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Radical Islam in Germany

An excerpt from "All Things Considered"

POGGIOLI: Research conducted by a Turkish think tank has revealed a significant Islamic revival among the third generation of Turks in Germany, who had always been perceived as the most moderate Muslims in the country. And 47 percent of people of Turkish origin polled said they have to be careful not to become German. The main causes cited by the study are economic difficulties and rejection by German society at large.

But Germans, haunted by guilt for their country's racist Nazi past, have tried to compensate by showing a laissez-faire attitude toward Muslim customs and traditions. For example, polygamy is recognized by the German welfare system, which hands out health benefits even for a second wife. Kanon Kolat(ph), who chairs an umbrella group of Turkish associations in Germany, is outraged.
Read the whole thing after the jump.

A special thanks to evariste who had to go through free trials to get us this post.

9:00-10:00 PM , From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

Germans are growing increasingly anxious about the spread of radical Islam. Germany has Europe's largest Muslim population, and the recent murder of a filmmaker in the Netherlands has many Germans worried that the religious tensions will spread to their own teeming Muslim communities. From Berlin, NPR's Sylvia Poggioli has the second part of our series on Muslims in Europe.

SYLVIA POGGIOLI reporting:

The left-leaning Berliner Zeitung carried this headline last week: `Fear is Spreading.' The weekly Der Spiegel intoned, `The veil of multiculturalism has been lifted, revealing parallel societies where the law of the state does not apply.' Legislative proposals are pouring out to force imams to preach in German, to expel hate preachers and to shut down their mosques.

(Soundbite of music from ZDF TV broadcast)

POGGIOLI: The anxiety was sparked by last week's broadcast on the ZDF TV network of footage secretly filmed at the Mevlana Mosque, a center for Turkish radicals.

(Soundbite of ZDF TV broadcast)

Imam YAKUP TAHCHI: (Foreign language spoken)

POGGIOLI: A hidden camera picks up the voice of the imam.

(Soundbite of ZDF TV broadcast)

Imam TAHCHI: (Foreign language spoken)

Unidentified Man: (German spoken)

POGGIOLI: `Those Germans,' Yakup Tahchi(ph) says, `those atheists, they don't shave their armpits. Their sweat spreads evil smells. They stink. They are atheists,' Tahchi continues. `What good to they do to us? And since they're unbelievers, in the afterlife, they can only burn in hell.'

(Soundbite of prayer service)

Unidentified Man #1: (Chanting in foreign language)

POGGIOLI: Days later at the mosque, there's a mood of intense hostility toward reporters. The task of spokesman Razu Bahram(ph) is damage control. He says Tahchi, who's been preaching here for 20 years, made a slip of the tongue.

Mr. RAZU BAHRAM (Mevlana Mosque Spokesman): (Through Translator) I hope the German public will forgive him for what he said because preachers are only humans and humans can make mistakes.

(Soundbite of music)

POGGIOLI: Across the street, there's a Turkish bookshop displaying a wide range of titles. Turkish-born customer Ozman Kudalju(ph), who owns a construction company, is furious with those he calls the radicals at the Mevlana Mosque.

Mr. OZMAN KUDALJU: (Through Translator) Those fundamentalists are abusing Islam. They have their own laws. They are preaching against integration. It's up to us to criticize them. We have to respect the society we are living in.

POGGIOLI: Turks like Ozman Kudalju came to Germany in the '70s when the country needed extra labor. The Germans coined the expression (German spoken), `guest worker,' a clear sign these laborers were not expected to stay. Today, there are 3.4 million Muslims in Germany; the vast majority from Turkey, the rest from the Arab world. But it seems Germans are only now waking up to the existence of Muslim enclaves that hide potential conflicts. The front line is in the schools.

(Soundbite of classroom activity)

Unidentified Child: (Foreign language spoken)

POGGIOLI: The Riksdorfer Elementary School(ph) is in Noikurn(ph), one of the many neighborhoods known as `little Istanbuls.' Eighty percent of its students come from immigrant families, mostly Muslim. Three years ago, the Islamic Federation, a German Muslim group, won a long court battle and succeeded in imposing its own Islamic teaching in Berlin public schools. Principal Marian Bernay(ph) says these Islamic classes have sowed division among students.

