Expectations will be low on Wednesday when German officials and leading Muslims meet for the second bi-annual Conference on Islam. Rows over who is qualified to speak for Germany's Muslims have soured the atmosphere.
Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble on Monday made an effort to curb expectations of the conference.
"This is a gradual, step-by-step process. This meeting is not the end point," the minister's spokesman told reporters in Berlin.
He stressed that the meeting on Wednesday was meant to discuss the results of the four working groups tasked with finding strategies to improve the integration of Muslims into German society and quell the influence of Islamic extremists.
His comments came as ever more disagreements arose from both the government side and the 15 Muslim delegates to the conference over who has the right to speak for the community.
But Schäuble's spokesman also provoked irritation by expressing reservations about the Coordination Council of Muslims in Germany (KRM). The group represented only 10 percent of the Muslims living Germany, which was why the minister also spoke to Muslims who weren't part of the new body, the spokesman said.
"Lack of good will"
Aiman Mazyek, head of the Central Committee of Muslims, which is part of the KRM, was quick to respond, saying Schäuble had talked down the council.
"I notice a lack of seriousness in this debate, I see a lack of good will," he told Monday's Westdeutsche Zeitung.
The KRM was founded earlier this month by four of the groups represented in the Conference on Islam, partly in response to government complaints that the Muslim community was too fragmented to speak with one voice. It claims to represent 2,000 of the 2,500 German mosques.
Other conference participants were at odds over that issue as well.
Turkish-born author Feridun Zaimoglu, another conference participant, recently announced that he would not take part in Wednesday's meeting and called for a replacement.
"I want to leave my seat to a young woman who voluntarily chooses to cover herself," he told German news agency DPA.
Zaimoglu said both conservative men and "so-called Islam critics" had created the impression they were problem cases.
Representing 3.2 million
Schäuble handpicked the 15 panel members ahead of the first meeting of the Conference on Islam in late September. He said they were representative of Germany's 3.2 million Muslims.
The heads of five Islamic religious groups were meant to reflect the roughly one million observant Muslims, while eight others, including a dentist, were supposed to represent the majority of the country's Muslims, who identify themselves as Muslim but aren't necessarily strict followers of the religion's precepts.
Only two women, sociologist Necla Kelec and lawyer Seyran Ates, are part of the panel. Both are secular critics of traditional Islam and skeptical that integrating its followers into German society is even possible.
Scared of recognition
Some Muslim leaders have called for their religion to be granted the same legal status Christian churches in Germany enjoy. The country's Jewish community has also negotiated an agreement with the government regulating their relations.
"The recognition of Islam is not a state of grace," Reuters quoted Schäuble's spokesman as saying. German Muslim organizations were aware of the prerequisites to be recognized as a religious community, such as a clear structure and statutes.
The Central Council's Mazyek interpreted the government's refusal so far to recognize Islam differently.
"I get the impression the question of recognition scares the living daylights out of them," he said.
Source: Deutsche Welle http://www.dw-world.de
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