Muslims attending the German Islam Conference were apparently offended by the insinuation that Islam could be radical or violent.
A major conference on German-Muslim relations has ended in failure after Muslims attending the event refused to acknowledge the government’s concerns about the threats to security posed by radical Islam.
German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich had wanted the eighth annual German Islam Conference, held in Berlin on May 7, to focus on finding ways the government could work together with “moderate” Muslims in Germany to combat Islamism and extremism.
But Muslims attending the gathering were apparently offended by the insinuation that Islam could be radical or violent, and demanded instead that the German government take steps to make “Islam equal to Christianity” in Germany.
The German Islam Conference was launched by former Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble in 2006, and has been billed as the “central forum for dialogue” between German politicians and representatives of the estimated 4.3 million Muslims now living in Germany.
The stated aim of the annual event — where Muslim organizations and individuals are invited to sit at the table with representatives from federal, state and local government — is to promote Muslim integration into German society.
This year’s event was focused around three main themes: institutional cooperation between Muslims and the German state; gender equality as a common value, and prevention of extremism, radicalization and social polarization.
Muslims attending the conference evidently wanted to focus only on the first theme, which included “promoting the introduction of comprehensive Islamic religious instruction in public schools, including through conferences and publications.” Although the government has already made many concessions in this regard, Muslims complained about German “interference” in selecting the teachers who provide Islam training in German schools.
In respect to the second theme — gender equality — the German government had hoped to find solutions to the problems of honor violence and forced marriage. But Muslims refused even to acknowledge any connection between Islam and forced marriage. Instead, they managed to turn the gender issue on its head by demanding that German employers promise not to discriminate against Muslim women who want to wear burkas to work.
The third theme — the prevention of Islamic extremism and radicalization — undoubtedly caused the most controversy at this year’s conference.
Interior Minister Friedrich had been hoping to enlist the support and cooperation of Muslims at the conference to help in the fight against the radicalization of young Muslims in Germany.
Since taking office in 2011, Friedrich has led Germany’s multifaceted response (here, here and here) to the rise of radical Islam there. Friedrich and other German security officials are increasingly concerned about the threat posed by home-grown terrorists inspired by Islamic extremists, who openly state that they want to establish Islamic Sharia law in Germany and across Europe. (A recent poll found that more than half of all Germans view Islam as a threat to their country and believe it does not belong in the Western world.)
But Muslims were perceptibly furious when Friedrich refused to give in to their demands to drop discussion of security-related aspects of Islam at this year’s conference.
The director of inter-religious dialogue at the Turkish-Islamic Union for Islamic Affairs [Türkisch-Islamische Union der Anstalt für Religion (DITIB)], Bekir Alboga, complained that Friedrich had rendered the conference “pointless” by bringing “security policy themes too far to the fore.” Alboga said the German Islam Conference “makes no more sense in its current form. I do not see any genuine partnership.” He added that “we [Muslims] do not want to be seen as being a security factor.”
In a speech he delivered at the conference, Alboga used logical gymnastics to blame Germany of promoting “extremism and radicalization” by not doing enough to stop “Islamophobia.”
Later, in an interview with the German news agency Deutsche Welle, Alboga said he was hoping that German Chancellor Angela Merkel would be defeated in federal elections in September 2013 so that the Muslim-German dialogue could continue in a more positive way with a new government led by the more Muslim-friendly Social Democrats. “I yearn for a real partnership,” he said.
It should be noted that Alboga’s DITIB is a branch of the Turkish government, which controls over 900 mosques in Germany. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has long used DITIB to dissuade Turkish immigrants from integrating into German society.
Alboga’s complaints were echoed by the Secretary-General of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany [Zentralrats der Muslime in Deutschland (ZMD)], Aiman Mazyek, who said the Islam conference “urgently needs a general overhaul” because it is not a “dialogue among equals.”
The head of the Turkish Community in Germany [Türkische Gemeinde in Deutschland (TGD)], Kenan Kolat, called on the German government to create a new Integration Ministry that would take the responsibility for organizing the German Islam Conference away from the Interior Ministry.
The director of the Islamic Council of Germany [Islamrats für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland (IR)], Ali Kizilkaya, described the German Islam Conference as “a train heading in the wrong direction” because the event is built on “security concerns and mistrust.”
The center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), eager to court disgruntled Muslim voters in a desperate bid to unseat Merkel this fall, has jumped on the anti-Friedrich bandwagon with enthusiasm.
