Although the official topic of Germany's annual Islam Conference was about domestic violence and forced marriage, a recent campaign by Salafist Muslims to distribute free Korans was a key topic of discussion.
Senior German officials gathered in Berlin on Thursday for their annual conference with the Muslim leaders from around the country. One of the main talking points of the conference was a recent drive by fundamentalist Salafist Muslims to hand out free copies of the Koran, although it was not officially on the agenda.
"We all agree that Salafist extremism is not acceptable and does not work in a free society, as we have in Germany," said German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, adding that the Salafists did not have the support of the majority of Germany's Muslims.
Salafists advocate a strict interpretation of Islamic Shariah law, and many are under surveillance by Germany's domestic intelligence agencies, which see the movement as a threat to free democracy.
Also on the agenda of the Islam Conference was the issue of domestic violence and forced marriages, which was more in keeping with the official theme, 'Gender equality as a common value.' (Geschlechtergerechtigkeit als gemeinsamen Wert leben)
The conference issued a statement saying that everyone has the right to "freedom from physical and mental harm, as well as the right to enter a marriage or to refrain from it by their own decision and in the framework of the applicable laws."
"Domestic violence and the practice of forced marriage do not originate from a particular religion, but come from certain traditional, patriarchal structures," the statement continued. "Muslims taking part in the German Islam Conference state explicitly that Islam rejects domestic violence and marriage that come about against the will of one of the partners."
According to a study conducted by the women's rights organization Terre des Femmes and the Hamburg-based Lawaetz Foundation released in November, 2011, 830 counselling centers in Germany registered 3,443 forced marriages in 2008, the year used in the study.
The report indicated 83.4 percent of the parents of forced marriage victims were Muslims. Almost a third of the victims of attempts at forced marriage, whether successful or unsuccessful, were 17 years old or younger. Forty percent were between 18 and 21 years old.
The Islam Conference was initiated in 2006 to facilitate dialogue between Muslim leaders and the German government.
mz/pfd (AFP, dpa)