IFI Press Release regarding the Study “Muslims in Germany” by the German Federal Ministry of the Interior

Institut für Islamfragen

“Muslims in Germany”

B O N N (January 31, 2008) – Dr. Christine Schirrmacher, a scholar for Islamic issues with the Institute of Islamic Studies, describes the evaluation regarding the integration and distribution of Muslim within German society released by the Federal Ministry of the Interior and entitled “Muslims in Germany” as long overdue and in part a wakeup call. Beginning in 2004, around 1700 Muslims from the city centers of Hamburg, Berlin, Cologne, and Augsburg had been surveyed by the Hamburg criminologists Karin Brettfeld and Peter Wetzels regarding their attitudes towards integration and democracy, rule of law, and politico-religiously motivated violence. According to Schirrmacher, the results demonstrate that for a portion of Muslim migrants there has indeed been progress of immense importance in the acquisition of language skills and in education as well as in societal participation in a manner that staves off possible radicalization. On the other hand, the study also clearly illustrates that education alone is not the key for the elimination of radicalization and that an attachment and identification with the host society is not necessarily a question of education. For example, only 10% of students asked noted a “primary cultural identification with Germany.” Furthermore, the dismantling of prejudices held by non-Muslims who are either distanced from foreigners or even hostile youth is likewise an important societal as well as political goal.

A Distinct Victim Mentality and Heightened Acceptance of Violence among Youth

Furthermore, the study points out a discernible self-perception across classes of disparately educated Muslims that can be described as one of victimization within a global strategy against Islam. There are also many Muslims, who, while they have not directly experienced discrimination and ostracism, complain in the survey of a feeling of marginalization of Islam in Germany as well as worldwide. Eighty-three percent of interviewed Muslim students feel personal infuriation about the direct suspicion towards Muslims with respect to terrorist attacks. Many of those asked who are active in Islamic associations and organizations view the climate of prejudice, animosity, rejection and discrimination as a cause of aggression among German Muslims. The Statistics show that among Muslim youth between the ages of 14 and 18 only 6.4% declared to have some sympathies towards Islamism, but 24% would under certain circumstances favour violence. In a comparison of non-Muslim youth to Muslim youth who maintain Muslim religious affiliation, one finds that a greater amount of violence is acceptable.

Numbers of Attendees at Mosques and Koran Schools is on the Rise

According to the study, 40% of all Muslims asked are fundamentally oriented, and in their everyday life they closely observe the rules of their religion and tend to make a broad-brush assessment that upgrades Islam and devalues Western culture, which has been influenced by Christianity. The number of people who attend mosque weekly grew from 30.7% to 41.6% between 2000 and 2005, while the number of people in favor of head scarves went from 27.2% to 46.6% over the same time period. While the study clearly and correctly demonstrates that a fundamental religious orientation does not necessarily lead to a fundamentalist and Islamist tendencies, the study does draw attention to the fact that Koran schools play a role in impeding integration, since nowadays young people go to Koran School more often and for a longer period of time. Along with participation in classes at a Koran school comes a detectable increase in the distance one has towards democracy. The study outlines a basic willingness among Muslims to integrate. At the same time, a large number of Muslims – also students – emphasize that it is a necessity to retain their own culture. Only a minority see themselves as primarily German.

Activists have an Ambivalent Relationship towards Civil Rights

A cause for concern appears to the ambivalent relationship that activists in Islamic associations and organizations have towards civil rights. On one hand civil rights for promoting one’s own points of view seem to be desirable, for example when it comes to the demand to promote one’s own religion as the one true religion in courses of religious education in school. On the other hand, this same right would be denied to certain orientations in Islam or is seen in the case of wanting to limit marriage with non- Muslim to at most sons and never, however, to daughters. According to the study, there are some calls made for special rights such as legal protection of Islamic holidays and the use of Islamic law among members of the Islamic community all the way up to the creation of a parallel legal community by the host society as a debt to be discharged for integration.

The Process of Radicalization is multi-layered and subtle

On the basis of four individual biographical reports, the study concludes with possible factors for the process of radicalization. The catalyst is often a type of “experience of awakening” that can occur during a time where there is a lack of orientation and a strong sense of uncertainty. This can lead to a (re)turn to a complete and rigid exercise of “true Islam.” The presence of a mosque and a learning environment can contribute to intensifying the situation, if the sharia is preached in a way that distances itself and places itself above Western values. Those to whom this applies distance themselves increasingly from Western society and also increasingly accept violence as a means to defend their religion or their honor as well as a way to limit civil rights (e.g., over against women in one’s own family). In some cases what used to be only a personal belief with a tendency towards rules and regulations combines with more distancing from democracy and a marked association with authority under rigid religious leaders who also call for the political implementation of Islam. The authors of the study conclude that dialogue should be conducted openly but not in a manner that sees various approaches as being equally valid:

“It indicates additionally that the search for meaning and the grappling for values require dialog and credible counterparts who can ensure that Islam is not ostracized, that there is no attitude of indifference towards Islam, and who themselves can be strong partners in dialog by standing upon their own firm foundation” (S.501).

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Karin Brettfeld and Peter Wetzels, Muslims in Germany, Hamburg 2007, can be downloaded or ordered from the following site:

  • http://www.bmi.bund.de/cln_028/nn_122688/Internet/Content/Nachrichten/Pressemitteilungen/2007/12/Studie__Muslime__in__Deutschland__erschienen.html

This release may be copied without restriction, either in whole or in part. – Specimen copies are requested.