TAG | Germany
Cross-posted on the Corner:
One obvious concern about Angela Merkel’s decision last year to, so to speak, throw open the doors to Germany was the obvious risk that potential jihadists were among those that she was welcoming into the country. That concern hasn’t gone away, and nor should it, but here (via Reuters) is a twist:
Hani Salam escaped civil war in Syria and survived the journey from Egypt to Europe. But when he saw men with bushy long beards at a mosque near his current home in Cologne last November, he was worried. The men’s appearance reminded him of Jaish al-Islam, the Islamist rebels who took over his hometown near Damascus, said Salam, 36, who wears a mustache but no beard. One of them told Salam that “good Muslims grow beards, not moustaches,” he recalled – a centuries-old idea that he dismisses. “Everything about this mosque made me feel uneasy,” he said.
Syrians in Germany say many of the country’s Arab mosques are more conservative than those at home. Over two months, a dozen Syrians in six places of worship in three cities told Reuters they were uncomfortable with very conservative messages in Arabic-speaking mosques. People have criticized the way the newcomers dress and practice their religion, they said. Some insisted the Koran be interpreted word-for-word.
In Germany, other different faiths are traditionally supported by the state. But most of the country’s four million Muslims originally came from Turkey and attend Turkish-speaking mosques which are partly funded by Ankara. Last year around 890,000 asylum-seekers, more than 70 percent of them Muslims, entered the country. Around a third came from Syria. Many of them do not want to go to Turkish mosques because they do not understand the sermons. They prefer to worship where people speak Arabic. Yet in these mosques, other problems arise. They are often short of funds, or else supported by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. Some back ultra-conservative or highly literal interpretations of Islam, such as Wahhabism or Salafism.
Ah, the Saudis, yet again: Our allies. Still spreading poison, it seems.
And the Salafists have been trying a little outreach:
Germany’s domestic intelligence agency has recorded more than 320 attempts by Salafist Muslims to contact refugees last year, often by offering food, clothes, free copies of the Koran and help with German to asylum seekers living in shelters. Earlier this month, a Syrian committed suicide in prison after he was arrested on suspicion of planning to bomb an airport. His brother and friends in Germany have said he was “brainwashed” by ultra-conservative imams in Berlin…
Read the whole thing
How the Roman Catholic Church chooses to decide who is—and who is not a Roman Catholic—is up to that church. Even so, this is quite a story (from Reuters):
Liberal and conservative Roman Catholic activists in Germany criticised a decree that came into effect on Monday to deny sacraments and religious burials to people who opt out of a “church tax”.
The German bishops issued the decree last week warning Catholics who stop paying the tax they would be excluded from all religious activities, also including working in a church job, becoming a godparent or taking part in parish activities.
“‘Pay and pray’ is a completely wrong signal at the wrong time,” the reformist movement We Are Church said on Monday. The decree “shows the great fear of the German bishops and the Vatican about further serious losses in church tax revenue.”
A conservative group called the Union of Associations Loyal to the Pope asked why Catholics who stop paying the tax would be punished but those it called heretics could stay in its ranks.
“So sacraments are for sale – whoever pays the church tax can receive the sacraments,” it said in a statement, saying the link the decree created “goes beyond the sale of indulgences that (Martin) Luther denounced” at the start of the Reformation.
German tax offices collect a religious tax worth 8 or 9 percent of the annual regular tax bill of registered Catholics, Protestants and Jews and channel it to those faiths. An official declaration that one is leaving the faith frees the citizen from this tax….
In its combination of sanctimony, self-importance and taxpayer-funded extravagance, here—from Germany—is a perfect little tale of today’s political class:
Education Minister Annette Schavan flew to a personal audience with Pope Benedict XVI using a military jet, at a cost of around €150,000 – despite commercial flights being available – according to a report in Der Spiegel.
Her trip with three advisors involved a general audience and a short private conversation, after which the minister reported that he was looking forward to his trip to Germany. And although there were several commercial connections between Berlin and Rome, Schavan used a Bundeswehr jet, at a cost of around €150,000, the magazine reported on Saturday – she said she could not have fitted everything in otherwise.
Guidelines say that ministers should only resort to such measures, “when the journey cannot be undertaken by using public transport or cars, or if other crucial official business cannot be conducted without using the airforce’s airplanes.”
