The demand by Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich at the long- scheduled talks chilled five years of efforts to overcome suspicions between Berlin and the Islamic community, who make up 5 per cent of Germany’s population. Muslims had wanted to talk about ways to fight poverty and the high failure rates of their children in schools.
When he took office earlier this month, Friedrich said Islam had no place in German history, and then repeated the remark on national breakfast television Tuesday. The minister, who belongs to the conservative Bavaria-only Christian Social Union (CSU), then issued a briefing paper demanding that the community renounce Islamists, report radical sermons by imams and tell police about conversations that could indicate a terrorism threat.
Muslims in Germany often say they feel insulted for being collectively blamed for crimes, such as the murder of two US airmen on March 2 at Frankfurt Airport by a disturbed ethnic Kosovar youth.
Nine of the 15 Muslim delegates to the conference, all of whom had been hand-picked by the government, issued a joint statement of protest. They said a demand that German Muslims should fight homegrown extremists as the price for government aid to their community made them doubt whether the meeting was even intended to encourage dialogue or improve the integration of Muslims in Germany.
“As Muslim participants in the Germany-Islam conference, we appeal to the minister not to carelessly endanger years of efforts to build dialogue between Muslims and the state and put at risk the achievements of the conference so far,” they said.
Muslim academic Armina Omerika said outside the meeting that Friedrich seemed to be urging on Muslims “a nasty culture of shopping one another” to the police.
Cf. Liz Fekete and Sibille Merz, “German counter-extremism programe – a ‘spying charter'”, on the IRR website, which points out that the German domestic intelligence agency BfV has been accused of “lumping together many non-violent Muslim organisations with a few potentially violent groups and classifying Muslims, who are simply devout, as just a notch or two below the potentially violent on a continuum of radicalisation”.