Germany will tighten control over foreign influence of its Muslim community, State Secretary for the Interior Ministry Markus Kerber said Monday, after a week of violent far-right clashes in eastern Germany.
“We have watched foreign forces dictate to German Muslims how to practice their religion for far too long,” Kerber told Tagesspiegel in an interview published Monday. “And because they also have their home here, we will now lend them more support in strengthening their self-confidence.”
“We want to create more discussion formats for German Muslims,” Kerber added. “The minister will also actively encourage German Muslims to conduct a debate on a German Islam.”
According to Kerber, that debate will take place within the so-called Islamkonferenz, which Kerber set up as the interior ministry’s head of policy under Wolfgang Schäuble between 2006-2009 as a “forum for dialogue” on the relationship between Islam and the state.
Kerber responded to Interior Minister Horst Seehofer’s controversial claim earlier this year that Islam “doesn’t belong in Germany” by saying, “If there is to be an Islam that belongs to Germany, German Muslims must define it as ‘German Islam.’”
His latest comments come ahead of an official state visit from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Relations with Turkey — an important strategic partner for Berlin, including on managing migration — remain fraught. Footballer Mesut Özil, who was born in Germany to Turkish parents, quitting Germany’s national team sparked a debate on integration, with a number of German-born children of immigrants — many of whom Turkish — taking to social media to share stories of racist behavior under the hashtag #metwo.
“We want to help Muslims in Germany to find their own religiousness,” Kerber said. “This may not please Ankara and will lead to conflicts. But we’ll hold out.”