print Print
send Send to friends
Islam in Germany
Islam has become the second largest religion after Christianity in Germany with its estimated 4.2 million members of foreign origin. Today there are Muslims mainly from Afghanistan, Algeria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan, Turkish Republics, Tunisia and Turkey living in Germany. It is also estimated that there are about 150,000 Muslims of German origin.  

    While the number of Muslims in Germany increases due to births and occasional conversions to Islam, potential resentment against the Islamic religious community and its members grows among the Christian and secular majority population that associates the word ‘Islam’ almost automatically with religious fundamentalism and extreme political ideologies. The diversity of Islamic organisations and groups claiming to be official representatives of Islam in Germany have strengthened this picture. On the other hand, they have established a functioning and largely accepted network of Islamic infrastructure. The foreign policy of the federal government has not concerned itself much with the religious interests of the nation’s Muslims, though the government has observed the formation of Islamic organisations with uneasiness and mistrust. 

    The manifestations of Islam in different EU countries are shaped strongly by the national origin of the migrants. Islam has a more Megrebian character in France, a more Indian-Pakistani character in England and a strong Turkish character in Germany. Although this article concerns itself primarily with Turkish Muslims, it is nevertheless important to distinguish among the different forms of Islam that can be found in Europe and take into account that only a minority of Muslims can be described as extremists. 

    According to the latest report of the Verfassungsschutz (the federal defence organisation for the defence of the German Constitution), Islamists and representatives of extreme ideologies only make up about one percent of Muslims in the Federal Republic of Germany. 

    As in other European countries, it is also valid for Germany that the presence of Islam as a clear phenomenon has taken place to a great extent through the immigration of Muslim people from Turkey, North Africa and the Balkans, which began with the signing of recruitment agreements in 1961, initially with Turkey. These recruitment agreements foresaw the time-restricted immigration of people from different countries of the Mediterranean area in accordance with the rotation principle in order to prevent permanent immigration. Even though this principle was quickly given up when it was seen that there was little use in replacing skilled workers with unskilled ones, the idea that immigrants should be regarded as ‘guest workers’ or ‘foreigners’ was still retained. So no long-term policies were developed by German authorities to meet the specific demands of the Muslim immigrants. 

    Whereas the past few years, the practice of Islam for the ‘society of the majority’ has been rather ‘invisible’, Muslims nowadays increasingly demand their right to practise their religion openly and articulate their interests through the construction of mosques, building of Muslim cemeteries, celebrating religious holidays, etc. 

    As an increasing number of Muslim immigrants decide to stay in Germany permanently, the question of possibilities for the cohabitation of Christians and Muslims gains an even greater significance. Concerning this question, the socio-economic and political developments in Germany within the last couple of years should not be neglected, as these are what determine immigration policy, foreign policy, labour policy and social policy – and therefore the interactions between the receiving society and the immigrant society. In this respect, the German reunification in 1990 marked the beginning of a new chapter in the history of immigration to Germany. 

    The structural changes right after the reunification and the implementation of a monetary union caused a stagnation of the German economy. At the same time, unemployment increased as numerous undertakings in the new and the old Buneslander had to be closed down. These negative aspects of the reunification on the whole economic situation in Germany also had consequences on the minorities living there. From a broad perception of the overall economic situation, unemployment increased considerably and foreigners were made scapegoats for both this unemployment and for social turbulence.
 
The increase in the number of asylum-seekers who fled to Germany as a result of global developments (such as civil wars and the collapse of the Soviet Union), was noted with anxiety. As the ‘increase in the number of asylum-seekers’ was a frequent topic of discussion among the public, the assumption that the social state was burdened enormously and that no more asylum-seekers could be accepted was strengthened among segments of the population.
 
In the face of the increasing number of asylum-seekers, the proposition to declare Germany as a de jure immigration country (Germany has in fact become a de facto immigration country, even though this fact is not officially acknowledged) with a corresponding immigration policy was rejected by the government. Instead of this, the German Parliament passed a constitutional amendment in December 1992, restricting the right to receive asylum. 

