Dubious Privileges for Islam in Hamburg

The city of Hamburg is the first federal administrative unit in Germany to make a treaty with its Muslim community.

The analogue for the action is the relationship between the German government and the state church. However, as the commenters on the article below point out, the arrangement between the government and German churches was never intended to be, nor should it be, a model for dealing with an alien political ideology that is hostile to the German government, culture, and people.

Many thanks to JLH for translating this piece from Citizen Times:

Muslim Organizations Press for Recognition

January 26, 2012 by the Citizen Times Team

Hamburg to be first federal state [Land] to make an agreement with Islamic organizations

Centrum Mosque on Böckmanstrasse in St. Georg, HamburgAs reported at the Wedel-Schulauer Tageblatt blog, Hamburg is about to be the first federal state to conclude an agreement with three Muslim umbrella organizations: Shura (Council of Islamic Communities), DITIB (Turkish-Islamic Community) and the Organization of Islamic Culture Centers (VKZ). Questions such as mosque construction, religious funerals, Islamic religious instruction and the administration of day care centers will be regulated. The goal is to have the agreement in effect before summer break, said Hamburg spokesman Jörg Schmoll.

The agreement goes back to suggestions in 2006 and then mayor Ole von Beust (CDU). But in contrast to the two large Christian congregations and the Jewish community, Muslims are not organized in a public, legal entity. So there has been no partner for the Hamburg senate that can speak for all Muslims.

Controversial Islamic Organizations

“We regard ourselves as representatives of nearly all Muslims in Hamburg and as such would gladly assume the role of negotiating partner,” Zeceriya Altug, chair of DITIB North says to Welt Online. From the official side and by many Muslims, however, this is doubted, indeed, contested. For instance, DITIB is regarded as the religious-political arm in Germany of Turkish Premier Erdogan. In the German-Islamic Conference (DIK)*, for this reason, prominent individuals of Muslim extraction are always included.

Integration policy spokesman for the SPD, Kazim Abaci, says that it is still doubtful whether an agreement will come out of the talks. The crucial political point remains whether organizations qualify as religious communities in the sense of the constitution. A further problem: Sunnis, Shi’ites and Alevites have a difficult time finding a theological consensus.

Equality within and without?

Since yesterday a draft by the organizations is before Hamburg’s citizen parties. A Welt Online commentary reports it as a “symbolic milestone on the way to equal rights.” The paper in fact speaks of the acceptance of all arrangements within the faith community, explicitly also concerning homosexuals. What does not seem to occur to Welt writer Eva Eusterhus is that this version allows recognition of homosexuals only within the umma — the greater Muslim community.

The ordinary citizen cannot view the paper on the websites of the Islamic organizations mentioned. Transparency is apparently not seen as a part of integration.

Hamburg Muslims appear less than ready for integration

In recent days, Hamburg Muslims have made negative headlines several times. For one thing, the founding of an Islamic ride-sharing central, Muslim Taxi, became known. Against the equal rights described here, this intends strict separation of the sexes and is supposed to make possible the conversion of infidel German passengers. For another thing, a Hamburg Muslim woman has let it be known that she intends to open a purely Islamic business center.

The Hamburg mosques have been under surveillance by security services repeatedly in recent years, because they were active meeting places for Islamists. The Al-Quds Mosque, where the attackers of September 11, 2001 met, was closed in August 2010 by the security services because Islamic activities were observed there on a continuing basis.

*   [A government-sponsored annual conference which has been criticized recently for its domination by a few Islamic organizations. — JLH]


#1   “What does not seem to occur to Welt writer Eva Eusterhus is that this version allows recognition of homosexuals only within the umma — the greater Muslim community.”

This objection by Citizen Times is justified above all because the Shura — which belongs to the three Muslim umbrella organizations with which the Hamburg ruling body intends to make an agreement — is dominated by the Milli Görus community of the Centrum mosque, which is notorious for serious attacks on homosexuals. We may assume that the victims of these attacks were non-Muslims. In an article which appeared just 5 years ago in the Hamburger Morgenpost is the following: This week ended the city district dialogue of the Centrum mosque initiated by the Greens. “We do not intend to be pushed around by gay activists,” said Ahmet Jazici, Vice-Head of the Centrum mosque.

Somewhere between the Lange Reihe and the side streets of the Steindamm,** there is an imaginary boundary between the two worlds. Banker André H. (33) and student Christopher N.(30) passed over it. They are married and in love. But the innocent handholding within view of the Centrum mosque attracts a crowd. Older store owners and muscle-bound bouncer types in bomber jackets pile up in front of them and corner them. “Gays have no business in front of a mosque,” they shout. If those two had kissed, every person on this street would have attacked them,” threatens Ahmed Kajhy (18). Another roars, “You are insulting Islam.”


**   [The first is a free-flowing shopping area, dominated by a gay culture, the second is a former sex hot spot being reclaimed as a chic, multicultural shopping area. — JLH]

#2   The mistake was that the state church was not de facto done away with in 1919, and that no clear dividing line was drawn between church and state. At the time it was just as inconceivable as it was in 1948-49 at the drafting of the constitution, that someday a religion not compatible with our culture would claim the same privileges as the Christian “state churches.” The best thing would be to finally eliminate the dubious privileges which do not comport with the separation of church and state.

“Treaties” of the state with religious communities should be avoided in general. In the present situation, they are raised to equal stature with the state and retain a quasi-state status.

#3   Yes, agreements between the state and religious communities are difficult. You are bringing together two different approaches to logic: Consensus and Transcendence (not truth — religions do not seek truth; science does that).

Picture: Centrum Mosque on Böckmanstrasse in St. Georg, Hamburg (Wikipedia)

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