Islam in Germany: The long road to legal recognition — by Susanne Kaiser on Qantara de

According to expert opinion, there is still a great need for action in the legal recognition of Islam in Germany. There has been some progress in recent years, but Islamic religious communities are still a long way from being on a level footing with others. Susanne Kaiser summarises the deficits

open day mosque

Is Islam part of Germany? In this country, there is probably no question so controversial and so hotly debated as this one. It has been at the centre of social debate for many years, over which time a huge variety of answers have been sought, and Muslims have continued to strive for recognition. But what does it mean to be “part of Germany”, or “to be recognised”? Is it a question of whether Islam gels with German values and the German legal system? Or of whether an ordinary Muslim is always free to practise their religion and culture in the public domain here?

Numerous examples from daily life demonstrate that this is no simple matter: take the issue of holidays. The writer Monika Maron is completely convinced that in Germany, there is “total religious freedom”, and all believers are allowed time off on their religious holidays. In a subjective polemic, she therefore rails against German Islamic integration policy, and the calls from Islamic associations for the introduction of a statutory Muslim holiday for everyone.

But the associations are a long way from achieving this goal, in any case. They were actually demanding that Muslims should be allowed to take time off on important religious holidays – Eid al-Adha, the breaking of the fast, Ashura – at their own cost. Up to now, employers and schools have been permitted to deny these requests. Just because religious freedom is anchored in the constitution, it doesn’t follow that this right is always granted. Islamic organisations have therefore restricted themselves to minimal demands thus far.

Legal recognition is essential

The importance of recognising Islam legally as well as socially is shown in a new evaluation by the Islamic studies expert Dr Riem Spielhaus and the jurist Martin Herzog, commissioned by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation. The study says that for a start, it is necessary to grant Muslims the same access to resources as other religious communities: the financing of projects, protection against discrimination and the right to practise their faith, as well as the opportunity to implement this right. And this is precisely what political representatives and those representing the interests of the Islamic associations are now negotiating.

Dr Riem Spielhaus

The need for action on the way to equality for Islam: in Riem Spielhaus’s view this applies in the short term to the guarantee of being allowed to practise your faith, the development of educational and social offers, and with regard to the financial protection of Islamic religious practice. Spielhaus believes that the current temporary rulings and pilot projects could be “a helping hand along the road” to recognition, but must be allowed to “become permanent provisions”

But an agreement must be reached on every single detail of Islamic religious practice, with each federal state in Germany, each community or commune – in a dialogue conducted over many years. A simple Islam law, such as Austria has instituted, will not do in Germany.

There is a long road ahead to legal equality for ritual religious practice, in education, and with the social engagement of Islamic communities. Issues include Islamic graveyards and burial rites; the building of mosques; ritual slaughter of animals; holidays; religious education linked to the Islamic faith; Islamic theology in universities; youth work; social welfare; pastoral care in prisons, hospitals and the military. So far, none of this seems to be a matter of course in Germany.

Up to now, legal agreements with Muslim communities or associations have only been reached in a few federal states. The Ahmadiyya community, for example, is the only body recognised in public law in Hessen and Hamburg, but it doesn’t even have its own graveyard.

Large associations like the DITIB (Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs), by contrast, are not recognised, but de facto enjoy more rights. In Lower Saxony, their state association achieved an agreement on pastoral care in prisons in 2012, following three years of negotiation, while Islamic religious instruction has been taking place in schools since 2003/4. In Berlin, a ruling on holidays is in force, as is a burial provision, and pastoral care in correctional facilities is now getting off the ground.

Between recognition, regulation and general suspicion

A climate that is at times sceptical or even hostile towards Islam makes the slow negotiations even more difficult. Muslims also have to organise themselves in order to be heard – for example, by founding state associations or Shura councils, working out membership policies, providing transparent points of contact and developing basic structures conforming to the criteria for legal recognition and cooperation.

