The CSU aims to ban foreign funding of German mosques to stave off extremism. The proposal has Muslim supporters, but opponents say the regulation violates a key constitutional right.
The sister party of Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU has called for stricter regulations of Islam in Germany. CSU General Secretary Andreas Scheuer laid out his proposals in an interview with German daily "Die Welt" that was published on Wednesday.
"German must become the language of the mosques," Scheuer said in the conversation that covered integration issues, among other topics.
No more training or money from abroad
The CSU leader says Germany needs an Islam Law because certain political schools of Islam "prevent people from integrating" in Germany.
Scheuer has two main measures in mind for a potential new law. First, mosques, Islamic cultural centers and other Muslim institutions, like kindergartens, should not be allowed to take money from abroad anymore. The CSU hopes that this ban on foreign funding would stop the influence from countries like Saudi Arabia and other gulf states where a more radical form of Islam is the state religion.
In the same vein comes Scheuer's second proposition: all Imams who intend to work in Germany also need to be trained in Germany, in German, and "share our basic values," Scheuer said.
He explained that he wanted these rules instated because it was "not acceptable that other value systems, some of them extremist, are imported from abroad." Europe, Scheuer said, "must develop its own kind of Islam."
Muslims call proposal 'discriminatory'
The conservatives' suggestions are similar to Austria's Islam law. The contentious paragraphs got a make-over in February 2015 to include a ban on foreign funding for Muslim associations and mosques.
"The new version of the Austrian Islam law includes rules that spell an encroachment on Muslims' religious self-determination," Germany's Turkish Islamic Union (DITIB) said in a statement in March 2015.
Back then, an Islam law was also discussed in Germany. DITIB stressed that the German constitution grants religious groups the right to make their own decisions concerning religious training and a suggestion to impose regulations on Christian or Jewish groups would be met with outrage.
The general secretary of DITIB, which is one of the largest Muslim associations in Germany, remains very much against an Islam law of the kind proposed by the CSU.
"It still violates the constitution," Bekir Alboga told DW. "It's still discriminatory and it's still populist."
Limiting extremist influences
There are several Islam experts, however, who support Scheuer's suggestions. One of them is Ralph Ghadban, a political scientist and expert on Islam. He says that stopping the inflow of foreign money could limit the influence of Islamist extremists.
"The Islam of Saudi Arabia, for example, is pure Salafism and not conducive to integration at all," Ghadban told DW. "German mosques that are financed by money from a country like this don't work toward integration."
He also supports the training of Imams in Germany, as opposed to a rotation of Imams from abroad who only stay in their assigned mosques for a few years.
"They have nothing to do with the concerns of the people in their congregation," Ghadban said.
He is convinced that the four universities in Germany that have a chair in Islamic theology can train all the Imams that Germany needs.
Approaching the right end of the political spectrum
For DITIB, it's not so much about the question of whether the CSU-proposed measures could be implicated, but about the fact that they perceive them as an infringement of their religious rights.
They also say that Scheuer's statement puts the CSU in one corner with groups on the right edge of Germany's political spectrum, like the "Alternative for Germany(AfD).
"On top of all the other problems, [the proposed Islam law] is playing into the AfD's hand," Alboga said.
The AfD had gone a step further than regulating training and funding. A group on the party's right wing had included a ban on "building and using mosques" in their proposal for the AfD party manifesto last month.
They said that Islam wasn't part of German culture and society and that mosques were places where unlawful teachings were spread.