    In connection with integration, the arson attacks of Molln and Sollingen on houses inhabited by Turkish families marked a turning point in the recent history of migration. In particular, those who were second-and third-generation migrants saw proof in these incidents of the lack of recognition and acceptance they received from the indigenous society, and as a result they have increasingly isolated themselves. Since then, religious and nationalist migrant organisations have experienced a period of growth. 

    For the groups, Islam serves as a means of identification. As Muslims increasingly establish themselves in Germany, consolidate their organisational structure and articulate their interests through their organisations, the interest of the German public in the subject, ‘Islam and Muslims in Germany’, has grown. Studies that have been carried out usually focused on the sociological organisation of Islam. The problems demonstrated in these studies were of a general nature, i.e. problems that came about due to the lack of an institutional framework for Muslims. On the other hand, subjects such as social exclusion and discrimination based on religion have received almost no attention.
 
The reason for this might be that discrimination against immigrants in Germany is viewed to a large extent in connection with the ethnic origin or the country of origin of the minority in question. With the increasing visibility of Islam in Germany in the last few years, manifesting itself through the construction of mosques or in specific Islamic outfit, a fear of foreign infiltration can be observed in the receiving society, which makes new tendencies toward exclusion recognisable. 

    First Intensive Encounters with Islam   

    Generally, it is thought that Islam first came to Germany with the labour migration. However, Muslims have been living in Germany for more than 300 years. These were of course small groups that played a rather minor role. 

    First, with the economic upturn in the mid 1950s and the resulting necessity to compensate for the structurally conditioned domestic labour shortage by recruiting foreign workers, Muslims came to Germany in large numbers. 

    Recruitment agreements were signed with Turkey in 1961, with Morocco in 1963 and Tunisia in 1965. Consequently, the largest group of Muslims that came to Germany so far were recruited systematically from the above-mentioned countries. 

    The migratory movements of foreign labour to the Federal Republic of Germany were a result of a combination of different push and pull factors. The rapid population growth and increasing unemployment in the countries of origin encouraged emigration. Due to the increasing use of modern machinery and equipment in the agricultural sector, additional labour was rendered redundant and could not be sufficiently absorbed by the other sectors. These push factors were disposed to the pull factor of the need of Western European industries for a cheap, readily available labour force. 

    The majority of migrating Muslims had already experienced an internal migration in the country of origin from rural to urban regions prior to emigrating abroad. Very often, before recruitment by German firms, they had lived two to three years in large cities and waited for an arrangement through the Turkish Employment Office or the German authorities. The internal migration is important in the sense that it demonstrates that immigrants to Germany were originating from a rural, and therefore traditionally characterised environment. 

    The most frequent case of labour migration to the Federal Republic of Germany was the arrival of a lone man who was often employed as an unskilled worker in the manufacturing industry or in the lower services sector. Both the receiving society and the migrant labourers perceived their residence as temporary. This attitude had an impact, as neither the receiving society nor the migrants made efforts to interact with one another, despite living in close proximity to each other.
 
The migrant labourers intended to earn some savings in the course of a limited period of residence and, if possible, return to the country of origin with newly learned skills to set up a business there. 

    Towards the end of the 1960s, it became clear that a short stay for migrant labourers was not tenable. German firms did not want to replace newly skilled workers with newly arriving unskilled ones. On the other hand, migrant labourers realised that the initially foreseen period of residence in Germany did not suffice to earn enough savings, and so they sought to bring their families to Germany.
 
Putting an end to the recruitment of foreigners (a decision that was a result of the rising oil prices in the fall of 1973 and of the consequent recession) from non-member countries of the European Community introduced by the German government in November 1973 also encouraged family reunification. As it was thought that the new law would hinder the arrival of new immigrant labourers, numerous migrant labourers brought their families to Germany, believing this would not be possible later. Migrant labourers could rely on numerous international agreements that existed within the context of family reunification and guaranteeing family rights. 

