Continuation despite tensions

Continuation despite tensions

Islamic instruction © Frank Rumpenhorst

Despite recent differences, North Rhine-Westphalia’s state government plans to continue cooperating with the controversial German-Turkish umbrella organization Ditib on Muslim religious instruction for now.

"We want the continuation of the dialogue with the Islamic associations, which is important for us," said Minister President Hannelore Kraft (SPD) on Friday in Dusseldorf. At the same time, it said it is reviewing whether Ditib and three other Muslim associations are sufficiently distant from the state to be recognized as religious communities in the future.

Islamic confessional instruction in German

"We stand by our status process," the prime minister stressed. Islamic religious instruction in the German language must become an integral part of schools in North Rhine-Westphalia and "must not be pushed into backyard mosques".

Representatives of DITIB and three other Muslim associations are members of an eight-person advisory board to the state government, which decides on the content of Islamic confessional instruction and the addition of religion teachers. This transitional model expires in 2019. The state government is seeking to have the associations recognized as a religious community.

Because of the restriction of fundamental rights in Turkey, massive criticism of Ditib had recently been voiced in Germany. The organization is subordinate to the Turkish religious authority Diaynet and, according to experts, structurally, financially and ideologically dependent on the state leadership around President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Cooperation on Salafism prevention project ends

At the beginning of this week, it became known that NRW Interior Minister Ralf Jager (SPD) had terminated the cooperation with Ditib on the Salafism prevention project "Wegweiser". In a children’s comic for religious education, the organization had glorified martyrdom. Kraft confirmed that the Interior Ministry had not established sufficient distance from either the martyrdom or the comic in response to queries to Ditib. For the state government, however, it is important that a cooperative organization "aggressively rejects martyrdom". It was not enough for Ditib to describe this terminology as "merely worthy of discussion".

Nevertheless, the German-Turkish umbrella organization still has a right to a procedure for recognition as a religious community, the prime minister emphasized. She is working in "close cooperation" with all the state parliamentary groups and is enlisting the help of an independent expert. At the same time, Kraft made it clear that Ditib is not currently producing teaching materials for Islamic religious instruction in NRW schools.

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