Wednesday 28 November 2018

Muslims in Non Muslim Countries: Germany

Like most of the prescient European countries, Muslims moved to Germany as part of the diplomatic, military and economic relations between Germany and the Ottoman Empire in the 17-18th centuries. The first Muslims came to Germany as prisoners of war from the Siege of Vienna by the Ottomans (1683). The majority of these prisoners were in fact either baptized or returned to their homeland. Twenty Muslim soldiers are said to have served under Frederick William I of Prussia, at the beginning of the eighteenth century. In 1745, Frederick II of Prussia established a unit of Muslims in the Prussian army called the "Muslim Riders" and consisting mainly of Bosniaks, Albanians and Tatars. In 1760 a Bosniak corps was established with about 1,000 men. 

In 1798 a Muslim cemetery was established in Berlin. The Türkischer Friedhof Berlin cemetery, which moved in 1866, still exists today. In the First World War, the Ottoman Empire fought on Germany’s side and fallen Turkish soldiers were buried at the cemetery, since when it has also borne the name Şehitlik, meaning ‘martyrs’. The Şehitlik mosque directly beside it was built between 1999 and 2005 and took its name from the cemetery. 150 graves are still preserved today.

In the First World War the Ottoman Empire fought on the side of the Central Powers. Consequently, Muslim prisoners of war from the Allies on the one hand came to two internment camps in Wünsdorf and Zossen near Berlin, whilst the Ottoman armed services on the other hand came to Berlin. The first mosque to be erected on German soil was in the so-called "Halbmondlager" [Half Moon Camp] in Wünsdorf. The wooden domed structure with its 25-meter-high minaret, modeled on the Dome of the Rock, did not exist for long, however, and was demolished in 1930, having fallen into a state of disrepair.
The Wünsdorf Mosque [Photo]

It may be interesting for many to know that the presently rather abhorred word "Jihad" was used by Germany to its favour. During the First World War, German officials created a newspaper called “El Dschihad” (Jihad) to encourage Muslim soldiers from other countries to fight their “holy war”, according to the German Historical Museum in Berlin. Even the first mosque constructed in Germany was a part of this strategy, allowing prisoners to practice their religion, and then to teach them about the holy war in order to convince them to fight alongside Germany against the Allies. [1]

It was after the First World War that Muslims as students found their way into German colleges and universities. and thus the number of Muslims started to increase. However, the Muslims came to Germany en mass  with the signing of recruitment agreements with Muslim states, such as Turkey (1961), Morocco (1963), Tunisia (1965) and Yugoslavia (1968). A stop was put on recruitment during the economic crisis of 1973. 

Today, Germany ranks fifth in EU for relative Muslim population size. Between 2010 and 2016, the number of Muslims living in Germany rose from 3.3 million (4.1% of the population) to nearly 5 million (6.1%), while the rest of the population shrank modestly from 77.1 million to 76.5 million. Immigration has been a major factor in the growth of Germany’s Muslim population. But, even if there is no more immigration, Muslims will continue to increase as a share of Germany’s population in future decades because German Muslims, on average, are much younger and have more babies than Germans as a whole. [4]

Today Turks constitute a large majority of Muslims in Germany (63.2%), followed by smaller groups from Pakistan, countries of the former Yugoslavia, Arab countries, Iran and Afghanistan. The majority of Muslims in Germany are Sunnis, at 75%. There are Shia Muslims (7%) and mostly from Iran.

Turks, who constitute a major portion of the peaceful "parallel society" in Germany, are well established and are running major businesses across Germany, specially in provision of Halal meat. One can easily find number of famous Turkish "Donor Kebabs" shops which are a haven for all Muslims. Likewise, most of the mosques are owned by Turkey, followed by many by the Arabs and some by Pakistanis. 
A Turkish Kebab shop, Germany

There is a large number of students from Pakistan studying in universalities of Germany and then rendering useful hand in German industries and companies. My two sons are also in Germany and have done their Masters in IT and are employed in one of the leading companies of Germany. The Pakistan students' communities are well managed in all major cities which frequently hold national days of Pakistan, besides other cultural events

My wife poses with our son at the entrance of his university in Kiel, Germany

Generally, the Muslims are a useful part of German society and when I visited Germany in 2014, I found them practicing their religious obligations side by side their routine activities meshing perfectly well in the German society. The prayer halls and mosques are in abundance and are well organized and managed by local communities.

