"Muslims in Germany – German Muslims"
New focus for the German Islam Conference
The German Islam Conference gets an official relaunch in Berlin today.
For 12 years now, the German Islam Conference has provided a forum for dialogue between the state and Muslims in Germany, but it is also a platform and framework for understanding among Muslims. In previous years, the Conference focused on improving the integration of Muslims in Germany and on working together to find ways for umbrella organizations of Muslim congregations and other Muslim organizations to be more firmly rooted in this country, in both organizational and conceptual terms. The Conference, with more than 200 participants, was officially relaunched in Berlin today under the heading "Muslims in Germany – German Muslims".
The Conference is intended to explore how Muslims and non-Muslims get along with each other in daily life in very practical terms and what can be done to share best practices for an Islam "in, from and for Germany".
"Muslims belong to Germany"
Right at the start of his opening speech, Federal Minister of the Interior Horst Seehofer clearly stated:
"Muslims belong to Germany. It goes without saying that Muslims have the same rights and the same obligations as all citizens of this country."
He went on:
"One of the most important goals of the German Islam Conference was and still is talking to each other, not about each other.... Dialogue and mutual respect are possible only on the basis of the values enshrined in our Basic Law."
A commitment to successful co-existence
The debate that followed focused on improving the integration of Islam and Muslims in Germany, a theme that was again taken up in the subsequent three rounds of discussion: one concentrating on integration policy, one on social policy and one on policy addressing religion. The Conference aims to define conditions and opportunities for successful co-existence in daily life, in mosque congregations and the surrounding neighbourhoods, and everywhere Muslims and non-Muslims interact. This was why Federal Minister Seehofer felt the Conference needed the relaunch. Including a wide variety of groups and individuals is intended to make the Conference more diverse, and a broad range of formats will enable it to work more flexibly.
For example, individual Muslims in various civil-society roles who do not belong to any of the Islamic umbrella organizations or other Muslim organizations are also participating in the Conference for the first time. Religious and secular initiatives, associations and other organizations not affiliated with any umbrella organizations will now play a greater role. Conference participants also include representatives of umbrella organizations of Muslim congregations, national-level Islamic organizations and the various currents within Islam, as well as representatives of the Christian churches, the Central Council of Jews in Germany, government ministries, state and local governments and the research community.
"The Federal Government and the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community do not want to impose a predetermined opinion. We are here to build bridges," Federal Minister Seehofer said.
He also noted that the Conference will make additional funding available for a project to open up mosques to integration and to help them build networks and launch cooperation initiatives. This more practical and grass-roots project has been expanded and is intended to give a voice to mosque congregations, Muslim institutions and secular initiatives at the interface between Muslim and non-Muslim life, because they are the agents and multipliers of integration.
This extra project funding will continue following the relaunch and throughout the entire legislative term. In addition, various dialogue formats devoted to specific aspects of this issue will be organized as needed, along with an international exchange of experience and research into Muslim life in Germany. On the other hand, the Conference will no longer have fixed committees, task forces or memberships. For more information, please visit the Website of the German Islam Conference.