The German Press Agency has reported that the Central Council of Muslims in Germany (Zentralrat der Muslime in Deutschland) has pulled out of a government sponsored effort to foster Muslim integration known as the German Islamic Conference. According to the report:
The second German Islamic Conference – a key meeting to improve Muslim integration – is set for a shaky start Monday after one of the main Muslim associations abruptly announced this week it was pulling out. The Central Council of Muslims in Germany (ZMD) made its surprise announcement Wednesday after several discussions with the Interior Ministry. “In all of our contacts, we are simply coming up against a brick wall,” said chairman Ayyub Axel Köhler. The German Islamic Conference between the federal government and Muslim groups is intended to set policies about Islam in Germany for the next three years, with an emphasis on improving religious and social integration of the country’s sizeable Muslim population. Köhler had hailed the first conference, held in 2006, under then Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, a great success. Köhler stressed the council had come to its difficult decision only after weeks of consideration. But the council was upset that half the 2,500 Mosque-centred communities were not going to be represented at the conference and that the ministry had “gone over the heads of Muslims,” in deciding the themes and constitution of the conference, he said. The council felt it was “a conference decreed by the federal government” that would be neither binding nor authoritative and therefore amounted to a “debating club.” The key issues for Muslims were discrimination and Islamophobia. “We are distressed that there is fear in the community leveled against us. All of this must be central to the political agenda, and that includes hostility to Islam. But all that was ever said to us was: ‘Yes, yes, that will be brought up, we’ll put it under the theme of extremism.’” Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière had also rebuffed the central council’s demand for greater recognition as an official religious community. “They didn’t want to accommodate us at all. An uneasy partner is now gone,” Köhler said. But de Maizière has stressed he wanted the conference to focus on “practical questions about how the mainstream community and Muslims live together.” “The withdrawal of the ZMD is regrettable,” he said, while adding the conference would still be well-attended and would reach the goals that had been set. However Greens parliamentary leader Volker Beck accused de Maizière of having botched the conference. “The new meeting of the Islamic conference has failed before it has begun,” he said.
A German newspaper report identifies the role of German Muslim Brotherhood leader Ibrahim El-Zayat on the Central Council (see note below for source):
The Central Council of the Muslims has a general secretary open to dialogue in Aiman Mazyek and a nice chairman in Axel Ayyub Koehler, but the executive board also has Ibrahim Faruk al-Zayad, head of the Islamic Community of Germany (IGD), which the Office for the Protection of the Constitution considers the largest organization of the Muslim Brotherhood in Germany.Al-Zayad lost the election as chairman to Koehler, but he remains powerful: His company is reportedly involved in more than 100 mosque construction projects in Germany and he married Necmettin Erbakan’s niece and therefore has excellent contacts with Milli Gorus. He was a guest at the second Islam conference, to the anger of the liberal Muslims.
As discussed in an earlier post, the IGD recently elected a new President to replace El-Zayat, likely as a result of an on-going German law enforcement investigation. In this investigation, Mr. El-Zayat is one of a group of individuals tied to the IGD suspected of forming a criminal association and intending to commit a crime by obtaining funds for its “politico-religious and ultimately Islamist goals”, probably in support of Hamas. One of the other defendants in the case is Oguz ÜCÜNCÜ, the General-Secretary of Milli Gorus in Germany and a business partner of Mr. El-Zayat. An earlier post reported on the controversy surrounding the German government decision to ban the Council of Islam (Islamrat) from the German-Islam Conference on the grounds that the Council, dominated by the Milli Gorus movement, is under investigation for money laundering.
A German academic has written about the role of extremist organizations such as the Brotherhood on the new Coordinating Council.
( Source: New German Muslim Community Spokesperson Likely to Cause Controversy Report by Matthias Drobinski: “The Search for the Whole Truth” Sueddeutsche Zeitung (Internet Version-WWW) Friday, March 14, 2008 )