The Interior Minister of Lower Saxony, the SPD’s Boris Pistorius, accused Friedrich of fomenting “Islamophobia” by making “insensitive comments.” Pistorius said the original goal of the German Islam Conference “was to talk about Islam” but Friedrich and his predecessor, Thomas de Maizière, changed the focus to “security and terrorism” and this shift has “alienated” Muslim participants. Pistorius said that after the federal elections, a victorious SPD would re-conceptualize the conference by “carefully separating the concepts of Islam and Islamism.”
The parliamentary secretary of the SPD, Thomas Oppermann, accused Friedrich of leading the Islam Conference to an impasse, and said, “We want to put the dialogue with Muslims on a new basis.” The Integration Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, SPD politician Guntram Schneider, hinted at what such a “reorientation of the conference” might entail when he complained that the event did not address “Islamophobia.”
Potential SPD coalition partners also joined the electioneering. Left Party politician Christine Friedrich Buchholz accused Friedrich of not being really interested in a genuine dialogue with Muslims. Green Party leader Renate Künast said the conference needed a “reset” because Friedrich had “smashed too many dishes.”
In any event, this is not the first time the German Islam Conference has ended in failure. The official focus of the conference in 2012 was to find ways to deal with the spiraling rates of forced marriages and domestic violence among Muslims in Germany.
But Muslim representatives attending that event were in no mood for compromise. Then, like now, they refused to accept responsibility for any of the innumerable irritants in German-Muslim relations. Instead, they insisted that the German government amend its “misguided” approach to Muslim integration.
The 2012 event ended without a joint press conference because of lingering Muslim pique at “offensive” comments that were allegedly uttered at the press conference that ended the 2011 event.
Those who were adamant that Bashar al-Assad should be removed (John McCain and Lindsey Graham, for example) have some ‘splaining to do.
Via Digital Journal:
Jabhat Al Nusra has emerged as the most powerful fighting group amidst the Syrian rebel opposition. The Islamist group has outlined its plans to impose sharia law once President Assad is ousted.
Sheikh Abu Ahmed, military commander of Jabhat Al Nusra, spoke with a reporter from the National. The Salafist leader said: “Our first goal is to get rid of Assad. Then we want a state where the Quran is the only source of law. Sharia is the right path for all humanity – all other laws make people unhappy.”
His vision of Syria under sharia is sure to make the populace happy, with alcohol, tobacco, cinema and immoral television shows banned. Ahmed claimed the people “will get used to it eventually.”
Now for the lie of 2012…
Abu Ahmed also said the minority groups including Christians and Alawites will have nothing to fear under sharia law. However, Christians in Syria are alarmed, fearing their religious freedoms will be abolished, Persecution.Org reported.
Of course! Just ask Egypt’s Copts.
Western leadership is completely vacuous.
Egypt officially under ‘Sharia Law’
Wednesday, December 26, 2012 | Israel Today Staff
Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi on Wednesday officially signed into law a new constitution drafted by his own Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups, and which critics say has effectively placed Egypt under strict Sharia Law.
Two referendums were held on the new constitution. The results of the second were announced on Tuesday: 63.8 percent of the small number of those who voted were in favor of the document.
Morsi said now that the new constitution is in place, he can focus on fixing Egypt’s internal problems. But others say it will only exacerbate internal divisions and transform Egypt into a pariah state on par with the Islamic Republic of Iran.
While Morsi claims the new constitution contains rights and protections for all Egyptians, its vagueness in certain areas and overt Islamic flavor has lead many to fear that radical Muslim clerics are going to play an increasingly influential role in Egypt, while minority groups and women will suffer.
“It’s a disaster,” female Egyptian lawyer Nihad Abu El Konsam told German media. “There isn’t a single article in the draft constitution that mentions the rights of women.”
“This constitution will set Egypt 100 years back,” added Abu El Konsam, noting that the Muslim Brotherhood had purposely left “open doors” that will result in Egyptians being placed under an extremist form of Islamic rule.
Hamdeen Sabahi, an opposition leader who placed third in Egypt’s presidential election, said the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists have “stolen” Egypt’s pro-democracy revolution, but he remains hopeful that they can be toppled.
In the meantime, “Morsi may have been elected democratically, but he is not governing democratically,” charged Sabahi in an interview with the Associated Press.
Evidence of that was seen in Morsi’s reaction to ongoing opposition to his new constitution even after it passed the referendum. The president issued a thinly-veiled warning that public demonstrations against his rule must end, because the people were tired of it.
