Opinion: Should All Mosques Be Watched? | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 19.07.2005
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Opinion: Should All Mosques Be Watched?

The London bombings have raised fears that a similar attack could happen in Germany. But would a strategy of spying lower fears and suspicions towards the three million strong Muslim population in the country?


Should the state come before religion?

Nadeem Elyas, head of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, was quick to denounce the terror attacks on three subways and a bus in London. He made a conscious effort to condemn the "barbaric" acts in public. He along with other Muslim leaders made it very clear that they in no way would condone such violence.

The reactions were exemplary and the German media was quick to reprint and rebroadcast them. But their effect was minimal.

Nadeem Elyas, Vorsitzender des Zentralrats der Muslime in Deutschland Porträtfoto

Nadeem Elyas, head of the Central Council of Muslims

More and more, conservative politicians and church representatives want Muslims living in Germany to distant themselves from Islamic terrorism. Yet the demands are dangerous.

Firstly, because expectations are being built up without creating a framework as to how they can even be fulfilled. Secondly, who should fulfill them?

One thing is clear: Elyas and other Muslim representatives have become pros in media relations. Yet the public must question them critically just like they would politicians. And who are they speaking for anyway? Not even 400,000 of the some 3.2 million Muslims in Germany belong to the various Islam organizations in the country.

Terror no; a chance yes

Opinion polls and government studies here in Germany consistently have shown that the majority of Muslims, both members and non-members of Islam organizations, reject terrorist acts committed in the name of their religion.

Nevertheless, suspicion is growing amongst both the majority of Germans and the Muslims.

Türken in Deutschland Koranschule in Berlin

Turkish girls at a Koran school

An uneasy feeling overcomes many Germans when they walk through some city neighborhoods only to see more and more women veiled head to toe. Or they hear of obscure Koran courses taking place in back-alley mosques.

On the other hand, many young Muslims from immigrant families complain they feel unrecognized or worse, discriminated against. At a time of high unemployment and a government slashing welfare benefits, the potential for conflict is increasing.

One thing must remain without a doubt: radical Islamists who preach violence or against "infidels" or democracy must face full prosecution. Where suspicion lies that such activities are occurring, then it must be possible for authorities to spy on the group.

Tag der offenen Moschee

Once a year, mosques in Germany open their doors to all visitors

Painting all Muslims as potential threats and observing all mosques would be going to far though. In fact, this could have the reverse effect and unify secular/moderate Muslims with radical Islamists.

When all is said and done, Germany, both the people and the country, must assure young Muslims from immigrant families that they will learn the language, receive a good education and have a fair chance on the labor market. Also needed is the recognition of Islam as a religion on the same level with Christianity and Judaism.

For the Muslims' part, their organizations must be more open to the German public and when the need arises, cooperate closely with the authorities. Ideological agitators or violent criminals must not be tolerated with silence. Radical Islamists not only are a danger to a society that demands coexistence. They also damage the image of Islam.

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