Most of the reports in German are rather negative about the current Islam conference in Berlin. Here is the only report so far in English, a heavily diluted version of events from Deutsche Welle:
Intercultural Dialogue | 02.05.2007
Many See Progress at Berlin Islam Talks, but Differences Remain
* Hmm, what kind of ‘progress’ would that be? Something like ‘you give, we take?’
The German government attempted to reach out to the country’s more than three million Muslims on Wednesday but faced criticism from a Muslim leader for organizing “aimless” talks.
* In some of the reports from Germany it said exactly the opposite: That Germans were extremely frustrated about ‘aimless talks’
Interior Minister Wolfgang SchÃ¤uble gathered together Muslim groups in Berlin for a second conference in the space of nine months to tackle growing alienation between Germans and Muslim immigrants.
SchÃ¤uble, a conservative, insisted that progress had been made “on many points” and said open and frank discussions were the only way forward to ease the integration of Muslims in German society.
“We all agreed that this process is the right one and that it has made progress. It was a step in the right direction,” SchÃ¤uble told journalists after the meeting.
But the head of the Central Council of Muslims, Ayyub Axel KÃ¶hler, said: “We cannot go on like this, debating without any aim.”
“There must be an evaluation of this whole process,” he said. “We need to set concrete goals and we need to lay out a roadmap.”
* Roadmap? Where did we hear that before?
The meeting with SchÃ¤uble was a review of the first seven months of negotiations in working parties on plans for Islam classes for Muslims in German public schools and mosque demands for legal rights similar to churches. No agreements have been reached yet.
Who represents whom
Much of the debate ahead of the meeting focused on the role of the recently formed Muslim Coordination Council, a move which Interior Minister SchÃ¤uble has welcomed.
The council is an umbrella group comprising the Central Council of Muslims and three other organizations: the Turkish Islamic Union for Religious Affairs, the Islamic Council and the Association of Islamic Cultural Centers.
The groups have said they would try to find a joint stance on issues such as immigration, integration and extremism, while remaining independent.
But since it only represents the 300,000 people who belong to Islamic organizations, SchÃ¤uble says its ability to speak for the 3.4 million Muslims living in Germany is limited.
Of Germany’s Muslims, about 2.4 million are Turks or people of Turkish descent, many of them children and grandchildren of guest workers invited to Germany in the 1960s and 1970s. Another 200,000 Muslims in Germany come from North Africa.
There are also about 55,000 Afghans in the community, 60,000 Iranians and 160,000 Bosnian Muslims, according to official estimates.
Germany’s Muslim community is overwhelmingly Sunni.
Divisions among Muslims
There were some divisions between religious and secular Muslims which came to light during the meeting, in particular when it came to women’s dress and the mixing of the sexes.
The government and secularists have rejected complaints by conservative Muslim families about girls wearing swimsuits in the presence of boys while being taught swimming at German schools.
SchÃ¤uble said it was the “rule” in Germany that girls and boys were educated in school together. He said he had heard the objections to mixed sports, adding: “We will continue to be talking about this.”
* Why continue, Schauble? If its a requirement of the school curriculum than stick with it, don’t ‘talk about it!”
The first meeting of the groups with the government last September was overshadowed by a row over the staging in Berlin of a Mozart opera, “Idomeneo,” which featured the severed head of the Prophet Mohammed in one scene.
The opera was pulled from the schedule over fears of violent protests by Islamic radicals, but was staged later amid tight security.
In yesterdays news it was reported that the head had mysteriously disappeared.
Islam is spreading like wildfire
ynetnews.com – January 18, 2007
GERMANY – A report prepared at the request of the German Interior Ministry revealed that 5,000 Germans converted to Islam between July 2004 and June 2005, a figure that is four times higher than that of the previous year. In previous years the average number of Germans who converted to Islam stood at only 300.
The researchers said that while in the past most of those who converted were women who married Muslims, today many university graduates and high-wage earners are joining Prophet Mohammad’s religion.