German Muslims question motives of Protestant document

By staff writers
February 2, 2007

Four Muslim organizations in Germany have called off a meeting with Protestant leaders planned for February 2007, saying there is a need for "considerable explanation" about recently-published church guidelines urging greater clarity in Christian-Muslim relations reports Ecumenical News International (ENI).

Germany's top Protestant bishop, Wolfgang Huber, said in comments to leaders of the four Muslim organizations made available on 31 January: "I was particularly surprised that your justification for cancelling the meeting was the need for further discussion."

The meeting between the Muslim groups and the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), the country's main Protestant grouping, had been scheduled for Tuesday 6 February in Berlin.

The EKD published the guidelines in November 2006 in a document entitled, 'Clarity and being good neighbours'. It said "mistakes and conflicts" relating to the integration of Muslims in Germany needed to be addressed by the followers of the two faiths, the German Protestant news agency epd reported.

The document highlighted the issues of religious conversion, the role of women and religiously-motivated violence. It stated that cultural identity could not take priority over human rights, and that the systematic unequal treatment of men and women, so-called "honour killings", female circumcision, and forced marriages could not be tolerated in a democracy.

Muslims account for about 3.4 per cent of Germany's 82.4 million people. Protestants and Roman Catholics account for about a third each.

The EKD document said the wearing of Muslim headscarves by women teachers raised doubts about their suitability to teach at state schools, something that raised the ire of Germany's Islam Council.

The council's chairperson, Ali Kizilkaya, said the EKD document raised the question as to whether the issue was about proselytising Muslims or understanding Islam.

In his comments to the Muslim groups, Bishop Huber said he regretted there would now be no opportunity to discuss what had been intended by the EKD document or the reaction of Muslim leaders to the guidelines. He said it would be up to the Muslim groups to propose a date for a new meeting.

A first top-level meeting between the EKD and the four Muslim groups - the central Turkish-Islamic Union of the Institute for Religion, the Islam Council, the Association of Islamic Cultural Centres and the Central Council of Muslims - took place in January 2005. A second meeting followed in March 2006.

[With grateful acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches]

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