämmigen Staatsbürger in Deutschland (Council of German Citizens of Turkish Origin). Although the Islam Forum aims for dialogue between Muslim representatives, the non-Muslim civil society, and the state, it doesn’t grant Muslim representatives the power to make political decisions. The Form is supported by several politicians, including the former President of the Bundestag Rita Süssmuth, and Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Former President Johannes Rau has extended a standing invitation for official receptions to the chairman of one major religious organization, the Central Council of Muslims in Germany (Zentralrat der Muslimen in Deutschland, ZMD) to the chairmen of three other Muslim federations. However, a 2002 report by the federal commissioner concluded that “from the government’s perspective,…nontransparent organizational structures and the lack of clear membership rules…are the biggest obstacles to granting corporation status to those who have asked for it.” ((Beauftragte der Bundesregierung für Ausländerfragen (ed.), Bericht über die Lage der Ausländer in Deutschland (Berlin 2002).))

Nevertheless, since Muslims have been insufficiently integrated into the regular political process an increasing role in the political representations have Muslim organizations.

Another initiative of the German government to involve Muslims in a special way is the Deutsche Islamkonferenz (The German Islam Conference), which was introduced in September 2006. ((Islam and Identity in Germany Crisis Group Europe Report (2007), 27-29.)) Today it is the only national initiative to recognize interlocutors for Islam. Fifteen representatives of Islam in Germany (from each federal state) take part along with the five Muslim organizations (Islam Council, ZMD, D?T?B, VIKZ and the Alevis). Furthermore, ten ministerial appointees—representatives of a modern Islam from business, science and culture—are also included. These appointees include three persons (Seyran Ate’, Necla Kelek and Feridun Zaimo’lu) who have written books about patriarchal tendencies in traditional Turkish families. The everyday agenda of the Conference will be practically oriented. A representative body of the Conference meets frequently, allowing for regular discussions between Muslims and the highest administrative levels of the state. The German Islam Conference is to last two to three years, after which time Muslim leaders may agree to organize a round table, elect a leader, and rotate—following a pattern similar to charity organizations which have several umbrella organizations.

In the summer of 2009, the so-called ‘Alliance for Peace and Fairness’ was launched as ‘the first Muslim party’ in Germany. The Party was on the ballot for the 2009 elections in North Rhine Westphalia. The Turkish Fethullah

Gülen community and organizations of the Turkish AKP in Germany are said to stand behind the Party. Founded three years ago under the name ‘Muslim Council’ in Bonn, to embrace the other Muslim groups together with Turks, ‘Muslim Party’ as Zaman calls it, was consequently restructured as a party. The Party’s main aims are to support the rights for Muslims in Germany and to engage in issues such as mosque construction. ((“Fethullah got his hands on Germany,” English Sol(August 30, 2009). Available online:

Muslim Organizations

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Because of the non-hierarchical structure of Islam, Muslim organizations in Germany do not nominate a single representative for all the different branches of their belief. The six major organizations are the Turkish Islamic Union for Religious Affairs, the Central Council of Muslims, the Union of Islamic Cultural Centers, the Islamic Community Milli Görü, the Islam Council and the Coordination Council of Muslims. ((The profiles of the Muslim organizations are based on the profiles in: Islam and Identity in Germany Crisis Group Europe Report (2007), 6-11.))

1) Turkish Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (Diyanet I’leri Türk-Islam Birli’i or Türkisch-Islamische Union der Anstalt für Religion). The DTB is one of the biggest organizations representing Turkish Muslims in Germany. The organization has dominated the dialogue between Muslims and the state since the beginnings of Turkish migration. DTB takes care of practical religious matters such as the obtaining visas for imams, construction permissions for mosques, and authorizations of religious teachers in public schools. DTB pays salaries of religious public school teachers in several German federal states and controls more than 300 associations and 800 to 900 prayer facilities. In 2004 the organization even financed two chairs in Islamic theology at Frankfurt’s Goethe University. There are problematic links with the Turkish government, asTurkish states ensure that its citizens abroad follow religious practice within the secular Kemalist framework. ((Spiewak, Martin, Vorbeter aus der Fremde, in: Die Zeit (21 September 2006).)) A portrait of Atatürk hangs in DTB offices and Friday prayers are usually confirmed by Ankara. Imams of DTB are normally trained in Turkish state seminars, any paid from Turkish sources. And in 1984 a bilateral treaty was been signed regarding three to four- year residence permits for roughly 700 imams, who are paid from Turkey. A joint partnership between the Goethe Institute in Ankara and DTB allowed for fifty imams to recieve language training before going to Germany in 2006, with another 100 trained in 2007.

2) Central Council of Muslims (Zentralrat der Muslime in Deutschland): The ZMD was founded in 1994 to represent all Muslims in Germany and has been DTB’s main competitor since that time. Although the Verfassungsschutz has accused the ZMD of financial ties to the Saudi-dominated Muslim World League and of ideological links to the Muslim Brotherhood, these accusations have so far not been proven. Today the ZMD is led by the German convert Ayyub Axel Köhler and is comprised of eighteen regional umbrella organizations and around 400 prayer and cultural facilities. The ZMD has recently published a charter to govern Islamic relations with the state, including full recognition of the constitution. ((Cesari (2004).))

