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Society

German Islam Conference struggles to redefine its role

The German Islam Conference has ended with Germany’s interior minister (right) expressing satisfaction with the results. But many of the meeting’s participants saw things differently.

The German Islam Conference (DIK) vowed to combat extremism, hostility against Muslims, and all forms of anti-Semitism.

In Berlin on Tuesday, Federal Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich rejected criticism that security concerns and the issue of combating Islamist extremism had been dominating the agenda.

"Dialogue between the state and the religion of Islam has developed positively," Friedrich said after the meeting, stressing that the main aim of the annual meeting was to further develop democracy and ensure the participation in that process of all groups in German society.

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German Islam Panel struggles to find role

Friedrich said that religion had an important role in integration and that Germany is friendly to faith. He presented a new two-year action plan called "together against social polarization," which foresees funding for projects combating extremism on the internet, cross-cultural youth programs and inter-religious training programs for teachers.

Launched by former Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble in 2006, the German Islam Conference is the central forum for dialogue between representatives of Muslim organizations and German politicians. The annual conference aims to improve cooperation between religious communities and the state.

Regular topics of discussion are equal opportunities issues, religious education in schools, construction of mosques and ways to combat extremism.

Opposition politicians and representatives from various Islamic groups criticized the conference for achieving too little.

SPD parliamentary leader Thomas Oppermann said that Friedrich "is only interested in security and terrorism" and has led the DIK to a "dead end."

Bekir Alboga from the Muslim organization Ditib expressed his disappointment with the talks in their current form, calling them "pointless." However, looking into the future after this year's general elections he stressed that it was important to continue the dialogue in a positive way. "I yearn for a real partnership," he said.

Representatives of the Muslim groups reacted positively to the interior minister's proposal to reduce the involvement of the federal government in the discussions and increase the involvement of politicians and NGOs working on regional and municipal levels.

mkg/rg (AFP, dpa, kna, epd)

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