But it is not only religious communities who must fit in with the requirements of German law. “Something in the understanding of the law is also changing,” Riem Spielhaus says in an interview. She is currently seeing a “mutual convergence on the basis of an equal status in (constitutional) law”.

The Islamic studies expert Anne Schönfeld criticises the pressure to conform and the compulsion to unite that are associated with the state policy of recognising Muslims: “The policy of recognition doesn’t just have an affirmative effect on those who wish to be recognised. It also changes their self-image. And it is always also a matter of the state regulation and management of religion. People have to be clear about this,” says Schönfeld. That means that the diversity and independence of Muslim religious life in Germany has to become standardised to a certain extent, for the sake of recognition.

Minister for Justice Heiko Maas

Signals for social recognition and participation: according to Minister for Justice Heiko Maas, treaties could be an important step “to bring Muslim communities closer to the constitutional state and its values”. The minister sees a treaty like this as an opportunity to develop a German Islam

Maas wants treaty with Muslims

How politics imagines this was made clear in a recent lecture by Heiko Maas (SPD) at Berlin’s Humboldt University, when the state minister for justice argued in favour of a treaty with Muslim communities in Germany. Maas sees this as an important step in “bringing Muslim communities closer to the constitutional state and its values” and developing a German Islam. In return, however, Muslims are being asked to do their part to obtain recognition by state and society. They should, says Maas, organise their membership better, and the associations should be obliged to distance themselves regularly from extremism and anti-Semitism among Muslims.

For the Islamic associations, a lot depends on the legal recognition of their organisations. They often hope that this recognition will bring with it a social revaluation – an assessment about which Riem Spielhaus has some doubts. Even so, it is ultimately also a question of esteem: the importance of esteem for the work of these associations, and how closely it is sometimes also associated with legal consideration, is shown by the example of youth work.

For many years there were reservations about mosque associations performing outreach work with young Muslims. They often came under general suspicion. Youth work was frequently seen as a recruiting tool for Islamism, and was regarded with scepticism. “This meant that there was also no interest in a revaluation and qualitative improvement of the youth work done by Islamic communities, and certainly no funding for it,” as Spielhaus explains. In some cases, these reservations still stand in the way of recognition for associations as providers of youth work. “Legal and social recognition are mutually dependent,” she says.

By Susanne Kaiser

Translated by Ruth Martin

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Source: © 2015


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Yemen: Unlawful Airstrikes Kill Dozens of Civilians — Human Rights Watch video




Published on 30 Jun 2015

Saudi Arabia-led coalition forces have carried out airstrikes killing dozens of civilians in Saada City, in northern Yemen, since April 2015 in apparent violation of the laws of war. The coalition should investigate all alleged laws-of-war violations and provide compensation and other redress to civilian victims as appropriate.



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New Book on Heritage of the Mughal World: The Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme by Philip Jodidio (Editor)

New Book on Heritage of the Mughal World

some images inside this book

This beautifully illustrated book explores the historic cities, buildings, and gardens that flourished during the Mughals’ three-century rule, highlighting valuable conservation and restoration projects in Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan. From 1526-1857, the Mughal Empire presided over an extended period of peace, prosperity, and unprecedented artistic achievement in the Indian subcontinent. For more than a decade, the Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme has been working to preserve and restore historically significant sites to their original splendor. This book takes a close look at a wide variety of such projects, such as Bagh-e-Babur in Kabul; Humayun’s tomb and garden in Delhi; and the walled city of Lahore; and places them in the wider context of the Empire’s social, aesthetic, and ethical mores. In addition, it includes contemporary projects being developed around the world that reflect aspects of Mughal and Islamic heritage. Filled with stunning new photography by Christian Richters, this book offers a detailed study of the myriad achievements of the Mughal world and their lasting effects throughout the globe. This book also includes texts written by leading specialists on the subject as well as those who were actually in charge of the restoration projects.

