The challenge to integrate Germany's Muslims

Muslim integration in Europe has become a heated debate in recent years because European governments have linked the issue to internal security, according to an article on the World Peace Herald.

The challenge to integrate Germany's Muslims
The September 11 attacks on the United States, the July 7 London bombings and the 2004 Madrid blasts have created a new wave of discrimination, violation of civil rights and hatred of Muslims in the Western world, according to Oguz Ucuncu, the secretary-general of the Islamic Community Milli Gorus, a German-based Muslim group.

"Since the Madrid and London bombings, many people in Europe feel uneasy about immigration from Muslim countries," said Steffen Angenendt of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin.

Both officials spoke earlier this week at an integration and security conference held in Berlin. The meeting, organized by the European Forum for Migration Studies, a think tank at the University of Bamberg, brought together several security experts and officials from the Muslim world.

Beside the Madrid and London bombings, several other incidents have endangered the peaceful co-existence between Muslims and Christians in Europe, security experts say.

Last year, the publication of Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH) offensive cartoons and the anti-Islamic remarks made by Pope Benedict have irritated Muslims in Europe and all over the world.

Recent surveys show that Islamophobia is on the rise in Europe, where many people hold negative views of Islam and Muslims. Between 13 million to 15 million Muslims live in the European Union, making up 3.5% percent of the entire EU population. Most of European Muslims live in Germany, the United Kingdom and France, according to official data and estimates from non-governmental organizations.

While American Muslims are well-paid and highly educated (57% make more than $57,000 a year, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations), Muslims in Europe have below-average educational achievement, often hold low-qualified jobs and tend to live in districts with poor housing conditions, said Thomas Schwarz of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, a Vienna-based body.

The agency interviewed many Muslims all over Europe, most of whom said their situation has deteriorated over the past five years. Although they acknowledge that they need to do more to engage with wider society, the demand to integrate can be counterproductive if Muslims are not treated equally, Schwarz said.

Especially since the Sept. 11 attacks, Muslims in Europe -- the overwhelming majority of whom condemn any form of terrorism -- feel they are sidelined by society. "Many Muslims, particularly young people, face limited opportunities for social advancement ... that could give rise to feelings of hopelessness and alienation," Schwarz said.

Ucuncu, of Milli Gorus, says Muslims living in Germany have been especially discriminated against. An estimated 3.2 million Muslims live in the country, most of whom of Turkish origin.

Last September, the German government opened a major conference on Islam as part of a two-year campaign to promote dialogue with the Islamic community and better integrate the Muslim population.

The German Interior Ministry vowed at the time to hold several events that bring together Muslim leaders and government officials on a regular basis to address different issues, including integration, security and education.

Ahead of the first summit, German officials noted that Muslims bring a rich and valuable cultural addition to Germany and that they are and will be welcome in the future.

Friedrich Heckmann, head of the European Forum for Migration Studies and the main official behind the campaign, said the Islam summit was an innovative project with great opportunities to strengthen "societal cohesion and security."

"The Islam conference has established a new reality in the religious-cultural life of Germany," Heckmann said. "It will help establish and strengthen relations of trust."

The summit was initiated by German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who said at the first conference that Muslims in Germany must accept European norms and values. "Islam is an important part of Germany and of Europe, and so it must also accept the norms and values that constitute Europe," he said at the time.

But Muslim leaders say there is no reason to be worried about inter-religious life in Germany or about the acceptance of the country's basic values by Muslims.

"The German Islamic communities have always been calm," said Ayyub Axel Koehler, the head of the Central Council of Muslims. "You can could see that we condemned every major terrorist attack since 9/11...we don't want confrontation," he added.

German politicians and Muslim leaders agree that a lot needs to be done to effectively integrate Muslims into the German society. "Muslims have to become more strongly involved in this country," Schaeuble stressed after the September summit.

The Interior Minister also said that he had told his U.S. and European colleagues that Germany's initiative to improve the integration of Muslims must be pursued on a European Union-wide level.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16
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