Monday, May 29, 2006

Germany Seeks "Social Contract" for Muslims
Schaeuble said the new contract helps restore mutual confidence.
By Ahmed Al-Matboli,
IOL Correspondent

"The Muslim groups have long suffered because of government marginalization of Muslims," said Kizilkaya.

VIENNA, May 29, 2006 ( – The central German city of Bonn plays host in September to a conference bringing together German officials and Muslim leaders at an initiative from the Interior Ministry to draw up a "social contract" that helps boost Muslim integration into society.
"The proposed social contract seeks to promote mutual understanding between the German Muslims and the state as we all live in one country," Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told the weekly Welt am Sonntag, which hit newsstands on Sunday, May 28.
He said the contract enhances cooperation between the Muslim minority and the government, and helps restore mutual confidence.
"The new contract stresses the importance of respecting German constitution and the western democratic values," added Schaeuble.
The minister noted that the document addresses some problems facing Muslims vis-à-vis practice of religion.
Schaeuble said the leaders of five leading Muslim organizations in Germany and 10 prominent Muslim figures will be invited to attend the conference along with 15 German officials.
Islam comes third in Germany after Protestant and Catholic Christianity.
There are some 3.4 million Muslims in Germany, two thirds of whom are of Turkish origin.
"The Muslim groups have long suffered because of government marginalization of Muslims," said Kizilkaya.
A host of issues will be tackled during the conference, chiefly the teaching of Islam in German in Muslim schools under the state supervision.
Imam training as well as the role that can be played by the Muslim minority in fighting extremist ideologies will also top the meeting's agenda.
But Schaeuble hopes most that the conference would name a spokesperson for the Muslim minority.
"I hope that the conference would name a spokesman for the Muslim minority to become a partner in dialogue with German authorities," the minister noted.
Three working groups are expected to be formed at the end of the conference.
The Interior Ministry has sponsored a mobile exhibition touring the country to draw the line between Islam as a faith and the practices of some Muslims.
It aimed to distinguish between Islam as a religion that preaches peace and tolerance and parties condoning violence in the name of Islam.
Chancellor Angela Merkel said late April she planned to meet Muslim leaders in the country in July as part of her efforts to foster and facilitate integration of minorities into German society.
Muslim minority leaders have hailed the new German initiative.
"It is a positive gesture from the government I have to say," Ayman Mazik, Secretary General of the Higher Muslim Council, told IOL.
He said the German government has not moved to translate its pledges to the Muslim minority into action.
Ali Kizilkaya, chairman of the German Muslim Council, said the German government at last started talking "to not on" the Muslim minority.
"The government initiative encourages us to support integration plans," he said in recent press statements.
Kizilkaya said the move will further facilitate the work of Muslim groups in Germany.
"The Muslim groups have long suffered because of government marginalization of Muslims."
Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries said on May 7 that the Muslim minority in Germany was suffering from a growing religious discrimination with many Germans wrongly associating Islam with terrorism.
A German intelligence report has revealed that only one percent of Germany’s Muslim population are members of organizations that pose serious threats to the country’s national security.

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