The first Islamic Conference in Germany is currently under way

For many years, the average bratwurst and folk music loving German saw Muslims as the working bees of the society. Most of them were brought from Turkey or Albania to help rebuilding the brittle German economy and destroyed infrastructure after WW2.
But instead of going back to their home countries as expected, the worker muslims decided to stay in Germany, having raised children in Germany and felt at home there.

The German society, not being used to foreign cultures until the 1950s found it difficult to deal with the new citizens of foreign origin and religion.

Muslims were frequently just addressed by their first names, assumed as Ali and Ayce, and heavily stereotyped, frequently portrayed as moustached roadside workers and fat headscarf wearing cleaners.

Muslim families tried to distance themselves in cultural suburbs as in Berlin Kreuzberg where they could talk in their own language, visit the mosques, live modestly to send money back home and eat imported food they knew.
In the 80s, Muslims,and Germans realized that they have largely failed to blend, as neither of them really was educated about how to break language and culture barriers. On top of that, the fall of the Wall in 1989 exposed millions of eastern Germans for the very first time to Islam and Muslims.

Islamic organizations began go flourish within the mainly sunni, shi'ite and alevi muslim communities in Germany. Second generation Muslims began interact and mix with the German society, visit higher schools and universities, and, of course, tried to be practicing muslims which often resulted in misunderstandings.

The Islamic Conference aims at clearing up those misunderstandings. It was called for by Interieur Minister De Maziere, in an attempt to integrate Muslims into German society and reduce racial and religious tensions due to stereotypes and prejudices.

It is trying to address and resolve gender and headscarf issues, as well as domestic violence in muslim families, forced marriages, and islamic school curriculum and the non regulated education for imams in German mosques. As an example, in the largely christian German society, the headscarf is traditionally a symbol of subordinance and enslavement of women, however a lot of Germans just seem to fail to see that it is a symbol of faith and freedom for muslim women. "A muslim woman living in Germany has to decide if she wants to lead a religious life or have a career, as she won't get a job wearing the recommended hijab", participant Erika Theissen, founder of the Muslim Women's Meeting and Educational Centre, is quoted. I

t sounds like a good attempt to broker understanding between Germans and Muslims.

Observers of the event however notice that the Islamic Council of Germany itself, and several other prominent german-islamic organizations are excluded, apparently a large part of Muslims in Germany didn't feel represented by them.

Other critics note that it is just an attempt to tamper with the teachings of Islam with discussions of having a moderate version of Islam taught in schools and the state regulation of Imams in mosques and building regulations for mosques. They say that the conference does not work to correct these stereotypes but to reinforce them and that the conference is based on the prejudice that Islam is a non-tolerant religion, unable to allow it's followers to integrate into another society.

While the conference does stimulate discussions in Germany, it is unfortunatly a fact that many people fail to see the need for a dialogue between Muslims and Westerners. The way it was before, that muslims did the low jobs and kept for themselves, this way seemed to have worked for them.

the labels read "stereotype and reality’: While the German Islamic Board of Muslims criticises the “presentation of religious leaders of the Islam”, effigy designer Jaques Tilly says: “We show turban wearer and terrorist. If someone wants to see something religious in this, it’s a very personal point of view.” C/ ASSOCIATED PRESS


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