    The social structure of the immigrants changed with family reunifications. While almost all migrants were socially insured workers until then, dependent family members who were not economically active were arriving in the Federal Republic of Germany. Simultaneously, the number of women gradually became proportional to the number of men. Through the increase in the proportion of women among migrants, Islam also became ‘visible’, as the religious affiliation of women was clearly and publicly manifested in their attire – particularly in their veils. At the same time, German society was confronted with a new phenomenon following family reunification. It had to face the social consequences of migration that had thus far been neglected. 

    Schools, kindergartens (as 80 percent of kindergartens in Germany are run by churches, most Muslim parents were not willing to send their children to the kindergartens) and authorities were not prepared for this group of newcomers. The schooling and vocational situation of the young people brought about new challenges for the institutions. For the first time, the public and responsible authorities became gradually conscious of the consequences of migration. 

The federal government reacted to the immigration of the family members with a restrictive foreigners’ policy: the age limit for the children of the immigrants was reduced to 16 within the framework of family reunifications on December 2, 1981. In order to reduce the number of immigrants already living in Germany, the federal government introduced incentives for return. 

    Representative surveys had demonstrated that there were intentions to return, but re-migration was always postponed to a later date. The completion of the education of the children, earning enough savings and the improvement of the economic situation in the country of origin were both significant and influential in the decision to return. The government passed the ‘law on the incentives for return of foreigners’ on November 28, 1983, thereby creating financial incentives for migrants to return to their countries of origin. 

    According to the law of return incentives, Yugoslavians, Turks, Spaniards Portuguese, Moroccans, Tunisians and Koreans returning to their country of origin between October 31, 1983 and September 30, 1984 could under certain conditions receive return aid of DM 10,500 and an additional DM 1,500 per child. Moreover, the pension contributions paid by the workers, minus the employer’s share, could be funded without a waiting period.
 
About 250,000 foreigners – mostly Turks – left Germany within the framework of the law of return incentives in 1983 and in the first half of 1984. The law was introduced due to economic considerations and also in view of the conviction that the Turkish residential population was not capable of integrating into a Christian, Western European country. The law was presented to the public in a distorted way under the substantial influence of boulevard newspapers. 

    The opportunity to return to the country of origin with DM 10,500 per adult and DM 1,500 per child resulted in social envy and hostility towards foreigners. However, families only received what they had already paid out to the legal pension insurance. The share of their employers was not funded. 

    Apart from Muslims who came to Germany from Turkey, Morocco and Tunisia in the course of the labour migration from the 1960s, a migratory wave occurred in the middle of the 1970s from a number of Muslim countries. 

    People from areas of civil war such as Lebanon, Palestine, Afghanistan and Algeria fled to the Federal Republic. In the 1980s, refugees from Iran following the revolution and refugees of Kurdish origin from Turkey and Iraq came to Germany. Their refuge could rely on Article 16 of the German Constitution, according to which politically persecuted persons can enjoy the right of asylum in Germany. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the civil war of Yugoslavia, the Muslim population grew in the beginning of the 1990s. Immigrants from Bosnia-Herzegovina became the second-largest Muslim population group after Turks. 

    With the aim of damming immigration, Article 16 of the Constitution was modified in 1993. Accordingly, persons entering the Federal Republic from a secure third country were no longer entitled to the right of asylum. 

    Bulgaria, Gambia, Ghana, Poland, Rumania, Senegal, the Slovak Republic, the Czech Republic, Hungary and, for the time being, Turkey were named as secure third countries. As a consequence, politically persecuted persons from the Near East (especially from Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan) who entered the Federal Republic via Turkey or Bulgaria, for example, could not be granted asylum in Germany. 

    While Muslims who immigrated in the course of the labour migration have the opportunity to acquire legal equality with Germans through the acquisition of German citizenship (after 15 years of residence and under the condition that the person should not be receiving any unemployment or social aid), the situation of Muslim refugees who fled the civil war in Bosnia presents complexities. This is because all immigrants who flee from war, civil war or other life-endangering situations get no political asylum, although they are in need of protection.
 
The state is solely obliged to protect human dignity and life according to the Geneva Convention for Refugees and Articles 1 and 2 of the German Constitution. Accordingly, immigrants from Bosnia-Herzegovina and some from Afghanistan and Algeria gain the right to remain for legal or humanitarian reasons. This means that these immigrant – regardless of how long they live in Germany – will be deported to their country of origin if there is a reason (i.e. end of civil war), from the point of view of the federal government, for not granting them the right to say. 

