Sunday 15 March 2009

German Muslims: Trying to better integrate and improve their lives

Last week a 17-year-old youth attacked a school in Stuttgart on March 11, 2009, a spree that shocked Germany. He killed 15 people - 12 students and other three who blocked his way, then he killed him self in a shootout with the police officers.

Suliman Wilms, Chief Editor of Globalia Magazine, a German Muslim newspaper said: Muslims in Germany, as the society of our country as a whole, are shocked and abhorred by this cruel event in school in the Southwest of our country. Nevertheless, there is an important difference in perception: While every cruel and criminal act (like "honor-killings", forced marriage or terrorist attempts) within the Muslim community will be seen as a problem for Islam and the Muslim community in total, the mainstream society never sees the need to take itself in question. Events like the latest, murderous one are unfortunately seen as a mere technical question - i.e. one of gun control or brutal video games. While there is plenty of evident attempt, to blame the 'other' for every existing or imaginary evil, in order to stabilize society through a common enemy, there is currently no major voice to be heard which questions the foundation of the vision of this society and modern human existence as such."

Thuraya Adgham, A German Muslim wife and mother adds: Unfortunately, "silence" is the only reaction of Muslims, they might wonder and question but only between themselves. German Muslims either are shocked, and wondering what if such an accident reoccurred in our children's schools, what if a Muslim was the suspect? But all these questions are discussed secretly.

Germany is concentrating very hard on Muslims and problems relating to Muslims even though there are few of them and is ignoring the far right problems in the country. Recently they have started a program to counter biases of the Muslim youth.

The Wannsee House is one of many institutions in Germany today trying to counter anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, particularly among Muslim youths.

Teachers across Germany say they face a special challenge from those of immigrant backgrounds, most of whom are Muslims. Disenfranchised from the mainstream, many of these students echo anti-Semitic attitudes heard at home, trade schoolyard insults about Jews or express Holocaust denial, testing German taboos.

“There is a problem, but you cannot quantify it,” said Micha Brumlik, professor of pedagogy at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe-University in Frankfurt. “I have heard so many teachers say that when they have eyewitnesses of the Holocaust at their schools, parents excuse their children and say they are sick. And the same happens when classes are going to visit the information center at Berlin’s Holocaust memorial or Jewish museums.”

To be sure, Germany’s problems with far-right groups are bigger than those with Muslim youths, few of whom are criminals or extremists.

However Germany, burdened by its Nazi past, is keen on combating anti-Semitic tendencies in all segments of society. Muslims are the country’s largest minority — 3.2 million out of 82 million, mostly of Turkish background. Recent years have seen a proliferation of programs designed to reach them.

Also, recently they have introduced citizenship test specifically for people from Muslim countries applying to obtain the German citizenship.

The test was first introduced in 2005 as a guide for naturalization-authorities in Baden-W├╝rttemberg. In 2006, Hessen, a state in Germany with over six million inhabitants, also came up with a test of 100 questions. The test’s aim is to ensure that the applicant accepts the German basic rights. In order to pass this test, the applicant is required to answer a series of questions, two of which are: “What is the definition of the term "freedom of religion”? “In films, theatre plays, and books, sometimes the religious sentiments of people are offended. So, what do you consider to be the appropriate measures for individuals to take defense against such an offence?” Since September 2008, foreigners all over Germany have had to pass a standardized test consisting of 33 questions from a catalogue of 310 questions. In order to pass, 17 questions must be answered correctly.

However, measures like these, which are directed towards the followers of a particular religion, contradict with the principles of the German constitution. According to the third paragraph of article three in the German Basic Constitutional Law, "No person shall be favored or disfavored because of sex, parentage, race, language, homeland and origin, faith, or religious and political opinions. No person shall be disfavored because of disability."

Muslims have undergone lots of changes in the last few years and you can read an interview by Sulaiman Wilms, chief editor of the German magazine the Islamische Zeitung here.

Meanwhile, while Germany is doing some good things like resettling 2,500 Iraqi Refugees From Jordan, Syria in Germany, it is also doing silly things like Banning of Hijabs. The Muslims on the other hand, have their own problems like not enough Mosque space and they are more worried about these things. Once their basic problems are solved then they will become a force to reckon with.

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