3) Union of Islamic Cultural Centers (Verband der Islamischen Kulturzentren): The VIKZ was founded in 1973 and is today the third largest Muslim organization in Germany, with more than 100,000 members. It is linked to the Sufi Süleymanci movement, which originally tried to transfer spiritual Islam into the Kemalist state. Today it is especially popular among the second and third generations of young Muslims with Turkish background. The VIKZ has around 300 offices and 160 to 250 prayer facilities. The organization also trains imams and runs Quran and Sharia courses.

4) Islamic Community Milli Görüs (Islamische Gemeinschaft Milli Görüs): The IGMG is the major rival of DTB and has approximately 26,500 paying members and close to 100,000 sympathizers. The organization has somewhere between 400 to 600 prayer spaces. IGMG was founded in 1985 with links to several Islamist parties in Turkey.Together with its fourteen branches in other European countries, the organization challenges the monopoly of Turkish state Islam as represented by DTB. One illustration of this point is that the IGMG founded its own Quranic schools and prayer facilities and organized Hajj tours on its own. It is also involved in legal representations concerning Muslims of Turkish origins in Germany and mosque construction debates.

The German public perceives IGMG as being a representation of Islamism in Germany. The organization has regularly been accused of working towards an Islamist parallel society, and the media regularly characterizes members of IGMG as being Islamic fundamentalists. The Verfassungsschutz has investigated possible anti-constitutional and security-related activities due to the organization’s links to foreign parties and alleged connections to extremists in Algeria and Bosnia. The German government fears that the IGMG is trying to segregate the Muslim population in Germany, building a linguistically and culturally distinctive parallel society. IGMG has also been accused of brainwashing young members with anti-Western Islamist ideology and promoting anti-Semitism and gender segregation.

Muslim organizations, and especially their representatives of the second and third generations, play an important role in strengthening this collective identity. ((Mühe (2007), 4.))

Muslimische Jugend in Deutschland (MJD) / Muslim Youth in Germany

The youth organisation Muslimische Jugend in Deutschland (MJD)/Muslim Youth in Germany was
founded in 1994 and has gained popularity in recent year especially among the very religious
of young Muslims. The organisation has local groups (so called Lokalkreise) in many German
cities. On average, the around 900 registered members are well educated and between 13 and
30 years old, but the organisation explicitly addresses all Muslims regardless of nationality and
background. On their website, the MJD describe themselves as “multicultural”, “Islamic”
and “hip”.
Each year, around 1,000 young Muslims participate in the annual meeting, which offers a wide
range of activities: A rap workshop, origami class and Quran reading as well as debates with
representatives from Greenpeace (in 2008) or with a member of the Central Council of Jews (in
The MJD is under observation of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution,
who accuse it of having personal and organisational links to the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood
in Germany and Europe. For this reason, the Ministry of Family Affairs and Youth cut their
funding towards the MJD in 2003. In the past years, the Muslim youth organisation has tried
to regain the confidence for example by incorporating non-Islamic civil actors such as for
interreligious dialogue.
But discussion on the organisation’s youth work continues. Indeed, the MJD reaches out to a
young and religious audience that does not feel represented by conventional youth work and
neither by the classic mosque communities. But their positions touch upon moderately Islamist
views: Many of the MJD’s events are gender segregated and religious commands are usually
interpreted in the narrow framework of traditional Islamic scholars. Critics therefore accuse the
MJD of uniformity and question whether the organisation helps to integrate young Muslims into
the German society or whether it actually prevents this.

Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung

Newsletter (No. 17, May 2010, p. 9)

MJD Website

Despite the large amount of different organizations, Muslims representatives have recognized the necessity of unity in order to achieve political and social goals and have formed several umbrella organizations.

1) Islam Council (Islamrat) The IR was founded in 1986 and has twenty three membership organizations, representing approximately 140,000 Muslims from different national backgrounds. Ideally, the organization is to serve as a unified conglomeration of Muslim organizations in Germany, but the IR is dominated by IGMG and Milli Görüs. The organization controls 700 prayer spaces and fifteen regional organizations. It also seeks for recognition as a corporation in law in order to be able to gain authority over religious teaching in public schools.

2) Coordination Council of Muslims (Koordinationsrat der Muslime): The KRM was established in 2007 by the three major Muslim organizations (DITIB, VIKZ, ZMD) and the IR as a new umbrella organization that will be able to speak with one voice regarding integration and extremism, and also seek the leverage that Protestant and Catholic representations already have with the government.

At the local level, other Islamic organizations have gained leverage with state governments and have been allowed to participate in providing instruction in the schools, as Protestants and Catholics generally do. Other states have established religious instruction for Muslims without the interlocution of a Muslim organization. Some states have developed more general religious instruction programs designed to sidestep the controversy. The Islamic Federation of Berlin has been in a particularly long battle with the state government in which, after several court battles, it has won the right to provide religious education. The Federation was controversial partly because of its relationship to Milli Görûs, the Turkish Islamic movement. Although the education program has gone fairly well, conflicts with the government and with other Turkish groups has continued. ((Cesari (2004).)) There are also a greater number of regional or local Muslim organizations – five mosque communities in Berlin alone. Nevertheless, an increasing number of mosques are not affiliated with any collective.

