(C15) Coordination Councils of Muslims in Germany: Political Steering towards Integration?

With some 3 to 3.4 million members, Muslims are the third largest religious group in Germany after the Catholics and Protestants. Politics increasingly discusses this group’s economic integration problems, but also sees topics regarding culture and religious practice as important. This leads to an increased need for action on the part of the public actors. In 2007, the Federal Ministry of the Interior (Bundesministerium des Inneren, BMI) founded the “Deutsche Islam Konferenz” (German Islam Conference, DIK), thus creating an instrument “to initiate a long-term negotiation and communication process between representatives of the German state and representatives of the Muslims living in Germany” (BMI 2008).

So on the one hand, this conference constitutes the first institutionalised dialogue between representatives of the German state and representatives of the Muslims in Germany, and at the same time, it points to the problems of the Islamic interest groups’ organisational segmentation. The multiplicity of Islamic organisations, their no more than fragmentary interconnectedness, as well as the fact that the Muslims’ self organisation process is perceived as halting overall, are often referred to as insufficient as regards the integration efforts of public actors. Therefore, one consequence of the DIK was the foundation of the head organisation, “Koordinationsrate der Muslime in Deutschland” (Coordinating Committee of Muslims in Germany, KRM), by the four large umbrella organisations, the “Zentralrat der Muslime in Deutschland” (Central Council of Muslims in Germany), the “Türkisch-Islamische Union der Anstalt für Religion” (Turkish-Islamic Union of the Institute for Religion), the “Islamrat für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland” (Islam Council for the Federal Republic of Germany, IRD) and the “Verband der Islamischen Kulturzentren” (Association of the Islamic Cultural Centres).

These new institutionalisation efforts in the relationship of the state and Muslims in Germany can basically be looked at from two points of view: from the top-down perspective of the state on the one hand and from the bottom-up perspective of the various interests of Muslims in Germany on the other hand. To begin with, the foundation of the KRM, initiated by the state, actively constructs a point of contact in order to even set up the conditions for coordinated integration politics, so that it must be asked whether the Committee fulfils the function of a “toehold” for the enforcement of political objectives. In the face of this public integration strategy it is of interest, for instance, if the multiplicity of interests among the Muslim actors is really reduced or pooled through the foundation of a head organisation, or if this public strategy does not possibly cause a (further) differentiation of interests.

From the point of view of the KRM, on the other hand, it is about the interests of the actors associated in the Committee: is the KRM an adequate instrument of cooperation, but also of emancipation? In order to answer this question, apart from representing the heterogeneity of interests and the objective set of participants, the premises must also be asked for under which the KRM came into existence. At the same time, with regard to the influence on political decisions, the scope of the KRM’s claim for representation towards the entirety of Muslims living in Germany is also of interest.