Islam confronts us Christians with long-overdue debates”

patertobiaszimmermannFather Tobias Zimmermann, long grey hair, an earring in his left ear, is head teacher of the Canisius Kolleg in Berlin, one of three Jesuit schools in Germany. The school describes itself as a secondary school “with Christian-Humanist character”. Young people should not only receive a good education here, but also mature to become responsible people. Zimmermann’s decision to hire a headscarf-wearing Muslim woman as a teacher caused something of a furore in Berlin. Newspapers such as Die Welt, the Tagesspiegel and the Berliner Zeitung reported on the story, as well as the regional public broadcaster RBB. As Zimmermann is keen to stress at the outset, he was rather surprised at the media storm.  After all, he’d only appointed a teacher, hadn’t he?

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Father Zimmermann, at a time when the AfD is represented in the Bundestag, you appointed a Muslim teacher at a Catholic school. Did you intend to make some kind of statement?

Pater Tobias Zimmermann: No. The key factor was that this woman was very well qualified for the post. And it wasn’t because we had too few applicants either. But how to deal with such an eventuality was something we had already discussed in advance. We’ve had a very diverse staff for a long time now: many of the teachers are Catholic of course, while a few grew up in East Germany and never had the chance to get to know Christianity from the inside. Others are Protestant. As far as the Muslims are concerned, today’s situation reminds of the 1970s. Back then, we made the decision to begin accepting Protestant students. And then at some point, we appointed Protestant teachers too.

kopftuchOver the past two years, you’ve started up two classes at the school for refugee children. Did the decision have something to do with that?

Zimmermann: Of course. We’ve got around 30 Muslim students at the school today, which gives Islam a different visibility. And it also gives rise to new questions: do we now need different spaces for prayer? Not necessarily Islamic, but at least ones where followers of different religions can pray together. We’re also thinking about whether we should be offering Islamic religious studies.

So do children need to be taught by teachers who share their cultural background?

Zimmermann: Not exclusively, of course. But for me, school also offers the possibility for experimentation. Here we have the opportunity to enter into a dialogue with one another. And if society, such as it is here in Berlin, is characterised by a variety of world views, then this should be reflected in our teaching staff. As a Christian school we’re experimenting here with something I believe constitutes a good school.

FULL ARTICLE FROM QANTARA.DE

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Far-Right German Politician Resigns from Islamophobic Party and Converts to Islam Politics Far-Right German Politician Resigns from Islamophobic Party and Converts to Islam

GettyImages-884449208In Germany, there is a far-right political party that has drawn many comparisons to another far-right party from the country’s past. The AfD, or Alternative for Germany (Deutschland) is known for their anti-refugee, anti-Muslim, and all-around awful positions, and in the most recent German election they made giant strides toward the mainstream by actually winning 90 seats in Parliament. This is a party that has had leaders like Björn Höcke, who complained about the Holocaust memorial in Berlin saying: “We Germans are the only nation in the world to have planted a monument of shame in the heart of their capital.” That remark caused controversy, and the AfD said they would expel Höcke for it…but then they just didn’t. Oh, not scary enough for you? Well, how about the fact that they’ve taken to using Nazi buzzwords like lügenpresse (lying press) and völkisch (a term used by the Nazis for people they deemed truly German).

FULL ARTICLE FROM GENTLEMEN’S QUARTERLY

Trump’s Demonization of Muslims Echoes a Dark Chapter in German History

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On the morning of November 29, 2017, the President of the United States re-tweeted a series of videos allegedly depicting Muslim acts of violence against Christians and Christian symbols. They had originally been posted by a member of the far right, nationalist Britain First group. It was an outrageous act of bigotry and hatred on the part of the President. It may also prove to be an act of incitement—a further act of incitement, I should say. After all, this was no isolated incident. It’s part of a clear pattern of hateful rhetoric and action directed at a specific religious community that has already contributed to a dangerous environment for American Muslims.

During his campaign for the presidency, Donald Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” The reason he gave was terrorism. “We cannot let this evil continue,” he declared during a speech in Florida in September 2016. “Nor can we let the hateful ideology of radical Islam . . . be allowed to reside or spread within our country.” For Trump, as for many of his followers, there existed a fundamental connection between Muslims and terrorism (or “radical Islamic terrorism” as he made sure to call it at every opportunity).

Driving the connection home even more forcefully, he declared in August 2016 his intention to “screen out any who have hostile attitudes towards our country or its principles — or who believe that sharia law should supplant American law.” Sharia, or Muslim religious law, Trump was saying, and terrorism were inherently related. Terrorists are Muslims. Muslims are terrorists. Where could there be a place for such a demonized group within Trump’s American national community? What are the consequences of such a message being relentlessly driven home?

