Wednesday, September 13, 2006

German Minister Urges Islam Recognition

By Ahmad Al-Matboli, IOL Correspondent


VIENNA — German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble called on Monday, September 11, for a state recognition of Islam and teaching the Muslim faith at schools as part of a state-backed curriculum, while unveiling plans to toughen the country's anti-terror laws.

"Recognizing Islam in German will pay off as the government will be able to groom home-grown imams and preachers instead of resorting to foreigners," Schaeuble told the German Radio in an interview.

He noted that the number of Muslims in Germany, standing at some 3.4 million people, is growing steadily.

Islam comes third in Germany after Protestant and Catholic Christianity.

Schaeuble said Islam will then be taught in state schools under the supervision of the government.

He also underlined the need for Muslim "representative organs" beyond those that presently exist.

The interior minister said Muslims have become an integral part of German society and are welcome "but they have to behave according to certain rules."

The Interior Ministry has called for a conference on Islam this month, bringing together representatives of the Muslim ethnic mosaic in Germany.

Schaeuble said the meeting would look into how Muslims accept German values like equality between men and women and separation between that state and religion.

"It is unacceptable to take Shari`ah as a law in Germany."

The interior minister hailed the Austrian example in recognizing Islam, saying it led to effective integration of Muslims in the country.

Anti-Terror

Schaeuble, however, defended amendments to the anti-terror law, in force since the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

He said measures adopted in the wake of the 9/11 attacks protected the country by facilitating tracking bank accounts and flight data.

"It is high time we amended the existing anti-terror law to be more effective," he noted.

Under the new measures, the interior minister added, more closed-circuit cameras will be set up in railway stations.

Schaeuble said he was following in the footsteps of his predecessor Otto Schily, who had been a staunch supporter of tightening security measures.

He further revealed that a huge database is being established to be at the disposal of security agencies in line with constitution and relevant laws.

"This database covers basic and detailed information of suspects like name, address, religion and profession."

Under the new measures, the government will have the right to accept or reject post-graduate requests of foreign students based on an invitation from a relative or a friend in Germany.

The proposed measures, however, were criticized by the opposition parties.

The Greens said Monday that the measures are unconstitutional and trample on civil liberties, asserting that the 2001 anti-terror law addressed security lapses.