Herein under are impressions of a Pakistan living in Munich for quite sometimes: [7]

  • Germans are generally very accommodating and don't do racial/religious jokes because of their own tragic history. International people also take a lot of care not to make any Nazi/Hitler joke with any German because it's a very sensitive topic. If a Muslim goes to bar and asks for non alcoholic drink, no one is surprised. Though in some cases Germans might ask you for the first time but if you tell them you are Muslim and don't drink alcohol then they won't ask you second time or make a joke of it. 
  • One Pakistani living in Munich observes that: "Majority of Germans specially the young generation are very tolerant and don't care what media tells them. If they are curious then they will ask you instead of giving a verdict on what they came to know from media. This was really impressive and totally unlike how majority of Americans are brainwashed by Fox News about Muslims and Islam. I myself organized a vigil in Munich city center in response to the tragic attack by the terrorists in school in Peshawar back in Dec, 2014 in Pakistan. I was easily given permission for that and in fact, there were 2 policemen with us throughout for our safety. Many Germans stopped and took part in the prayers along with a big number of international community who specially came for the vigil."
  • Overall, I believe life of Muslims is much more comfortable in Germany as compared to living in Italy, UK or France considering current scenario. Angela Merkel didn't take any anti-Islam stance after Charlie Hebdo attack unlike France and UK. Muslim families are encouraged to integrate with the society and learn German language but I haven't heard anyone complaining that any individual/organization forced to abstain from any religious practice. 

After the recent flux of the immigrants due to open door policy of Germany, many social issues have come up. While majority of the immigrants are peaceful and are trying to learn German language and seeking admission in colleges and universities to be a useful citizen of Germany, some foul incidents have been over magnified, like the incident of a "brutal killing" of a German man, allegedly at the hands of two Muslim refugees. [4] Although many murders do take place in Germany every day, but since it involved a Muslim and Germans, it seems the incident had been blown out of proportion. 

As per a Pew Research Center report: "In general, Germans express positive views of refugees, with most saying they make Germany stronger because of their hard work and talents (59%), rather than being a burden by taking jobs and social benefits (31%). Most Germans also see Muslims in their country in a positive light: Roughly two-thirds say they have a “very favorable” (10%) or “mostly favorable” (55%) view of Muslims, compared with about three-in-ten who express a mostly (23%) or very (6%) unfavorable opinion. At the same time, there is widespread uncertainty about integration. A majority of Germans (61%) believe most Muslims in Germany “want to be distinct from the larger German society,” rather than adopting “Germany’s customs and way of life.” [4]

There is yet another dimension to the thinking in Germany: To many non-Muslim Germans, the comparatively high significance that many Muslims attach to divine laws raises the question of to whom all the immigrants and refugees who have come to us in recent years would rather pledge allegiance and loyalty: the state that took them in, or Allah? The German minister for the interior, Horst Seehofer, addressed this fear with a sentence that was meant as a reassurance to voters: “Islam does not belong to Germany,” earlier this year.  [3]

As a fallout of growing anti Muslim sentiments, in 2017, Muslims and Islamic institutions were targeted by attacks 950 times, where houses are painted with Nazi symbols, hijab-wearing women are harassed, threatening letters are sent and 33 people were injured. In nearly all cases, the perpetrators were right-wing extremists. [2]

Thus today, Muslims live in Germany between a wide wedge of higher shade Love / acceptance and varying shades of hate / mistrust, trying to merge into the German society.

Here now watch a short but comprehensive documentary of Muslims in Germany from the beginning till date:

Photo (Header): Zentralmoschee Köln | References: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 45 | 6 | 7 |
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