Friday, April 11, 2008


“Muslims in Germany”
A Study by the Federal Ministry of the Interior
By Dr. Christine Schirrmacher


In the sum of the study, the great significance of religion for all Muslims in Germany is striking, as well as the high percentage of those who confess their religion in theory and practice. Fundamentalist religious orientations, however, are not synonymous with distance to democracy, and distance to democracy is not automatically a sign of the willingness to commit violence; other factors must be added here. It is, however, certainly the case that the seed of radicalism can be sown more easily in this ground of the basically aloof view of the Western way of life and society, a view that can change into extremism against the background of personally experienced marginalization or the sense of the worldwide oppression of Muslims. For this reason, the potential for danger is considerably greater than the modest membership figures in the known Islamic-extremist associations might suggest.

Because of the manifold factors that can bring about a radicalization of individuals, this latent potential for a politically and religiously motivated radicalization in Germany, as the study emphasizes, can not be quantified clearly. The authors, however, on the basis of the present investigation, assume a figure of approximately 10% to 12% of the Muslims in Germany (494), which means a number on the magnitude of between 320,000 and 420,000 people.

Decisive for radicalization are, essentially, three different paths: For the first path, the experience of a personal exclusion is less decisive than the vicarious sense of being the victim of a global oppression and of finding one’s system of reference outside Western society (in Sharia or in the umma, the Muslim world community), the notion of an “exclusion, deprecation, and oppression of Muslims on a national as well as international level” (494), for “In sum, a quite considerable portion of the Muslims living in Germany, students as well as the general Muslim population, is convinced that the community of Muslims in the global sense is discriminated against and treated poorly” (418).

The second group is basically willing to accommodate, but experiences personal rejection while at the same time having few chances for participation in society because of a low level of education. The third group is rather traditional in its religious orientation and of itself withdraws from society without wanting to participate (494).

The potential for an affinity to violence among Muslims in Germany can be quantified as just under 6%. If a great distance to democracy and a rejection of the rule of law are added, then a figure of about 14% of the Muslims within the survey is reached. By projection of this result upon the entire Muslim population in Germany, and in consideration of possible sources of error, this percentage can lie between 11.9% and 16.4% (495). The study concludes:

“Fundamentalist orientations that combine a close religious attachment, a high relevance of religion in daily life, and a strong orientation on religious rules and rituals with a tendency to exclude Muslims who do not observe these, as well as with the tendency generally to heighten the value of Islam and to derogate Western, Christian-influenced cultures, show an enormous dissemination. In the general population, about 40% are to be assigned to such a pattern of orientation” (493)

Language acquisition and education, as well as social participation and the reduction of prejudices, especially those prejudices held by non-Muslim youth toward Muslims, are thus important social and political goals necessary for counteracting tendencies toward radicalization in the Muslim community. However, they do not form the one, comprehensive solution, since there are other elements in the process of radicalization – such as the perceived worldwide victimization of Muslims, or a political and rigid instruction in Islam through a religious authority. In any case, a fundamental potential for recruitment is found among Muslim youth and young adults, and not among those who are older (501). For this reason, it is important to the authors of the study that the dialogue be conducted openly, but not indifferently.

“It seems to be the case that this search for meaning and the struggle for values requires a dialogue and credible dialogue partners who, on the one hand, do not dismiss Islam, and also do not encounter it with an arbitrary attitude, but rather themselves are strong dialogue partners standing upon a solid foundation” (501)

Pertinent Links:

1) Muslims in Germany

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