Islamic scholar criticises German Muslim debate
26 November 2004 , BERLIN - Germany's first professor for Islamic religion has criticised talk of an alleged Islamist threat in the country amid increasing political calls for foreigners to do more to integrate themselves into German society. Muhammad Sven Kalisch, professor for the religion of Islam at the University of Muenster, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa he was concerned that the difference between Islam and the western world "is being so exaggerated in the way it is now". Kalisch said if minoriti
26 November 2004
BERLIN - Germany's first professor for Islamic religion has criticised talk of an alleged Islamist threat in the country amid increasing political calls for foreigners to do more to integrate themselves into German society.
Muhammad Sven Kalisch, professor for the religion of Islam at the University of Muenster, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa he was concerned that the difference between Islam and the western world "is being so exaggerated in the way it is now".
Kalisch said if minorities cut themselves off from society "or are perceived to be cut off" it leads to mistrust.
The Turkish ambassador in Berlin, Mehmet Ali Irtemcelik, also warned against Muslims being "unjustly placed in the dock".
He told Focus news magazine to appear Monday that the Islamist issue was being "irresponsibly exaggerated". Only 3 to 4 percent of Turks living in Germany could be counted as Islamist, he said.
The comments come amid warnings of an Islamic "parallel culture" in Germany in a debate which has been sparked by violence in the Netherlands following the killing of Islam-critical film director Theo van Gogh.
In remarks to be delivered later Saturday, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder appealed on the country's 3.4 million Muslims to assimilate themselves better into German society.
Schroeder said the wave of violence in the Netherlands and a firebombing at a mosque in Germany show there must be no "parallel cultures" in predominately secular and Christian Germany.
"There can be no room for either lawlessness nor for parallel cultures in our society," he said in the speech to be delivered during ceremonies at Berlin's Jewish Museum honouring former German President Johannes Rau.
"I call on Muslims in Germany to make greater strides in assimilating themselves into German society more fully," Schroeder said.
Centre-right politicians have been making similar calls, with Bavarian Prime Minister Edmund Stoiber telling the Christian Social Union (CSU) party congress in Munich Saturday that Christian values had to be defended.
"Yes to openness and tolerance, no to Islamic headscarves," he said.
Last week lawmakers in Bavaria passed legislation barring Muslim teachers from wearing headscarves at publicly-funded schools.
Stoiber said immigrants should have to "declare their support for Germany and its basic values" and accept that Germany was a Christian country.
The CSU congress agreed unanimously to support moves to cut welfare benefits for foreigners who were not willing to be integrated.
Joerg Schoenbohm, the Christian Democrat Union (CDU) interior minister of Brandenburg state, meanwhile accused some foreigners in Germany of "forming ghettoes because they despise us Germans".
Schoenbohm told Der Spiegel news magazine that foreigners in Germany should accept Germany's defining culture.
"We shouldn't allow this common ground to be destroyed by foreigners," he said.
In the debate on integration, opposition conservatives have been calling on all immigrants to be compelled to learn German. There have also been demands for a ban on preaching in mosques in any language other than German.
Last week, Schroeder's Greens coalition partner called for establishing a Muslim public holiday in Germany as a reaction to violence in the Netherlands.
Both Germany's Greens Environment Minister, Juergen Trittin, and the deputy chairman of the Greens in parliament, Hans-Christian Stroebele backed the move.
But the proposal was roundly attacked by the opposition. Guenther Beckstein, the Bavarian interior minister, said it proved the Greens could not let go of their "starry-eyed" dream of a multi-cultural society which has long since "failed".
Subject: German news