There are also various organizations and institutions of Muslim women in Germany. The most important are Begegnungs- und Fortbildungszentrum muslimischer Frauen e.V. (Centre for Encountering and Advanced Training of Muslim Women, BFMF) in Cologne, the Zentrum für islamische Frauenforschung und -förderung (Centre for Islamic Research on Women’s Issues and Encouragement of Muslim Women, ZiF) in Cologne; the Netzwerk für islamische Frauen e.V. (Network for Islamic Women, HUDA); and finally the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Muslimischer Frau in der Gesellschaft in Berlin (Working Group Muslim Woman within Society).

German converts to Islam are organized in Muslim associations established by German Muslims, such as the Deutsche Muslim-Liga e.V. (German Muslim League), founded in 1952 in Hamburg.

Critics argue that the Coordination Council of Muslims represents only a small conservative segment of Muslims in Germany.

Until just recently, Muslims have not had the same rights as Christian churches and other religious communities to collect official taxes. Relations between officials and Muslim organizations are influenced by the German Internal Intelligence Service (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz). Muslim organizations are observed by the German Internal Intelligence which labels several of these organizations as Islamist, leaving them stigmatized. ((Mühe (2007), 9; Schiffauer (2006).)) This includes, among many others, Milli Görüs and the Islamische Gemeinschaft Deutschland. This labeling does not reflect the official self-perception of the organizations. Membership of an organization which has been mentioned in the reports of the Verfassungsschutz can jeopardize prospects of individual Muslims, who are members of these organizations. If a Muslim organization is actually mentioned on a list of the Verfassungschutz obtaining any official funding becomes much more difficult. In addition to the difficulty of obtaining funding, political parties often exclude from their list of dialogue partners those organizations which are listed by the Verfassungsschutz. In summary, the judgments of the Verfassungsschutz most often influence public opinion of Muslims and their organizations in a negative way.

Security and Anti-Terrorism Issues

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In the months after September 11th, Germany developed new policies regarding civil liberties, immigrant rights, the freedom of churches, and law enforcement powers. These new policies were passed in two large packages, the first coming only a week later on September 19, 2001, and the second on January 1, 2002. These policies were accompanied by increased security measures, especially at the borders and in aviation security.

The Grundgesetz had always allowed the federal government to ban groups that were considered threatening to the democratic order. However, there was a special exception for religious groups, which could not be banned. Faced with the threat of Islamic terrorism, the German government repealed this exception in the first terrorism package and redefined the idea of a threatening group to take more account of foreign concerns.

Most of the actual legislative responses to the terrorist attacks came in the second anti-terrorism package. The police were given substantially more power to demand and search records from various sources. Financial records, electronic and postal communications, and most forms of transportation records became available to the police. Along with this, the police were allowed to use a previously extremely controversial search method called the ‘grid-search.’ This method involves the compilation of records from a number of sources, followed by the statistical profiling of possible terrorism suspects. This power remains controversial, but was presented by the German government as a possible way to identify terrorism suspects who may be undercover as students, as the September 11 attackers were. The new laws also allow a certain amount of eavesdropping and wiretapping in the course of an investigation. Police can now track the location and numbers of cellular phones. Military Intelligence has received substantially more domestic powers, with easier searches, access to communication records, and the legal ability to communicate its findings to other law enforcement agencies. Given its ostensibly non-domestic purpose, military intelligence is not subject to the same privacy laws regarding personal data and searches. More recently, Minister of the Interior Otto Schily proposed the institution of the practice of preventive detention of terrorism suspects, though there currently is not majority support for the measure.

Since September 11, Germany has substantially tightened its asylum granting procedures and established the legal principle that foreigners considered a threat to German democracy and security can be barred entry and deported. A new law on immigration took effect in Germany on January 1, 2005 whichintends both to increase the immigration of skilled workers to support the German economy and to regulate the influx of asylum seekers and other immigrants considered less desirable. The law will allow for easier deportation of individuals in the country for long periods and restrict the granting of residence permits to others. However, the law also broadens the categories of asylum possibilities to encompass gender and non-state persecution. Background checks will now be mandatory, and it will become much easier to deflect and deport those considered to be associated with terrorism. Further recognizing that there have been problems with integration in German society, the state plans to substantially increase its efforts in this area through German language training and courses in German law and culture. Resident aliens may be forced to participate in these programs or face deportation. ((First German Immigration Law Takes Effect, in: Deutsche Welle (1 January 2005).))

Several Muslim organizations have been accused by the media and also by the Verfassungsschutz of being a threat to internal security in Germany, especially groups connected to Milli Görûs. ((Muslim Integrationists or Extremists, in: Deutsche Welle (24 November 2004).)) Many Muslim organizations are targets of observation by the police and the internal intelligence agency Verfassungsschutz (Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution). ((Mühe (2007), 9.))

In everyday life, relations between the police and “visual Muslims” are increasingly characterized by a suspicion and skepticism. In fact, no official figures concerning Muslims and criminality or policing exist, (i.e. German criminal statistics do not provide details on religious background). The Federal Commissioner on Integration, however, mentioned that foreigners with residency permission do not show any particularities regarding criminality. ((Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, Migrationshintergrund (2005), 285.)) The Commissioner emphasized that a successful integration policy also means crime prevention.

