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Muslim associations: new figures, but no end to the debate

The majority, a half, or less than a quarter? For how many Muslims in Germany can the Muslim associations in Germany speak? Various figures have been bandied around for years on members, mosque attendance and Muslims for or against the claim of associations for representation and recognition. The study "Muslim life in Germany" provides new figures … but no end to the debate.

Claiming to better represent the majority of Muslims in Germany, a meeting was held in April 2007 between the four associations that had been taking part in the German Islam Conference 2006-2009, the Central Council of Muslims in Germany (ZMD), Islamic Council for the Federal Republic of Germany (IRD), Turkish-Islamic Union (DITIB) and Association of Islamic Cultural Centres (VIKZ) in the Coordination Council of Muslims in Germany (KRM).

Seeking the status of a religious community

Given the fact that the KRM represents four large associations and, by its own estimation therefore, approx. 85 percent of mosque congregations in Germany, it sees itself as a potential partner of the state, e.g. for the introduction of denominational Islamic religious education in accordance with Art. 7 para. 3 of the German Constitution. A prerequisite for Islamic religious instruction in compliance with the Constitution is the existence of one or several Islamic religious communities. In order to be recognised as such by the federal states, several criteria must be fulfilled; these are summarised in the interim resume of the DIK dated 13 March 2008. They include the provisos that the number of individual members and a minimum of organisational structure ensure the community's existence in the longer term, that the main responsibility of this merger is the general nurture of commonly held beliefs, and that the religious community accepts the basic tenets of the Constitution. This means that the question of which and how many Muslims the associations can speak for is closely tied in with the future relationship between state and Muslims in Germany.

New figures

The present study on "Muslim life in Germany" (MLD) now provides representative data that can shed more light on the gloomy waters of the issue of representation. However, membership and mosque attendance cannot be used as points of reference here to assess the claims of Muslim organisations to act as representatives. Those Muslims interviewed were asked rather whether they know of the above associations represented at the German Islam Conference (DIK) 2006-2009 and to what extent they feel represented by them.*
Altogether, around two thirds of Muslims questioned know of at least one of the umbrella associations represented at the German Islam Conference. However, less than 25 percent of Muslims feel represented by them without restriction.

No end to the debate

The relatively high profile of Turkish associations, and particularly of DITIB, is not surprising, given that approx. 2.56m of the approximately four million Muslims are of Turkish origin. However, a look at DITIB, VIKZ and AABF shows that representation effectively increases when there is a greater degree of ethnic and/or religious homogeneity among clientele. More diverse, mult-ethnic umbrella associations such as the Central Council or KRM, on the other hand, are unable to benefit in the same way from a common origin and show a significantly lower power of representation. This may also lead to the fact that the affiliation of a mosque community to one of the umbrella associations cannot be ascertained by implication, by name alone for instance.

The present study clearly shows the existing problem of representation: according to the study, 76 percent of Muslims want Islamic religious education, but barely 25 percent feel that they are wholly represented by the large Muslim umbrella organisations, which would like to be partners of the state in such education. Although the study sheds more light on the question of representation, therefore, it cannot of course resolve it.
This makes it all the more important that the Muslim organisations bring greater transparency to their memberships and affiliations by, for example, arranging voluntary mosque registers. However, not only formal aspects such as membership are key to the question of representation. The study also shows that the Muslim organisations do not as yet seem to have managed to win over the majority of the Muslim population or, conversely, to assimilate the diverse Muslim interests and debates within Islam and represent them in the world at large.

Coordination Council of Muslims (KRM)

For a long time little notice has been taken of the KRM, which was only created in 2007. Of the ten percent who know of this recent merger, 40 percent feel represented at least in part, and most (23 percent) even completely. With regard to all the Muslims interviewed, however, only 3 percent feel that they are wholly or partly represented by the KRM. The KRM cannot therefore draw on its own representativeness based on its own profile, but only from that of its member associations.

Turkish-Islamic Union (DİTİB)

If we now consider the findings on the member organisations in somewhat more detail, it can be ascertained that the best-known association is DITIB, which is known to 44 percent of all interviewed Muslims and to 65 percent of the group consisting only of Sunnis of Turkish origin. This should come as no surprise, with a figure in excess of 880 member mosque associations and the proximity of the Turkish religious authority Diyanet İşleri Başkanlığı. Among Muslims from other regions of origin DITIB is significantly less well known. Furthermore, of those interviewers who know of DITIB, approx. 67 percent at least feel wholly or partly represented by it. Among all interviewed Sunnis of Turkish origin, 47 percent feel that they are represented completely or in part. If, on the other hand, one takes account not only of Sunnis of Turkish origin, but of all interviewed Muslims, 27 percent feel that they are represented by DITIB completely or in part.

Association of Islamic Cultural Centres (VIKZ)

Although the VIKZ, unlike DITIB, does not have such a general clientele, it is still known by 25 per-cent of interviewed Muslims, particularly however those of Turkish origin (30 percent). It is not, however, unknown among Muslims from north Africa (19 percent) and the rest of Africa (20 per-cent). Approx. 63 percent of those who know of VIKZ feel wholly or partly represented by it. Of all interviewed Muslims, just 14 percent feel wholly or partly represented.

Central Council of Muslims in Germany (ZMD)

The Central Council is known by 27 percent of interviewed Muslims. Of those that know of it, 50 percent feel represented wholly or in part. As the Central Council is set up more or less along multiethnic lines and was able to establish itself in public as a point of contact through a strong media profile during the years after 2001, it is accordingly better known among Muslims from the various regions of origin. Of all interviewed Muslims, just twelve percent feel wholly or at least partly represented by the Central Council.

Islamic Council for the Federal Republic of Germany (IRD)

16 percent of interviewed Muslims know the Islamic Council. This corresponds to its profile among Muslims of Turkish origin, which is also 16 percent, and is roughly comparable with its profile among Muslims from south-east Asia, north Africa and the Near East. At the same time, most of the 30 member organisations of the Islamic Council are assigned to the Turkish-influenced Millî Görüş Islamic association, the second biggest organisation after DITIB. This itself was not questioned, since it is not represented in the DIK. Of those who know of the Islamic Council, in total around 63 percent feel that it represents them, the smaller proportion of them (16 percent) completely. The umbrella association finds most approval (full and part) among Muslims that know of it from south-east Europe, Turkey and the rest of Africa (around two thirds each). In total, just nine percent of all interviewed Muslims feel wholly or at least partly represented by the Islamic Council.

Federation of Alevi Communities in Germany (AABF)

The Federation of Alevi Communities is known to 27 percent of interviewed Muslims. Of those who know the AABF, 39 percent feel that it represents them at least in part. The AABF is known by 36 percent of those of Turkish origin. If one takes account only of the group of Turkish Alevis, whom the AABF claims to represent, 76 percent state that they know of the AABF and 71 percent of them feel that it represents them completely or in part. Of all interviewed Alevis, at least 19 percent feel represented, of all interviewed Muslims, including the Alevis, the figure is approx. 9 percent.

Mark Chalîl Bodenstein and DIK-editorial team, 02.10.09

* It was possible to mention several names in relation to profile and degree of representation

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