Schavan said that she could not have made it to a reception of the German ambassador on the evening before her meeting with the pope if she had taken a commercial flight. She had been taking part in the Islam conference in Berlin that afternoon until at least 3 p.m.
Her spokesman said her return journey by military jet was also necessary because she had to deliver a speech to the expert forum on education in the economy in Nordhorn, Lower Saxony, as soon as she arrived back in Germany.
Ah yes. Well, I’m sure the meeting with the pope was of vital importance, as indeed must have been the minister’s attendance at the ambassador’s reception and, of course, the not-to-be-missed “expert forum on education”.
Most of the time I think that American liberal shift from that term to “progressive” is kind of strange, since everyone knows that progressive means liberal. But sometimes I wonder if one of its positive benefits is to dampen the confusion which always occurs when one conflates the American (and somewhat Anglo) usage of the term liberal with the international usage. I thought of this when seeing this article in The New York Times, State Election Adds to Gains by Liberals in Germany:
Parties on the German left prevailed in a regional election in the northeastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania on Sunday, with the center-left Social Democrats swept back to power and the Greens elected to the regional parliament for the first time, according to preliminary results.
The biggest losers in the state election in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania were the Free Democrats, a pro-business party that is a coalition partner with Mrs. Merkel’s Christian Democrats in the federal government. The party won only 3 percent of the state vote, after winning more than 9 percent in 2006. The Free Democrats will be excluded from the regional parliament because they failed to win at least 5 percent of the votes, the minimum required.
First, observe that the term “liberal” is not used once in the article itself. The term “left” is used. But the headline uses liberal. Why? I assume that the headline writer is not familiar with the German political scene, and naturally translated “center-left” as “liberal” because that is what would come to mind in the United States. But the reality is that in Germany the pro-business Free Democrats are the liberals! Liberal in the classical and European sense. This isn’t some reading-between-the-lines understanding, the Free Democrats are explicitly a liberal party. From Wikipedia:
The FDP, which strongly supports human rights, civil liberties, and internationalism, has shifted from the centre to the centre-right over time. Since the 1980s, the party has firmly pushed economic liberalism, and has aligned itself closely to the promotion of free markets and privatisation. It is a member of the Liberal International and European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party, and is the joint-largest member of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe group in the European Parliament.
To make it more clear, its youth wing is called the “Young Liberals”, Junge Liberale in German. So naturally when I read the title I was shocked, as I knew that the FDP was going through some hard times.
This is all rather amusing and without much substance. But, it does show that The New York Times is not quite so cosmopolitan as to deftly negotiate different terminologies in a way which doesn’t manage to garble.
Writing over on the Corner, I’ve put up a few posts on the hand-wringing in Europe over the allegedly unseemly American response to the death of bin Laden, not to speak of the (manufactured) outrage over the the failure to bring him to trial.
As one might expect, England’s idiot savant Archbishop of Canterbury has been prominent amongst the hand-wringers, but it’s his German brethren who have really taken the lead, prompted, it seems, by a few mild words from Angela Merkel.
The Financial Times has a useful summary here:
Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, is a cautious and risk-averse leader who normally chooses her words with great care. Above all, she avoids saying anything to alarm the supersensitive German electorate. On the subject of the US operation that resulted in the killing of Osama bin Laden, however, she has risked the wrath of many voters to demonstrate her solidarity with Washington.
It is good news. I am happy that they have succeeded in killing bin Laden,” Ms Merkel declared at a press conference shortly after his death was announced on Monday.
Ever since, she has been the target of criticism from all political parties, including her own, as well as from representatives of leading German churches. Alois Glück, president of the central committee of German Catholics, called her words “mistaken and very annoying”. Martin Dutzmann, army bishop for the Protestant evangelical church, said: “It would have been good news if he had been arrested, leading to a proper judicial process.”
From within her own Christian Democratic Union – a party that boasts strong Christian roots – came sharp words from Siegfried Kauder, brother of the party’s parliamentary leader Volker Kauder, and chairman of the legal affairs committee in the Bundestag. “The principle that the end justifies the means has no legal foundation,” he said.
Eberhard Schockenhoff, a Catholic theologian, whose brother Andreas is the foreign affairs spokesman for the CDU in parliament, said: “The violent death of a man should never be a cause for joy.”
These people really need to get over themselves.