FULL ARTICLE FROM HISTORY NEWS NETWORK 

In Germany, a new ‘feminist’ Islam is hoping to make a mark

Inside the red-brick building that now houses the German capital’s newest and perhaps most unusual mosque, Seyran Ates is staging a feminist revolution of the Muslim faith.

“Allahu akbar,” chanted a female voice, uttering the Arabic expression “God is great,” as a woman with two-toned hair issued the Muslim call to prayer. In another major break with tradition, men and women — typically segregated during worship — heeded the call by sitting side by side on the carpeted floor.

Ates, a self-proclaimed Muslim feminist and founder of the new mosque, then stepped onto the cream-colored carpet and delivered a stirring sermon. Two imams — a woman and a man — later took turns leading the Friday prayers in Arabic. The service ended with the congregation joining two visiting rabbis in singing a Hebrew song of friendship.

And just like that, the inaugural Friday prayers at Berlin’s Ibn Rushd-Goethe Mosque came to a close — offering a different vision of Islam on a continent that is locked in a bitter culture war over how and whether to welcome the faith. Toxic ills like radicalization, Ates and her supporters argue, have a potentially easy fix: the introduction of a more progressive, even feminist brand of the faith.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WASHINGTON POST 

Germans consider Protestant bishops, Muslim writer for their next president

German writer Navid Kermani arrives for the ceremony to receive the Peace Prize of the German book trade (Friedenspreis des Deutschen Buchhandels) at the Church of St. Paul in Frankfurt(RNS) While Americans watched Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump fighting to the finish in a noisy and polarized campaign, Germans were quietly debating their own presidential election in far different terms.

Among the names put forward as candidates are two leading Protestant bishops — one of them a woman — and even a respected Muslim writer.

That’s not the only way the presidential election in Berlin next February will be different from the American contest.

German presidents are figureheads without real power, nominated by the parties in Parliament and indirectly elected by its members along with representatives of the state assemblies. They spend a lot of time meeting visiting dignitaries, addressing conferences and cutting ribbons.

But one job qualification that stands out is the idea that a president should be a moral leader willing and able to speak about the state of the nation’s soul. Pundits like to call this the “preacher in chief” aspect of the job.

FULL ARTICLE FROM RELIGION NEWS SERVICE 

Rock concert, rallies overwhelm Germany’s anti-Islam group

People hold a banner at rally to protest against the movement of Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West (PEGIDA) in front of the Frauenkirche church in Dresden(Reuters) – Germany’s anti-Islam PEGIDA movement was overwhelmed by opponents of the far-right group at a rock concert for tolerance in Dresden on Monday and enormously popular counter-demonstrations in cities across the country.

More than 22,000 cheered German rock stars at an anti-PEGIDA rally in Dresden, where the movement that argues the country is being overrun by Muslims and refugees began in October. In Frankfurt 70 PEGIDA backers were outnumbered by 15,000.

“It’s great that you’re all here with us to send a signal tonight,” said Herbert Groenemeyer, one of Germany’s best-selling rock artists at the hastily organized free concert under the motto “Open and colorful — Dresden is for everyone.”

“It’s horrible and sad what’s been happening in some people’s minds lately — creating an atmosphere of hysteria where one religious group is being targeted as the scapegoat. It’s absurd, mean, unjust, undemocratic and completely unacceptable.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM REUTERS

Christian clergy are fighting against Germany’s anti-Islam protests

DV1923770_tstmp_1420242679The famous Cologne cathedral planned to switch off its lights on Monday evening as a sign of protest against “anti-Islam” marchers assembling in the German city. Demonstrations staged by a populist movement dubbed “Pegida” — the German acronym for Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamicization of the West — have shaken Germany for the past month, drawing big crowds in a handful of cities and condemnation from the country’s Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Critics say the movement is a vehicle for far-right hate and neo-fascism. The weekly marches are emulating pro-democracy protests that took place in East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall and Soviet Union. But they are animated by far different beliefs.

Pegida supporters claim to represent a considerable spectrum of German society, fearful about the consequences of an influx of refugees and asylum seekers, many of whom are Muslim. They say they are anti-extremist, but others point to the prevalence of hate groups among Pegida’s ranks and say the movement is nothing more than dressed-up, “pinstriped Nazis.”

In a New Year address, Merkel urged her compatriots to reject Pegidabecause “their hearts are cold and often full of prejudice.” The center-right leader’s comments have been largely backed by the rest of the country’s political and business elites, who dislike the xenophobic image of Germany conveyed by Pegida’s marches.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WASHINGTON POST