    In Germany, citizenship is a question of origin of jus sanguinis, of blood, rather than jus solis, territorial principle – and is passed on to the next generations. Even though the regulations of citizenship and the restrictive foreigners’ policy are not specifically directed against Muslims, they make up the most affected groups.
 
While the restrictive foreigners’ policy is valid for migrants from countries with a predominantly Muslim population, labour immigrants from Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece, as EU citizens, are not affected by the restrictive regulations. As a result, the latter group enjoy bureaucratic relief, local voting rights and freedom of movement within the local territory and the EU. 

Where do Muslims live?  
    The Muslim migrant population living in Germany is usually concentrated in urban centres. The concentration in these cities has to do with their location within easy reach of harbours and airports. Immigrants have also often settled down in areas where relatives or friends from the region of origin in the home country had formerly settled. Furthermore, immigrants expected to find a better quality of life in big cities compared to rural regions due to the availability of more job opportunities. 

    As most immigrants planned to return to the country of origin within a foreseeable period of time, cheaper accommodation was preferred. Therefore, a large number of labour migrants rented flats in neighbourhoods that needed renovation, some of which could not longer be rented to Germans. In this way, city quarters and streets with a high proportion of foreigners came into existence in the big West German cities. The need to live close to neighbours from the home country and to have a sense of familiarity with the environment also played a role.
 
The more determinant factor was, however, the difficulty foreigners faced in finding accommodations outside of these quarters. German landlords were reluctant to rent their houses to foreigners. As a result, a ghettoization took place, primarily in big cities, which became home to some 10,000 foreigners, mainly Turks. Mosques, Turkish grocery stores, etc. were set up successively in these regions. In this way, the Muslim population in such quarters became visible. Immigrants from other Muslim countries used the infrastructure created by Turks to a large extent. 

    While quarters with large Muslim populations have come into existence in the course of the labour migration in the old Bundeslander (former DDR), they differ as a result of the different political developments before 1990. The former DDR also recruited labour migrants, but from socialist countries. The so-called ‘contract workers’ came primarily from Vietnam and made up a very small proportion of the white population. Interaction with the receiving nation did not take place. Muslims first came to the Bundeslander after the reunification in 1990. These were primarily not labour migrants, but asylum-seekers from the former Yugoslavia, Turkey (Kurds), Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Pakistan (Federal Ministry of Internal Affairs, 1995). 

    According to the asylum law of July 1, 1993, communes and cities in the new Bundeslander, like the old Bundeslander, are obliged to take in asylum-seekers, whereas the number of asylum-seekers to be hosted is determined by the relative size of the Bundeslanders. Apart from asylum-seekers, isolated former labour migrants from the West also moved to the populous industrial centres in the East, namely Leipzig, Dresden, Halle and Rostock, mostly without their families (who remained in the West). While some former labour migrants from the West came to these regions to become self-employed and establish and small – and medium-sized enterprises (according to a study of the Centre for Studies on Turkey conducted in 1996, 61.1 percent of the Turkish enterprises with medium-sized firms interviewed planned to open a representation or establish a new business in the new Bundeslander), others are employed as workers in West German firms, especially in the construction sector.
 
Nevertheless, compared with the western lands, the proportion of immigrants in the eastern Bundeslander is low, with 1.5 percent on average (Bericht der Beauftragten der Bunderregierung fur die Belange der Auslander uber die Lage der Auslander in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Donn, December 1995, p.18). Consequently, there is no ‘visible’ Muslim community or Muslim infrastructure in the new Bundeslander. 
 
    Currently, the Turks are the largest Muslim group in Germany (and at the same time the largest migrant group) with 70.2 percent, followed by Muslims from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan and Tunisia. 

Source Zentrum fur Turkeistudien (ed.): Auslander in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland. Opladen 1994. According to the data of the Zentral Institut Islam Archiv Deutschland, about 150,000 German citizens belong to the Islamic religious community.
Turkish Daily News