DIK - Deutsche Islam Konferenz - The Central Council of Moroccans

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The Central Council of Moroccans

According to the "Muslim life in Germany" study commissioned by the DIK in 2009, some 180,000 Muslims from Morocco or German Muslims with Moroccan roots are currently living in Germany, of whom approximately 99% are Sunni Muslims. In the context of the recruitment agreement, labour migrants from Morocco arrived in Germany in the 1960s in particular. Members of their families joined these migrants in the years that followed, with the result that second and third-generation Moroccans are now also living in Germany. Around 140,000 people with a Moroccan background now have German nationality. According to the DIK study, most live in North Rhine-Westphalia and Hesse.

This is why the Central Council of Moroccans in Germany (ZMaD) decided to have its headquarters in Offenbach, close to Frankfurt am Main. The Council's Chair is Ahmed Ayaou. Set up in 2008 the organisation has links with 150 Moroccan communities in Germany, 47 of which are members of ZMaD. The Council does not claim, however, to represent all of Germany's Moroccan communities, and is also very careful to distance itself from radical elements. Membership is restricted to those who commit to the principles of democracy and the rule of law, as enshrined in the German constitution, and not just on paper.

Alongside Dr. Khaled Hajji, Abdelkader Rafoud is also a dialogue spokesperson and migration officer at ZMaD. Rafoud stresses just how important the commitment to Germany's Basic Law is to ZMaD: "We are, after all, in Germany, not Morocco. We want to live in peace, abiding by German laws." The Central Council rejects religious radicalisation in any form. What is important to it, is mutual tolerance of religions. As Rafoud explains, such tolerance is an intrinsic part of the Islamic faith. Seeking dialogue with other faiths is another priority pursued by ZMaD, as demonstrated by the close cooperation with Catholic and Protestant institutions in the region.

Good contacts also in place with Morocco

Close links are also in place with Morocco itself, with the Religion Ministry and with the Hassan II Foundation, which campaigns for the rights of Moroccan emigrants abroad. The Religion Ministry primarily provides financial support to ZMaD, although the Council states that it is independent. The Ministry is not involved in its internal affairs. It also supports ZMaD with regard to the selection of imams who move to Germany from Morocco, as the imams generally remain in Germany for the long term and are not exchanged.

The imam must be familiar with both cultures

At the same time, ZMaD is in favour of imams being trained in Germany. For Rafoud, it is important that the imams are familiar with both cultures and speak both languages, Arabic and German. Similarly, preaching in the mosques should be carried out in both languages. This could help to promote international understanding. "Theological training is important, but it is no longer enough to just be a  prayer leader," explains Rafoud. Increasingly, the imam must also take on the role of a counsellor within the community, helping members of his congregation with marriage problems and family conflicts and also getting involved in youth work. It is therefore important that the imam is familiar with German culture and with German laws.

Rafoud is also positive in his assessment of lessons on Islam provided in German in schools. In his view, it turns learning about Islam into a mainstream subject and makes it more transparent.

Networks are vital

As far as current problems facing Moroccans in Germany are concerned, Rafoud regards social and educational issues as the main sources, as well as questions relating to the law on foreign nationals. There are also problems relating to work and upbringing among the younger groups. These are areas in which ZMaD offers its members very specific assistance, doing so through its advice centres. A well-functioning network is already in place in Frankfurt and Offenbach, with intensive exchange with the authorities and policymakers.

Rafoud regards the participation in the German Islam Conference as a major opportunity, and as a means of obtaining important information first hand. In his view, it is a way of finding out directly how policymakers and other Muslim representatives feel about certain issues. It is also an ideal way in which to form networks at a national level. Such networks are, he explained, vital to successful integration policy and, at the same time, enrich lives.  Rafoud also explains that the direct contact with the Federal Ministry of the Interior has already helped to clear up a misunderstanding. "The statement made by the Federal Minister of the Interior, Friedrich, that Islam was not part of Germany disturbed me greatly. I didn't understand it. However, by talking in person to the minister, and listening to him explain what he had meant, some things become a lot clearer. I then understood his speech in a different way."

Silke Brandt, 05.09.2011

About the author: Silke Brandt studied Political Science and Islamic Studies in Hamburg, lived in Cairo for a considerable period and since 2005 has been on the editorial staff at Zenith, a journal reporting on Middle East affairs.

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