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Official ceremony marking ten years of the German Islam Conference

Federal Minister of the Interior Dr. Thomas de Maizière Federal Minister of the Interior Dr. Thomas de Maizière Source: © Henning Schacht

Ten years of the German Islam Conference is cause enough for a celebration, but it is also a good reason to consider how the process can and should continue. Roughly 130 invited guests who have played an active role in the German Islam Conference (DIK) in the past ten years, most of them on a voluntary basis, attended an official ceremony that was held in the Umspannwerk in Berlin-Kreuzberg on 27 September 2016. An ensemble of 17 musicians coming from various regions of the world and representing different religions took care of the musical framework. The singers struck up an "ave pax" – a call for peace – in which they were accompanied by musicians playing typical instruments from their respective regions: Tablas, bağlama and đàn bầu were sounded together with a piano, strings and a harp.

Federal Minister of the Interior Dr. de Maizière stressed in his welcoming address: "Ten years of the German Islam Conference are ten years of cooperation during which trust has been established, reliability created and knowledge expanded." He went on to stress the role played by the Conference in providing an incentive for questions related to the practical exercise of religion, for instance the introduction of Islamic religious instruction at state schools or the establishment of chairs for Islamic theology at German Universities, something which would have been unthinkable only ten years ago. He cited as a recent example of the activities of the DIK the establishment of a central contact point for Muslim welfare. The Federal Minister of the Interior mentioned as challenges for the future the adaptation of the landscape of organised associations to the changes in Germany’s Muslim population caused by displacement and immigration, as well as the creation of membership structures.

Welcoming address of Federal Minister Dr. Schäuble Federal Minister Dr. Schäuble Source: © Henning Schacht

With the title of his welcoming address "So that Islam belongs in Germany – The German Islam Conference since 2006", Federal Minister Dr. Schäuble referred to the unambiguous statement which he made in the year in which he convened the DIK: "Islam is part of Germany and of Europe". He said that the Conference’s anniversary was being commemorated in a time when society was once more giving intensive consideration to the issues which also formed the reasons for its establishment. He stated that this was welcome in principle, but that the public debate was frequently carried on in a way that was highly agitated and unsorted. He also considered it as problematic to once more categorise people who had been well integrated for a long time into a large anonymous group of Muslims – this could lead to these people feeling marginalised once more.

Dr. Bekir Alboğa, Secretary-General of the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (Türkisch-Islamische Union der Anstalt für Religion e.V.DITIB) and Dr. Djavad Mohagheghi from the Islamic Association of Shiite Communities in Germany (Islamische Gemeinschaft der Schiitischen Gemeinden in DeutschlandIGS) spoke to the audience as Muslim representatives. Dr. Alboğa, who was also invited to the opening celebration of the DIK ten years ago and has been part of the process ever since, praised the ongoing dialogue of the past years, but also complained that the media at times denied the DIK the attention that it deserved, and that the information that they provided was insufficiently focused. He went on to say that interjections from the outside mixed up debates on integration, refugee and Islam with one another according to their requirements. These interjections made it difficult for the dialogue partners to come together and to demonstrate the successes that had been achieved. Herr Dr. Mohagheghi, whose association was invited to join the DIK as a new member in this legislative period, praised the DIK as a forum in which the State and Muslims were able to talk with one another for the first time, and not only about one another, and had been able to provide major incentives in the past.

Future issues formed the focus of the podium discussion between five of the participants "Muslims in Germany – German Muslims: And what now?".

Dr. Tuba Isik and Federal Minister of the Interior Dr. Thomas de Maizière at the podiumDr. Tuba Isik and Federal Minister of the Interior Dr. Thomas de Maizière Source: © Henning Schacht

Finally, Nazan Gökdemir chaired a podium discussion between Federal Minister Dr. Thomas de Maizière, the Chairman of the Central Council of Muslims, Aiman Mazyek, and two researchers and a journalist who had taken part in the DIK in the past: Sineb El Masrar, Dr. Tuba Isik and Prof. Dr. Mathias Rohe.


Date 13 October 2016

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