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University of Central Asia (UCA) Summer Camp hosted Science Day

The halls of the Sinegorie Pansionat resort on the shores of Lake Issyk-Kul in Kyrgyzstan were recently transformed into a science laboratory when the University of Central Asia (UCA) Summer Camp hosted Science Day.

Led by an international and Central Asian team of teachers and counsellors, the Camp’s 76 Grade 10 students from Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan were divided into four groups. Four science stations were set up throughout the site, each with a different experiment. Each group had half an hour to develop a hypothesis, conduct the experiment, assess their hypothesis and generate scientific conclusions and real-world applications based on the experiment. They then moved on to the next station.

Students safely testing chemical reactions with a model volcano.

Students testing chemical reactions with a model volcano

The four stations explored different scientific disciplines and concepts. At two stations, the students utilised their own bodies for research; a biology experiment required them to test their reflexes at various joints and a chemistry experiment involved blind taste-testing to assess different factors impacting taste. One station explored the physics concept of surface tension, using soapy water and coins. At the remaining station, students safely tested chemical reactions with a model volcano.

“Science Day provided exposure to key scientific concepts across disciplines, while allowing our students to practice many other new skills. The experiments allowed them to practically apply academic information and problem solve. Developing and proving or disproving a hypothesis is a key process in critical thinking. Finally, by working in teams, they practiced important collaborative skills,” said Summer Camp Deputy Director Farrah Kamani, who is from Canada.

Students experimenting with different factors impacting taste.

Students prepare for blind taste-testing to assess different factors impacting taste

Students used observation skills during the experiments and had to deduce and discuss why the reactions occurred. They learnt about the importance of developing a hypothesis and conclusions, as well as the process of reassessing their hypotheses. Participants were also expected to apply their newly acquired math and English-language skills following the first two weeks of the Summer Camp.

“I have never done experiments like this at school! I do not consider myself a ‘science person’, but these experiments were interesting. I was really excited about learning about the reflexes and enjoyed the taste experiment. I learned something new!” said Bibizulfiya Kholmamatova who is from Dushanbe, Tajikistan.

“In the physics experiment on surface tension, we had to guess how many coins we could put into a bowl of soapy water before it overflowed. In our hypothesis, we all thought it would only be six coins, but in the end it was thirty seven!” said Bermet Abdykarieva, who is from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

“The science experiments were fun! The biology experiment on reflexes was most interesting because I learnt something new about my body” said Sanzhar Almakyn, who is from Astana, Kazakhstan.

The UCA Summer Camp runs from 17 June to 7 July 2015. The Camp offers a unique academic enrichment experience for participants to improve their English and math skills, receive critical support to enter local or international universities and engage in other activities, including sports, drama, debating, science and field trips, which provide opportunities to practice English-language skills, learn and share experiences.

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Special Series: Ismaili Expressions on the Imamat and Imam of the Time — (I) The Preamble of the Constitution of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims — Simerg com


The Preamble of the Constitution of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims

His Highness the Aga Khan is seen ordaining a new constitution for the worldwide Ismaili community.

December 13, 1986, Geneva: On his 50th birthday, His Highness the Aga Khan is seen ordaining a new constitution for the worldwide Ismaili community.

The new constitution was ordained, signed and sealed by Mawlana Hazar Imam on December 13th, 1986, his fiftieth Salgirah (birthday) and thirtieth year of Imamat. The Constitution was revised by Mawlana Hazar Imam on July 11, 1998, when he completed forty one years of his spiritual leadership.


(A) The Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims affirm the shahādah lā ilāha illa-llāh, Muhammadur rasulu-llāh, the Tawhid therein and that the Holy Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) is the last and final Prophet of Allah. Islam, as revealed in the Holy Quran, is the final message of Allah to mankind, and is universal and eternal. The Holy Prophet (s.a.s.) through the divine revelation from Allah prescribed rules governing spiritual and temporal matters.