Bias and Discrimination

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A survey conducted in December 2003 found that sixty-five percent of Germans claim that Islam could not fit with the West and that the majority opposes any new immigration and would feel uncomfortable living in a neighborhood with Muslims. ((Schmitt, Khaled, Islamophobia on Rise in Germany, in: Islam Online (26 December 2003).)) This apparent discomfort is supported by the rapidly rising numbers of Turks in Germany who feel they are being discriminated against. ((80% of German Turks Feel Discriminated Against, in: (27 November 2004); Goldberg, Andreas/ Sauer, Martin, Konstanz und Wandel der Lebenssituation türkischstämmiger Migranten. Ergebnisse der fünften Mehrthemenbefragung 2003. Eine Studie des Zentrums für Türkeistudien im Auftrag des Ministeriums für Gesundheit, Soziales, Frauen und Familie des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen. Herausgegeben von Soziales Frauen und Familie Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen [Constancy and Change of the Living Situation of Migrants with Turkish Origins. Results of the Fifth Multi-Topic Survey 2003. A Survey of the Centre for Studies on Turkey (Zentrum für Türkeistudien) by Order of the Ministry for Health, Social Issues, Women and the Family of the Federal State of Nordrhein-Westfalen], Soziales Frauen und Familie Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen. Des Ministerium für Gesundheit [Ministry of Health] (Essen 2003).))

The murder of Theo van Gogh in the Netherlands in November 2004 also seemed to spark violence in Germany. There were a number of assaults and several mosques were targeted by arson. Foreigners, including Muslims, face the threat of physical violence, especially, but not exclusively, in the Eastern parts of Germany. The number of Muslim victims of criminal acts has not been counted by any official statistics. However, several anti-discrimination NGOs chronicle, and assemble reports on racist attacks against foreigners in general. Furthermore, a Muslim human rights group in Duisburg (HDR) has published a report on unreported cases of racist attacks against foreigners, including Muslims. ((Organisation für Würde und Rechte des Menschen:

The EU Monitoring Centre for Racism and Xenophobia reported in 2006 that 70% of non-Muslim Germans thought that there was a conflict between being a devout Muslim and living in modern society. ((EUMC (European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia), Muslims in the European Union. Discrimination and Islamophobia (Vienna 2006): ; See also: EUMC, Perceptions of Discrimination and Islamophobia: Voices from Members of Muslim Communities in the European Union (Vienna 2006): German survey respondents indicated much more negative views about Muslims than survey respondents in France, Spain, or the United Kingdom.

There is also growing criticism of the representation of Islam in schoolbooks, which often transport generalizations and discriminations and support negative prejudices. The Islamic Council held a conference about cooperating with the state in order to confront stereotypes in schoolbooks. ((Islamrat Deutschland, Islam im Schulbuch. Dokumentation zur Fachtagung: “Das Bild des Islam in deutschen Schulbüchern” [Islam in the Schoolbook: Documentation of the Symposium “The Image of Islam in German Schoolbooks”] (Kandern 2001).)) New material about the Islamic world for schoolbooks is currently being developed by the German Georg-Eckert-Institute. (( (accessed 12 December 2006).))

Muslims often feel discriminated against in their everyday life as they face direct and indirect discrimination in the fields of employment, education, and the housing marked. Direct discrimination, like the denial of access to bars, restaurants, clubs and discotheques, is also common. And discrimination on the part of the state, especially the police and in court has also been reported.

Discrimination against foreign employees, including Muslims, in the labor market is well-documented. A survey of the EUMC found that the employment market is highly segmented between non-migrant and migrant groups. ((EUMC, Migrants, Minorities and Education: Documenting Discrimination and Integration in 15 Member States of the European Union on behalf of the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (Vienna 2004).)) Differences exist between natives and immigrants in Germany in the fields of earnings, participation, and employment in general. Discrimination can be regularly observed in newspaper and internet advertisements (“German native speakers only,” “Germans Only,” “No Headscarves,” etc.). However, levels of discrimination are more significant in semi-skilled jobs than in qualified ones, although the commercial, insurance, and banking sectors discriminate tremendously against Turkish aspirants. ((Goldberg, Andreas/ Dora Mourinho/ Kulke, Ursula (1995).)) Discriminations against foreigner employees, including Muslims, in the German labor marked have been repeatedly reported by the ILO. ((Reports in relations with the project “Against discrimination against foreign employers and ethnic minorities within the field of employment”.))

One of the highest, most institutionalized and widely accepted levels of public discrimination can be observed in the housing marked. Some unequal treatment of people is permitted by law, as with landlords who are allowed to refuse to take non-German tenants when they feel this is necessary to balance socio-cultural mixture in houses and neighborhoods. The German Centre for Studies on Turkey (Zentrum für Türkeistudien) has found that among reported discriminatory experiences, 15% take place in the field of the housing sector. ((Goldberg, Andreas/ Sauer, Martin (2003), 111.))