Morsi tried to accuse all who oppose him of being responsible for the nation’s continuing economic woes, a tried and true tactic used by all of recent history’s most successful despots.
The threats seemed to be working. While the run-up to the referendum saw hundreds of thousands protesting daily in central Cairo and even marching on the presidential palace, now that it has been signed into law very few are taking to the streets.
Israelis invited to buy up Greece’s infrastructure
Wednesday, December 26, 2012 | Yossi Aloni
Israeli companies, with the encouragement and assistance of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, are taking advantage of the economic crisis in Greece to find some bargains while helping to advance the privatization efforts of the Greek government.
As a means of coping with the ongoing crisis, the Greek government has decided to privatize dozens of government companies, including the national lottery, the old Athens airport, the national oil company, refineries, the ports of Piraeus and Thessaloníki, local water companies, large industrial plants and more.
In recent months, top Greek officials visited Israel to find investors. They met with a number of top Israeli business leaders and presented the various opportunities to invest in and own Greek infrastructure.
These meetings have already led to a number of signed deals. Israeli mega-corp Elbit won a tender to buy the old Athens airport, and a number of hotels were purchased by Israelis in hopes of boosting Israeli tourism to Greece. An Israeli company is also in talks to buy Greece’s national oil company.
In August, Israeli business leaders were invited to a state dinner in Athens in honor of the Greek president. Greece sincerely hopes the Israeli investment in its economy will create the jobs and economic growth needed to pull the country out of the gutter.
Israeli-Greek relations have been warming up for some years, especially in light of growing tension between the Jewish state and Greece’s traditional rival, Turkey.
That’s why when Greece joined other European nations last month in voting to recognize a state of “Palestine,” Israel perceived the move as a slap in the face from a close friend. But Jerusalem ultimately decided to shrug off the UN vote, assuming that with its current economic difficulties, Greece could not afford to lose investment and business from Arab and Muslim states.
Israeli Right re-energized with new leadership
Tuesday, December 25, 2012 | Ryan Jones
The national religious bloc on the right-wing of Israeli politics has been an easily-dismissed minority voice in government in recent years. But new leadership appears to have revitalized the movement, and polls show the main national religious party will be the third largest faction in the next Knesset.
According to a poll conducted by the Dialogue survey company, the Jewish Home party will win 13 seats in the next Knesset, just behind the left-wing Labor Party with 17. A poll conducted two weeks ago gave Jewish Home as many as 16 seats. Jewish Home has only three seats in the current Knesset.
Both polls predicted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party would take 35 seats when Israelis go to the polls next month.
Jewish Home is the new name of the former National Religious Party. Its surge in the polls is being largely attributed to newly-elected party leader Naftali Bennett.
Bennett is a 40-year-old hi-tech entrepreneur who previously worked as Netanyahu’s bureau chief when the latter was head of the opposition in the 1990s.
Jewish Home and the National Religious Party before it have traditionally been focused on the politics of the land, and that will not change under Bennett. Following his victory, the new Jewish Home leader said that dividing the land of Israel is like “cutting a crumb in two,” and Israel must resist all pressure to do so for the sake of a phony peace.
Instead, Bennett said in a graphical video presentation posted to the Internet, Israel should implement a policy of annexation and autonomy in regards to Judea and Samaria (the so-called “West Bank”).
In the video, Bennett advocates official annexation of what is known as Area C, the 60 percent of the “West Bank” where all of the Jewish population lives. Areas A and B, which are currently under Palestinian Authority control, and which contain 96 percent of the local Arab population, would be granted autonomy, but not independence.
To make this work, Bennett calls for heavy investment in new infrastructure that would provide the autonomous Palestinian areas with greater freedom of movement.
Bennett argues that this is the only way to both give the Palestinians most of what they claim to want, while also safeguarding Israel’s security.
Bennett says Israelis need to beware that Netanyahu will look to again forge a coalition with left-wing parties that will lead to his dismantling of Jewish settlements under international pressure.
Netanyahu’s Likud tried to fight back by harping on a statement by Bennett that Israeli soldiers tasked with forcibly evacuating Jewish settlers should ask to be reassigned. Likud officials attacked Bennett for allegedly calling for sedition, but Bennett insisted he had done nothing of the sort.
Either way, the episode only served to strengthen Bennett and his party and to draw away even more support from Likud.