The 4th German Islam Conference (DIK) has started with a controversial debate about foreign influences in German mosques. The kick-off event in Berlin was accompanied by a heated exchange between conservative and liberal Muslims.
Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer called on the Islamic communities in Germany to gradually free themselves from foreign donors. The mosque communities should not only largely organize and finance themselves, but also the training of preachers, said the CSU politician.
Seehofer emphasized: “Of course, Muslims have the same rights and the same duties as everyone here in Germany.” From the director of the Institute of Islamic Theology of the University of Osnabrück, Bülent Ucar, the minister had to listen to criticism because he had said in an interview that he considered the phrase “Islam belongs to Germany” wrong. Ucar said that although Seehofer meant this only historically, the statement was irritating to many Muslims. But now it’s time to tick off the topic and look ahead.
As the financing should be specifically ensured, said Seehofer not. He announced, however, existing support programs for integration projects of mosque communities would be expanded.
Criticism had been given in the past two years mainly sermons and activities of imams of the Turkish Islam umbrella organization Ditib. Some preachers had been accused of spying on believers. Another stumbling block were prayers for Turkish soldiers in the Syria operation. The imams of Ditib are sent to Germany by the Turkish Governmental Religious Administration.
Theologian Ucar and the chairman of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany (ZMD), Aiman Mazyek, spoke in favor of a German Imam education modeled after the Christian seminary. The North Rhine-Westphalian integration Secretary of State Serap Güler (CDU) said that Salafists regrettably managed to address young people in German and to pick them up in their lifeworld. In most non-radical mosques, on the other hand, there were no “trustworthy contact persons” who speak German and are close to the everyday lives of young people.
Seehofer broke with the practice of his predecessor Thomas de Maizière (CDU), who had used the Islam Conference, especially for the dialogue of state actors with the majority conservative Islam associations. In addition to the representatives of the association, he also invited theologians, activists and scientists who are in a clinch with these associations.
“The cast is more colorful this time, I like that,” said the founder of the liberal Berlin Ibn Rushd Goethe Mosque, Seyran Ates. The political scientist Hamed Abdel Samad said that the Islam associations are not religious communities, but mostly “ethnic-national associations”. The religious educator Lamya Kaddor complained that she and other liberal Muslims were being defamed by the larger Islamic associations.
In the next few years, according to Seehofer’s ideas, the German Islam Conference will primarily deal with “everyday practical questions of living together”.