Various cases of discrimination happen in state institutions. Over one third of the cases of discrimination are experienced within the field of public authorities, such as the “Ausländeramt,” the “Sozialamt,” the “Standesamt,” and the “Arbeitsamt.” ((Landeszentrum für Zuwanderung, Antidiskriminierung in Nordrhein-Westfalen. Ergebnisse der Evaluation der mit Landesmitteln geförderten Antidiskriminierungsprojekte [Anti-Discrimination in Nordrhein-Westfalen. Results of the Evaluation of the Anti-Discrimination Projects Sustained by Means of the Federal State] (Solingen 2001).)) Cases of discrimination by the police have also been reported. ((Gesemann, Frank, ‘Wenn man den Polizisten nicht vertrauen kann, wem dann?’ Zur gegenseitigen Wahrnehmung von Migranten und Polizisten [“If You Cannot Trust Policemen, Whom Can You Trust?” About the Mutual Perception of Migrants and Policemen], in Gesemann, Frank (ed.), Migration und Integration in Berlin. Wissenschaftliche Analysen und politische Perspektiven [Migration and Integration in Berlin. Scientific Analyses and Political Perspectives] (Opladen 2001), 363-384, 363.)) Young policemen in Berlin, however, are now trained to look at immigrants just as they look at Germans with no immigrant background. (( Human rights organizations such as Amnesty International highlight violations of human rights by German State organizations against foreigners, including Muslims, on a regular basis. The Federal Commissioner on Integration stated in 2005 that this discriminatory behavior of official institutions violated the Imperative of Equal Treatment (Gleichbehandlungsgebot) and the Constitution. ((Bericht der Beauftragten der Bundesregierung für Integration (Berlin 2005), 269.))

Finally, Muslim children often face discrimination at schools. According to Kornmann, Baden-Württemberg is the federal state with by far the worst levels of discrimination against foreign children and young people. ((Kornmann, Reimer/ Klingele, Christoph, Ausländische Kinder und Jugendliche an Schulen für Lernbehinderte in den alten Bundesländern. Noch immer erheblich überrepräsentiert und dies mit steigender Tendenz und eklatanten länderspezifischen Unterschieden!” [Foreign Children and Adolescents at Schools for the Learning Disabled in the Old Federal States. Still Extremely Overrepresented with a Growing Tendency and Blatant Region-Specific Differences!], in: Zeitschrift für Heilpädagogik, 47/1 (1996), 2-9.)) Foreign children in BW were found to have an almost 3.5 times higher risk of attending a special school for children with learning disabilities than German children. In addition to younger students, discrimination is also found at universities. ((See also the article of Karaka?o?lu-Ayd?n, Yasemin, ‘Kopftuchstudentinnen’ türkischer Herkunft an deutschen Universitäten: Impliziter Islamismusvorwurf und Diskriminierungserfahrungen [Female ‘Headscarf-Students’ of Turkish origin at German universities. Implicit accusation of Islamism and experiences of discrimination], in: Bielefeld, Heitmeyer (ed.), Politisierte Religion: Ursachen und Erscheinungsformen des modernen Fundamentalismus [Politicised Religion. Causes and Manifestations of Modern Fundamentalism] (Frankfurt M. 1998), 450-473.))

In 2006 Germany adopted the General Law on Equal Treatment (Allgemeines Gleichbehandlungsgesetz), which transposes four different EU directives. ((The law transposes 4 EU directives: Race Directive 2000/43/EC, Employment Equality Directive 2000/78/EC, Gender Directive 2002/73/EC, Gender Directive 2004/113/EC.)) Anti-discrimination groups had demanded the adoption of an anti-discrimination law for a long time, and the EU had been demanding one for three years. The European Court of Justice condemned Germany because of its refusal to adopt the law in February 2006. The new law has been criticized as being weak in various points, such as in still allowing property managers to refuse non-German tenants when they are concerned about an imbalanced social or cultural mixture in houses or neighborhoods.

Several German cities, including Berlin, have offered to establish anti-discrimination offices (Leitstelle gegen Diskriminierung). Apart from this, few initiatives exist which addres discrimination against Muslims, while several initiatives do exist to help foreigners,especially Turks (again, immigrants are not identified by their faith in this respect). However, “Aktion Courage,” an NGO that supports the integration of foreigners in Germany, launched a campaign in 1999 for the “integration of Muslims and Muslim organizations in Germany.” Another major initiative is “Schule ohne Rassismus” (School without racism), which is a project organized by and for pupils to confront discrimination and racism.

Public Perception of Islam

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The proportion of Germans who perceive that relations between Muslims and Western countries are generally bad is the highest of all Western countries. ((Mühe (2007), 43-44; see: Heitmeyer, Wilhelm (2005). Deutsche Zustände. Folge 3 [German Conditions. Part 3] (Frankfurt M. 2005); Heitmeyer, Wilhelm, Deutsche Zustände. Folge 5. [German Conditions. Part 5] (Frankfurt M. 2006). For a general introduction to Islamophobia in Germany, see: Karaka?o?lu, Yasemin/ Luchtenberg, Sigrid/ Peter, Frank/ Spielhaus, Riem, Islamophobia in Germany, in: Cesari, Jocelyne (ed.), Secularization and Religious Divides in Europe: Muslims in Western Europe after 9/11: Why the term Islamophobia is more a predicament than an explanation (2006), 143-185:

Polls show deteriorating attitudes towards Muslims in Germany. A survey in 2003 found 46% of respondents agree that “Islam is a backward religion,” 34% said that they were “distrustful of people of Islamic religion,” and 27% believed that “immigration to Germany should be forbidden for Muslims.” Another survey in 2004 showed that 93% of Germans associate “Islam” with “oppression of women” and 83% with “terrorism.” In 2006, only 30% of Germans reported a “favorable opinion of Islam.”

The Institute for Interdisciplinary Research on Conflict and Violence at the University of Bielefeld (Institut für initerdisziplinäre Konflikt- und Gewaltforschung) states that around 30% of Germans living in the new federal states and 23% of those in the old states share the opinion that “Muslims should be refused permission to migrate to Germany.”

