In the German federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Islamists are now in charge of Islamic religious education

The coalition of Christdemocrats (CDU) and Liberals (FDP) in North Rhine-Westphalia planned to take a “completely new approach” to Islamic religious education. The Turkish state, Turkish nationalists and associations monitored by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution were no longer to be responsible. Instead, “liberal Muslims” should have a say – this is what the Minister for Integration Joachim Stamp (FDP) and his State Secretary Serap Güler (CDU) promised in 2017.Almost four years later, little has remained of this. The state has established a commission in which Muslim communities are to have a say about Islamic religious education (IRU) – about teachers, textbooks, curricula. But apart from a few exceptions, this commission will essentially be made up of those associations that the state government once warned against. The Ministry of Education, which is in charge, has offered them the opportunity to become members of the commission. This is what research by the newspaper WELT has revealed.One of them is the Ditib association, which is controlled by the Turkish state. For years, it was in a state of disfavour because informers from Ditib groups had denounced local critics of the Turkish government to the Turkish authorities. In addition, militant-nationalist propaganda events in Ditib congregations had become known. In 2017, Minister Stamp therefore decided with regard to Ditib: “Anyone who denounces and spies cannot be a partner in the organisation of Islamic school lessons for one day longer.This hard line now seems to be passé. When asked, the Ministry of Education did not want to comment officially on the invited associations. Nevertheless, the ministry defends itself by saying that each commission member must contractually guarantee to be “independent and non-governmental” and to respect constitutional principles. Those who break the terms of the contract can be removed from the commission by the ministry. The Islamic Council (IR), which is largely influenced by the Milli Görüs organisation, has also been invited to participate.And it is classified by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution as Islamist with certain exceptions. However, according to the newspaper WELT, the IR is considered “cooperative and reliable” within the ministry. The situation is similar regarding the theologically conservative Association of Islamic Cultural Centres (VIKZ).Like Ditib and IR, VIKZ used to conduct ” tests of ideology” in the selection of IRU teachers and interfered in the private lives of teachers, complains the Association of Islamic Teachers (VdI). The Albanian UIAZD will also join the commission. It is in line with Ditib, Islamrat and VIKZ and grouped in an umbrella organisation: the Coordination Council of Muslims (KRM).There are reasons for this set-up of the commission: With their many hundreds of thousands of members nationwide, the KRM associations are the largest Muslim associations. For decades, their mosques have organised the religious life of local Muslims. If you are looking for a stable representation of a relevant number of Muslims, you cannot get around them. At least, that seems to be the intention of the Ministry of Education – despite all the warnings from the Ministry of Integration.Critics see this as a victory for the so-called conservative Muslims. Lamya Kaddor, an Islamic scholar from Duisburg, for example, comments sharply: “Those who expose young Muslims to the influence of partly ultra-conservative, partly nationalist associations should not complain if such tendencies increase in the country,” she says in an interview with WELT. Now the ministry could defend itself against such accusations by saying that it had after all put a nationalist-influenced force outside for good: the Central Council of Muslims (ZMD). The ZMD is not allowed to participate in the IRU because its members are members of the Turkish nationalist Atib.But this does little to change the balance of power in the commission, in which hardly any liberal groups are represented. The Liberal Islamic League (LIB), for example, was rejected. Its activities are praised by the state, but it only has a few hundred members and a single mosque. The ministry told the LIB that it had to build up a national association and more mosques – which is not easy for a group of volunteers.With this occupation, the country has renounced to break the power of the KRM Muslims. The opportunity to do so existed. This is because the first draft of the Commission Act did not yet stipulate that an organisation must necessarily operate mosque congregations in order to be allowed to participate in the Commission.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s