Heads of state in Germany like to claim in their Sunday speeches that they speak for the entire society in their country. This also applies to the large number of Muslims in Germany, who repeatedly experience discrimination and disrespect from the majority society.
It all started in 2010 with then-President Christian Wulff’s statement on the German national holiday that “Islam now belongs to Germany.” At that time there was a huge public outcry as to how a head of state could even utter such a sentence. But Wulff also received a lot of support, not just from the Muslim community. Now, in a modified form, the current Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has also used a similar sentence in a greeting: “Islam, the Muslim religion, Muslim life, Muslim culture have taken root in our country,” he declared on the occasion of the celebration 50th anniversary of the Association of Islamic Cultural Centers (VIKZ) in Cologne.
It’s not just the words that leave a lasting impression. The locations and the audience in front of which something is presented are also important. In Wulff’s case, it was German Unity Day, the national holiday in Germany. He spoke to the entire society, which has now become a multicultural one in which there is a “common sense” that no longer stops at religious or ethnic boundaries. Things are a little different when it comes to Steinmeier’s speech. His greeting at the VIKZ, one of the largest Islamic associations in Germany, must be assessed differently.
Why does a Federal President speak to an Islamic interest group that is not particularly transparent to the outside world and represents positions that are violating principle German and European values? According to the VIKZ, around 300 mosque communities belong to it. The VIKZ remains silent about how many paying members these communities actually have, i.e. how many Muslims the association represents. It states that both its new facility in Cologne for 70 million euros and at least 160 properties in various federal states throughout Germany are paid for from membership fees, donations and loans. The same members who cover the costs of their community association with their contributions also provide the equity for the real estate and the repayment of loan installments – and also send their children to the VIKZ care facilities for a fee. That’s a lot of money. It would be interesting to find out how many people such a financial burden is spread over or whether the money comes from other sources such as companies or from abroad.
The 2020 study “Muslim Life in Germany” found that the association is known to just 11 percent of all Muslims in Germany. Far fewer Muslims feel represented by this, namely only 5 percent. This creates the paradoxical situation that one of the largest Islamic associations in Germany is almost irrelevant for Muslims – while politicians like Steinmeier continually enhance such an organization. The particularly problematic thing about this is that this upgrade only affects the relevant community. With such events with top politicians, the associations have a wonderful basis for legitimacy: “Look, German politics is always our guest, they support us and our values!” With such appearances, politicians ignore the fact that the majority of Muslims live their religion outside of those associations.
The majority of Muslims do not want to have anything to do with the religious understanding of such associations, apparently in contrast to politicians. In addition to the lack of transparency of such clubs, it is their ultra-conservative worldview that is rejected by the majority of Muslims. At the VIKZ, which received words of praise from the German head of state, it is a religious ideology that speaks of the impurity of women, a ban on contact between the sexes, and compulsory headscarves for girls from the age of nine. Anti-Semitic statements are also reported again and again. When such associations are asked about such problematic values, they always counter that they are committed to the constitution. The “teaching” that women are unclean alone is probably not covered by the German Constitution and European fundamental rights. The transmission of such values fundamentally contradicts any integration. A whole series of state institutions in Germany prove that associations like the VIKZ are “hostile to integration”.
In the opinion of many experts, the four major Islamic associations in Germany (DITIB, Islamrat, Central Council of Muslims and VIKZ) do not meet the legal requirements for recognition as religious communities. So why are German leaders ignoring these warnings? It’s probably a mixture of convenience, ignorance and naivety, the shifting of responsibility, but also pandering to a community that could possibly represent potential voters.
It is probably a fundamental problem of politics in Europe that Muslims continue to be subjected to this type of political hostage-taking, in that they are politically reduced to their faith by individual citizens and thus their perception of interests is shifted from the responsibility of elected representatives to religious associations.
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