One of the famous “German Conditions” (Deutsche Zustände) reports on anti-semitism, Islamophobia, and xenophobia, states that in 2006, 39% of Germans (up from 35% in 2004) have at least a partial feeling of strangeness in their own country due to the presence of Muslim co-citizens. ((Wilhelm Heitmeyer (2005 and 2006).)) Almost one out of three Germans feel the need for a general ban on Muslims immigration, while 70% think that relations between Muslims and Western countries are generally bad. ((Study of the Pew Research Centre, published in: Der Spiegel in June 2006.))

In contrast to many other minorities in Germany, Muslims are confronted with an extraordinary counter solidarity by the majority society, lacking support by even left-wing political groups, who often have even stronger resentments because of feminist or secular attitudes. ((Schiffauer, Werner, Vom Exil- zum Diaspora-Islam. Muslimische Identitäten in Europa [From exile to an Islamic diaspora. Muslim identities in Europe], in: Soziale Welt – Zeitschrift für Sozialwissenschaftliche Forschung und Praxis, 55/ 4 (2004), 347-368, 355.))

Another reason for the lack of solidarity and Islamophobia in general is the association of Muslims with extremism and terrorism. ((Bosse, Daniel/ Vior, Eduardo J. (2005).)) Thus, especially since 9/11, Muslims are increasingly suspected of being potential terrorists by the German public and even state institutions. ((Bosse, Daniel/ Vior, Eduardo J. (2005).))

Often no proper differentiation is made by the German public between issues of Islamic terrorism, Islamism, and the general phenomenon of immigrant crime. ((Mühe (2007); 43-44.)) This, as well as the general negative attitude towards Muslims, seems to be foremost due to negative political and media discussions.

Media Coverage

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Since the Iranian Revolution and 9/11 media interest in Islam has been dramatically increasing. It is one of the most popular topics in German media today. In general, Muslims are portrayed as a threat, and Islam is associated with crime, terrorism, the oppression of women, honor killings, backwardness, and intolerance. Terms like ‘Islamic Terror,’ ‘Muslim extremist,’ or ‘cancer/ulcer of Islamism’ regularly appear in German newspapers. ((Schiffer, Sabine, Die Darstellung des Islams in der Presse. Sprache, Bilder, Suggestionen; eine Auswahl von Techniken und Beispielen [The Presentation of Islam in the Press. Language, Images, Suggestions. A Choice of Techniques and Examples] (Erlangen-Nürnberg 2004).)) Thus, Muslims often symbolize the ‘other’ and are perceived with suspicions and fears in predominantly one-sided media coverage. ((Schiffauer (2006); Schiffer (2004).))

Muslims are typically viewed as being a homogeneous group. ((Schiffer (2004).)) And diversity among Muslims, along with their actual ways of life and worldviews, in addition to their social problems in Germany, are most often not part of the media coverage on Islam–with reports about Islamophobia and anti-Muslim incidents being an exception.

By far most German media coverage concerning Islam deals with the problem of fundamentalism and terrorism. An example of this one-sided media coverage which has been researched in depth is with reports of police raids on mosques. ((Schiffer (2004).)) Although raids on mosques cause headlines, more than 99% of all mosque raids turn up no significant results. This fact, however, is often reported towards the end of articles or inside newspapers. Reports about mosque raids have changed the perception of mosques in the public.

Furthermore, media coverage about Islam in Germany is dominated by issues, such as controversies about mosque constructions, ((See regular reports on our new section.)) forced marriage, honor killings and the ban of the veil. Public discussion around the law concerning banning the veil at public schools might have had a worse effect than the law itself, since Muslim women were either generally portrayed as oppressed and dependent or, in the other extreme, as being fundamentalists. ((Mühe (2007), 6-7.))

In general, coverage of ‘foreigner criminality’ (Ausländerkriminalität) raises the question of differences in reporting about offences committed by Germans as opposed to non-Germans ((Jäger, Margret/ Jäger, Siegfried/ Cleve, Gabriele/ Ruth, Ina, Zweierlei Maß: Die Bericht erstattung über Straftaten von MigrantInnen in den Printmedien und das Dilemma der JournalistInnen [Double Standards. The Coverage of Criminal Offences of Migrants in the Press and the Dilemma of Journalists], in: Liebhart, Karin/ Menasse, Elisabeth/ Steinert, Hans (eds), Fremdbilder – Feindbilder – Zerrbilder. Zur Wahrnehmung und diskursiven Konstruktion des Fremden [Blurred Pictures of Strangers and Enemies. About the Perception and Discursive Construction of the Stranger], Bundesministerium für Bildung, Wissenschaft und Kultur, Abteilung Gesellschaftswissenschaften (Klagenfurt 2002), 57-78.))). It is Ccommon to hear a criminal’s foreign nationality or background mentioned (even if he/she has German citizenship). But if the offender is German, his/her nationality will normally not be mentioned. This kind coverage leads the public to the conclusion that Muslims are a threat to society. ((Blaschke (2004).))

Finally, juvenile crime among Muslims has been a major topic in the German media for years. Media coverage focused on this issue in 2006 after teachers in a school in Berlin plead for help in deaingl with their mainly Muslim pupils. Though the teachers who asked for help in first place blamed politics for their situation, the incident was ultimately used by conservative politicians to push for a faster deportation of foreign juvenile offenders. ((Mühe (2007), 10; Blaschke (2004).)) Press coverage, however, was focused mainly on what appeared to them to be the clear reason for their behavior, namely the cultural and religious background of the pupils. ((Mühe (2007), 44.))

