Ministry of Education of North Rhine-Westphalia rejects Central Council of Muslims in Germany as project partner

Aiman Mazyek is the face of German Islam. No other Muslim has been so present in the media and so politically networked for years. He commemorated the victims of Islamist terror arm in arm with Chancellor Merkel. With the then Vice-Chancellor Gabriel, he travelled through the Islamic world shoulder-to-shoulder. He chatted with various German presidents in Bellevue Palace. And hardly a dialogue forum could do without him. If the state needed a representative Muslim, Mazyek and the Central Council of Muslims of Germany (ZMD), which he leads, were the first choice. At least until now.

That was always astonishing. After all, the Central Council only has a few tens of thousands among the five million Muslims in Germany. And according to the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, it was always influenced by Islamist and Turkish nationalist forces. But Mazyek was a brand. Communicative. Charming. Never at a loss for an authoritative word. And as a person, he was more at home in the camp of conservative reformers than in that of the Islamists. For example, he undeniably supported the ideas of a reformer like Muhammad Asad for years – and thus caused many an ultra-conservative fellow believer to shake his head.

Now, however, the man from Aachen is in danger of losing ground. The Ministry of Education in North Rhine-Westphalia is responsible for this. It rejects Mazyek’s Central Council as a civic ally. Soon it will present the members of a Muslim commission that is to help shape Islamic religious education at schools in the state. Until now, the ZMD has always been part of similar committees.

Now, however, he is being booted out because, in the opinion of the government, he does not meet the criteria for participation. These range from independence from foreign countries to loyalty to the constitution. The government also dislikes the fact that the Islamist organisation DMG has not yet been definitively excluded from the Central Council. And that the Turkish nationalist organisation ATIB has a strong influence on the ZMD. The state is thus picking up on a mood among experts inside and outside the Office for the Protection of the Constitution that is increasingly critical of the ZMD.

However, the ZMD has never been distrusted in such a high-ranking position. And this is all the more remarkable because the state of North Rhine-Westphalia continues to accept the other associations, which could be accused of similar charges, as partners. The ZMD is obviously being deliberately targeted here.

That is why the Central Council is currently trying to sue its way into the commission in court. But that does not worry those responsible in the Ministry of Education. They are certain and want to appoint the commission members soon – without waiting for the court’s decision. That is why the ZMD started a second lawsuit, this time an urgent legal procedure. The ZMD wanted to prohibit the state from appointing the commission before the first lawsuit had been decided. This emergency application was rejected by the Administrative Court last week, as this newspaper learned. So the most important representatives of German Islam will soon be presented – but for the first time there will be no Mr Mazyek. Is this the beginning of the end or will the clever Mr Mazyek succeed in achieving a turnaround?

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