MAINZ – Progress is being made with the recognition of Islamic religious communities in Rhineland-Palatinate – at least symbolically. On Wednesday, the country signed target agreements with the four Islam associations Ahmadyyia, Schura, Ditib, and Islamic Cultural Centers. The associations are to implement this in the next 18 months, in order to then enter into official contract negotiations with the country and to be officially recognized as a religious community.
“This is a step with important symbolism and I am optimistic that we will take further steps in the next 18 months,” said Science Minister Konrad Wolf (SPD). “In the interviews, all of the problems identified were dealt with, recognized and addressed. It now depends on whether the necessary changes are actually implemented. We need trust and strong relationships. This also means that criticism is expressed openly. ”The Islam associations are interested in solutions and would promote the dialogue process internally.
Agree on common values
Trust had been damaged in the past few years. After the coup in Turkey in summer 2016, the contract negotiations were suspended and canceled two years later. Instead, expert opinions were obtained and the now signed target agreements were formulated. It agreed on common values. In the following process, the four associations should ensure in their statutes and with their actions that they act independently of third parties – above all from the government in Ankara, but also from the German umbrella organizations.
This homework mainly affects Ditib and Schura. For example, Ditib should name its board candidates independently, free themselves from the influence of Turkey and pave the way for, if necessary, disciplinary proceedings against imams that were sent by the Turkish religious office Diyanet. Shura should also become more independent and improve internal conflict management, Ahmadiyya and the Islamic Cultural Centers should establish transparent public relations work.
Development of Islamic religious education
In return, the country wants to support the establishment of Islamic religious education and teacher training in Islamic theology. Wolf envisions the University of Koblenz as the location for this training. According to Minister of Education Stefanie Hubig (SPD), the demand for Islamic religious education is increasing. It is currently offered at 14 primary and seven secondary schools, four of which were added in the current school year.
Wolf considers the 18-month window to be appropriate, even if the next step will only follow after the state election. The associations are organized on a voluntary basis, they have to be given time for internal consultation. What the around 200,000 Muslims in Rhineland-Palatinate currently need even more is encouragement, believes the State Integration Commissioner Miguel Vicente: “Many are going through a difficult phase of distrust.” The target agreements could at least reduce this.