Political Debates and Interreligious Dialogue

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In the last few years, the conservative parties CDU/CSU have been especially guilty of employing an anti-immigrant and Islamophobic rhetoric. In 2000, a battle erupted over the use of the term Leitkultur (leading culture) which connotes a certain romantic German Christian nationalism that is exclusionary in its impulses. The center-right Christian Democrats have begun using the term Leitkultur, while Chancellor Angela Merkel has described German culture as one “in which we celebrate Christian holidays, not Muslim holidays.” Although some of this rhetoric has been condemned by other political parties, as the Christian Democrats are very large and mainstream, this should not be seen as a fringe phenomenon.

There has been an ongoing conflict over whether teachers and other public employees should be permitted to wear headscarves. In 2000 Muslim teacher Fereshta Ludin was prohibited by Baden-Württemberg from working in public schools while wearing her headscarf. Ludin took the case to court and the Federal Constitutional Court decided in 2003 that the federal states should pass additional laws to either generally forbid or permit the wearing of religious garb by teachers. Baden-Württemberg banned them. Since then, several states have enacted the bans. In January 2005, the Neutralitätsgesetz (Law on Neutrality) was passed in Berlin, excluding all religious symbols from schools and public services in general. Bayern, Niedersachsen and the Saarland have prohibited only the headscarf from schools, and Hessen has introduced this ban on the headscarf for all civil servants in general. Various attempts to write laws that exclude Christian symbols have gone so far as to question a nun’s work clothes and to even explicitly exclude Christian symbols. Supporters of the prohibition of the headscarf interpret it as a symbol of the oppression of women, intolerance, and inequality. ((Amir-Moazami, Schirin, Discourses and Counter-Discourses: The Islamic Headscarf in the French and German Public Spheres (Florence 2004), 139.))

Although worries about immigration have been ongoing in Germany, the murder of Theo Van Gogh in the Netherlands in 2004 stimulated more political rhetoric. The possibilities of multiculturalism have been questioned, and concerns about a separatist Muslim society have been stated by politicians.

The question of international terrorism is repeatedly introduced by German right wing and conservative politicians into the political debate. For example, following the London underground bombings the CDU leader of Lower Saxony, Christian Wulff, called for video surveillance of mosques to combat the terrorist threat in Germany—thus linking terrorism with everyday Muslim life in Germany.

The call was followed in Osnabrück and Braunschweig, small towns in Niedersachsen, where whole neighborhoods were locked and identities of all attendees of the mosque for Friday prayer were checked. There was no previous evidence of security threats at the mosque, and no substantial results were gained through the lockdown and searches..

Not just right-wing and conservative parties, but also the German social democrat party (SPD) has used the security issue to attract voters. By using the image of the ‘foreign criminal’ and ‘Muslim terrorist,’ politicians regularly try to stoke public fears and promote demands for more restrictive policies on foreigners and asylum seekers. This is especially true with efforts attempting to deal with the problem of Turkish integration or to exclude Muslim organizations from the policy-making process. ((Blaschke (2004), Mühe (2007), 9-10.)) Members of the CSU/CDU used Islamophobic fears regularly in the political debates about the immigration law (Einwanderungsgesetz), which they perceive as being too liberal.

The emotional public debate on mosque construction has also repeatedly been used by right-wing and conservative politicians. Usually, the official objection includes issues such as noise pollution, traffic flow, and parking problems. ((Blaschke (2004).)) However, press conferences held around the building of mosques, and popular protest movements, which involve regularly local politicians, reveal that there are, in fact, other Islamophobic motives. ((On the press conference, see, for example, the article of the Berlin newspaper Der Tagesspiegel (2 August 2006): (accessed 10 January 2007).)) The rejection of mosque building has also been used by political parties in their election campaigns to draw attention of potentials voter to one party or another.

Apart from debates on domestic Islam policy, the anti-Islamic sentiments of the conservative parties CSU/CDU are reflected in the debate about Turkey’s accession to the EU. Turkey, according to the official party line, does not fit into ‘Christian Europe.’ ((Blaschke (2004).))

In spite of actual political debate, the current government (coalition of social democrats and conservatives) has announced that integration of Muslims in Germany and the improvement of “co-existence” will be a central goal of their policy. According to the government program, intercultural and interreligious dialogue should play a central role. ((Deutscher Bundestag (16. Wahlperiode), Stand der rechtlichen Gleichstellung des Islam in Deutschland, Drucksache 16/5033, 18 April 2007.))

The process of Christian-Muslim interreligious dialogue, which started in the 1980s, has stalled after 9/11. Since distrust and skepticism towards Muslims has increased since 2001, German churches have changed their strategy against their “religious rival.” Christian representatives who still supported the dialogue, such as the Protestant Bishop Jepsen, have been criticized for communicating with Muslims. However, some communication between Christian and Muslim representatives has begun to be re-established in the very recent past. ((Mühe (2007), 53.))

