Despite “Sofa-Gate”, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen does not want to set up an “EU Research Centre Islam & Democracy”, which some members of the European Parliament are calling for

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has just experienced the subtle effects of Islamised politics first-hand during her visit to Ankara – keyword: “Sofa-Gate”.

In future, she will no longer accept being sidelined when men push into the limelight.

The “EU Research Centre Islam & Democracy” could deal with the deeper causes of this diplomatic faux pas, if there were such a thing. A year ago, Members of the European Parliament Lukas Mandl ( Austrian People’s Party), Lena Düpont (Christian Democratic Union) and Monika Hohlmeier (Christian Social Union) had already applied to the EU Commission for the establishment of this pilot project.

The initiative was primarily intended to provide support for those Muslims who are attached to European values but are being pushed out of the picture by fundamentalist organisations. Thus, Hohlmeier regrets that “pro-European Muslims often have difficulties being perceived”.

On the other hand, there are “groups that clearly represent ideologies that are against basic European values”. Often these are groups with a Turkish connection.

The EU Commission rejected the project. The three Members of the European Parliament did not let up and renewed their demand in a letter to Von der Leyen. They also criticised the EU for supporting Muslim initiatives that “in reality spread extremist ideas or incite Muslims”.

The proposed centre, on the other hand, “aims to provide peaceful, open-minded Muslims with support and the opportunity to strengthen their integration work, as well as to promote an interpretation of their religion that is in line with the fundamental values of the EU”. In view of the many immigrant Muslims, it is “important to promote a clear demarcation from radical extremist tendencies and to support full inclusion …”.

In the meantime, the newspaper VOLKSBLATT has received the answer from Brussels. It is again negative. According to Von der Leyen, the Commission fears “that the pilot project would duplicate a multitude of activities with different orientations that are financed within the framework of different programmes”.

In plain language: there should already be programmes that pursue the formulated goal. The three MEPs, however, take a different stance. At least the head of the Commission promises to “examine funding possibilities for a more targeted initiative in the field of integration”.

For Mandl, this answer is “not entirely satisfactory”: “It is time that the Commission fully recognises the problem of political Islam in all its urgency”. However, Mandl wants to be constructive, which is why he “sees the glass half full” after Von der Leyen’s answer. There are at least possibilities in the form of individual projects.

Hohlmeier also finds it “a pity” that the Commission is apparently having a hard time with political Islam and does not want a separate centre for it.

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