(B) In accordance with Shia doctrine, tradition, and interpretation of history, the Holy Prophet (s.a.s.) designated and appointed his cousin and son-in-law Hazrat Mawlana Ali Amiru-l-Mu’minin (a.s), to be the first Imam to continue the Ta’wīl and Ta‘līm of Allah’s final message and to guide the murids, and proclaimed that the Imamat should continue by heredity through Hazrat Mawlana Ali (a.s) and his daughter Hazrat Bibi Fatimat-az-Zahra, Khātun-i-Jannat (a.s).


(C) Succession of Imamat is by way of Nass, it being the absolute prerogative of the Imam of the time to appoint his successor from amongst any of his male descendents whether they be sons or remoter issue.


(D) The authority of the Imam in the Ismaili Tariqah is testified by Bay‘ah by the murid to the Imam which is the act of acceptance by the murid of the permanent spiritual bond between the Imam and the murid. This allegiance unites all Ismaili Muslims worldwide in their loyalty, devotion and obedience to the Imam within the Islamic concept of universal brotherhood. It is distinct from the allegiance of the individual murid to his land of abode.


(E) From the time of the Imamat of Hazrat Mawlana Ali (a.s), the Imams of the Ismaili Muslims have ruled over territories and peoples in various areas of the world at different periods of history and, in accordance with the needs of the time, have given rules of conduct and constitution in conformity with the Islamic concepts of unity, brotherhood, justice, tolerance and goodwill.


(F) Historically and in accordance with Ismaili tradition, the Imam of the time is concerned with spiritual advancement as well as improvement of the quality of life of his murids. The imam’s ta‘lim lights the murid’s path to spiritual enlightenment and vision. In temporal matters, the Imam guides the murids, and motivates them to develop their potential.


(G) Mawlana Hazar Imam Shah Karim al Hussaini, His Highness Prince Aga Khan, in direct lineal descent from the Holy Prophet (s.a.s.) through Hazrat Mawlana Ali (a.s.) and Hazrat Bibi Fatima (a.s), is the Forty-Ninth Imam of the Ismaili Muslims.


(H) By virtue of his office and in accordance with the faith and belief of the Ismaili Muslims, the Imam enjoys full authority of governance over and in respect of all religious and Jamati matters of the Ismaili Muslims.


(I) It is the desire and Hidāyat of Mawlana Hazar Imam that the constitutions presently applicable to the Ismaili Muslims in different countries be superseded and that the Ismaili Muslims worldwide be given this constitution in order better to secure their peace and unity, religious and social welfare, to foster fruitful collaboration between different peoples, to optimise the use of resources, and to enable the Ismaili Muslims to make a valid and meaningful contribution to the improvement of the quality of life of the Ummah and the societies in which they live.


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Video: Cybertopia – Dreams of Silicon Valley (vpro Backlight) – vpro backligh

vpro backlight

vpro backlight

Published on 4 Feb 2015
What is the vision of cyber-utopists in Silicon Valley? They are responsible for a revolution that shapes our lives on all levels. A portrait from Cybertopia. Episode from VPRO Backlight.


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Nila Gumbad reunited with the Humayun’s Tomb complex — India Today


Nila Gumbad, the beautiful blue-tiled tomb

Nila Gumbad, the beautiful blue-tiled tomb, has finally been reunited with the Humayun’s Tomb complex. After nearly nine years, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) has been able to close the 15-feet-wide road that cuts through the complex, leading to isolation and decay of the blue tomb. Every year, nearly one million tourists visit the Humayun’s Tomb – a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but never get to see the Nila Gumbad. All of that will change now. This is also the first step to landscaping Nila Gumbad – constructing pathways and gardens around it – after its renovation was completed by AKTC last year.


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Video:German Ambassador Michael Steiner inaugurates Chausath Khamba in New Delhi


Restored by Aga Khan Trust for culture


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