State and Church and Recent Legislation on Islam and Immigration

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While freedom of religion is recognized in Germany, the state officially recognizes some faiths, and uses the tax system to assess funds for them. Once recognized, they are granted the status of public organizations. They then receive privileges such as full independence in matters of employment, recognition of the community’s religious oath in a court of law, freedom to organize councils and chains of command, automatic membership of the followers with the community, fiscal protection and exemption from real estate taxes on property designated as belonging to the public domain, and the right to receive a percentage of the national revenue based on tax payers’ declarations of membership. ((Cesari (2004), 229-230.)) Islam has not been recognized as a public corporation (Körperschaft des öffentlichen Rechts), perhaps primarily due to difficulties in establishing who the leadership should be, since Islam does not have a hierarchical structure, as do most Christian churches. ((Lehmann, L., Wer Repräsentiert Deutschlands Muslime?, in: Neues Deutschland (3 November 2004).)) These problems have created a situation in which Islam receives little help from the federal government—a distinct contrast to Protestants, Catholics, and Jews. Muslims still do not have the same rights as Christian churches and other religious communities, such as the right to collect official taxes or teach Islamic religious education in schools. Muslims have been forced to negotiate individually and piecemeal for benefits from the government of the Länder. Thus, in Germany, the establishment of Islam varies tremendously across regions and is often subject to the whims of politicians in more conservative regions who have favored Christianity. However, Muslim organizations have realized the necessity of “speaking with one voice” towards the German officials in order to gain rights and the status of a cooperation. ((See statements of 3 different representatives of Muslim organizations on the unification process: Islamische Zeitung (8 July 2006).))

Debates about actual legislation on immigration and on Islam in particular have received high media coverage in recent years. In January 2000, a new citizenship law has provided easier access to citizenship. Today, children of foreign parents born in Germany qualify, under certain circumstances, for German citizenship. In practice the number of naturalizations of Muslims has been steadily falling from 2001.

A new immigration act (Einwanderungsgesetz) went into effect on 1 January 2005, following a long and difficult legislative process and intense discussions in public and in the Bundestag and Bundesrat. The Immigration Act for the first time provides a legislative framework for controlling and restricting immigration as a whole. The new law also contains measures to promote the integration of legal immigrants in Germany. The Immigration Act is made up of the Residence Act, the Act on the General Freedom of Movement for EU Citizens, and amendments to additional legislation. The Immigration Act authorized for the first time the passage of legal ordinances on lawful employment of foreigners already living in Germany and of those entering Germany. Instead of the previous structure which called for five types of residence permits, there will be only two: the (temporary) residence permit and the (permanent) settlement permit. The right of residence is no longer oriented on residence titles but on the purpose of residence—in particular, employment, training and education, humanitarian reasons, and subsequent immigration of family members. Instead of having to go through two separate application processes (one for residence permits and another for work permits), foreigners now only need to submit their residence permit application to the responsible foreigners authority. The ban on recruiting foreign labor remains in effect for unskilled, semi-skilled, and even skilled workers. Foreign students may remain in Germany for one year following graduation to find a job commensurate with their academic degree. All new legal immigrants to Germany (foreigners intending to reside permanently, repatriates of German origin and EU citizens) are to be offered a basic package of integration measures which will be nationally standardized and regulated by federal law.

The immigration law has constantly been attacked by the conservative parties (CDU/CSU), which view it as being too liberal. The party combined its agreement to this law with a call for tightening security measures, using the general fear of terrorism to strengthen their position.

The CDU in Baden-Württemberg even introduced in 2006 a questionnaire for naturalization entitled Gesinnungsfragebögen (questionnaire about one’s convictions). The aim of these questions, which only target Muslim foreigners, is to find out whether the applicant has internalized the values of the German nation. The procedure was attacked by some human rights and civil society groups, stating that most native Germans would not be able to properly answer the questions about culture and history. Examples of these questions are: “What do you think about the fact that homosexual people hold official offices in Germany?” “What do you think about the statement that the wife has to obey her husband and that he may beat her if she does not obey him?”and “Your adult daughter/wife wants to dress just like other girls and women as well. Would you try to prevent it? If yes, with what means?” The applicant can still lose the German citizenship years later, if it becomes known that he/she merely hid his/her real opinions.

Some legal steps have been made to improve the employment situation of immigrants. An overview is given by the Federal Government’s Commissioner on Immigration, Refugees and Integration in the Migration-Report. ((Bericht des Beauftragte der Bundesregierung für Integration (Berlin 2005), 101ff.))

Recent legislation on Islam also includes laws on the level of the federal states concerning religious symbols in schools and with public services (see above). Eight German states currently ban schoolteachers from wearing headscarves in schools: Bavaria, Bremen, Baden-Wurtemburg, Hessen, Lower-Saxony, Berlin, and North Rhine-Westphalia.

In terms of security, the Immigration Act continues in the same direction set by the Counter-Terrorism Act of January 9, 2002. Leaders of banned organizations are subject to regular expulsion. Those who incite hate and violence may also be expelled if they endorse acts such as war crimes in a way that could disrupt public security and order. In order to prevent threats to Germany’s security, the Immigration Act has introduced deportation orders. State authorities may now order a foreigner to be deported without first having to issue an official order to leave the country. A deportation order must be based on evidence of potential threat. There are also new provisions for monitoring the activities of foreigners who have been ordered to leave the country. Before issuing a settlement permit or deciding on an application for naturalization, the authorities will make a request for information on any anti-constitutional activities by the person in question.


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