Ms. MARIAN BERNAY (Principal, Riksdorfer Elementary School): After these lessons are coming in my school, we have suddenly no friendship between the Christian and the Islamic students. They fight against each other. Three years before, they were all friends.

POGGIOLI: More and more Muslim parents are asking Bernay to exempt their daughters from coed swimming and class trips on religious grounds. The application forms are easily downloaded from the Internet. And Bernay has received several anonymous letters such as this one.

Unidentified Man #2: (Reading) `Germany is an Islamic country. Islam is in the home, in schools. Germans will be outnumbered. We'll say what we want. We'll live how we want. It's outrageous that Germans demand we speak their language. Our children will have our language, our laws, our culture.'

POGGIOLI: Our repeated requests to visit an Islamic class are denied by Burhan Kesici, chairman of the Islamic Federation. But he does agree to talk to us. He says it's hard for Muslims to live as a minority in this predominantly Christian society, but adds, `We're trying.'

Mr. BURHAN KESICI (Chairman, Islamic Federation): (Through Translator) For example, in Islam, a man is not allowed to shake a woman's hand. But for the sake of peace, here in Germany, we are now shaking hands. That's a very big compromise for us. But still, it's not enough. People keep asking for more and we get nothing in return. Well, you must not wonder then why Muslims withdraw into themselves.

POGGIOLI: Research conducted by a Turkish think tank has revealed a significant Islamic revival among the third generation of Turks in Germany, who had always been perceived as the most moderate Muslims in the country. And 47 percent of people of Turkish origin polled said they have to be careful not to become German. The main causes cited by the study are economic difficulties and rejection by German society at large.

But Germans, haunted by guilt for their country's racist Nazi past, have tried to compensate by showing a laissez-faire attitude toward Muslim customs and traditions. For example, polygamy is recognized by the German welfare system, which hands out health benefits even for a second wife. Kanon Kolat(ph), who chairs an umbrella group of Turkish associations in Germany, is outraged.

Mr. KANON KOLAT: (Through Translator) This is a scandalous. I thought we are living in a secular society; it cannot support illegal polygamy. This is a false use of tolerance. These Germans say, `Poor Muslims. Let them do as they will. They are so ignorant,' but deep down this is racism. They treat us like second-class citizens.

(Soundbite of supermarket activity)

POGGIOLI: This is one of Berlin's many Turkish supermarkets where nearly all the goods come from Turkey, such as pickled vegetables, hibiscus tea, dolmas and yogurt. The dominant language is Turkish.

(Soundbite of street traffic)

POGGIOLI: Across the street is the Emir Sultan Mosque and Cultural Center, a two-building compound that provides remedial classes for Muslim kids who can't speak German and access to Muslim lawyers and doctors. Twenty-one-year-old Tuba Uchar(ph), who wears a stylish leopard-spotted head scarf, has been coming here since she was seven.

Ms. TUBA UCHAR: (Through Translator) I am integrated. I speak the German language. I went to school here. Of course, if you say I should live like Germans do, well, that's not integration. That's assimilation, and I don't want that.

POGGIOLI: Tuba and her community live in one of the many Islamic islands that now dot the German urban landscape.

Ms. SHAINAN ATASH: Women and girls are living in this group like in the seventh century. That's the fact.

POGGIOLI: Shainan Atash(ph) is a human rights lawyer to defends Muslim women who are victims of domestic violence. She says that de facto Islamic law prevails in those islands.

Ms. ATASH: We have the Shariah in a different way. It's not very open, but we have it.

POGGIOLI: Turkish-born Atash says 30 to 40 percent of Turkish marriages here are forced marriages, with brides as young as 13. She puts part of the blame on German society.

Ms. ATASH: Because the majority society is blind to the reality and the minority Islamists can grow. In Germany, it's more allowed than in Islamic countries, so they are living here better than in Islamic countries.

POGGIOLI: Atash acknowledges many moderate Muslims are dismayed by the rising influence of Islamic fundamentalists. But, she says, they've heard the Islamists' message. They feel abandoned by German society and are too frightened to speak out. Sylvia Poggioli, NPR News, Berlin.

BLOCK: You can see photos and hear the first part of our series at our Web site, npr.org.

(Soundbite of music)

SIEGEL: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.


German anxiety rising over spread of radical Islam among its large Muslim population

Posted by zorkmidden on Nov 30, 2004 5:00 pm

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