Portrait Dr. Remko Leemhuis
/ Comment

The Central Council of Muslims in Germany currently lacks credibility

This article first appeared in WELT.

After police in Essen prevented a racist terrorist attack at a school a few weeks ago, Aiman Mazyek commented, "Right-wing extremism and right-wing extremist ideologies pose the greatest danger to our democracies." Undoubtedly an apt description.

However, the chairman of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany (ZMD) has a credibility problem, to put it mildly, when he, of all people, denounces right-wing extremism and warns of its dangers. After all, the largest member organization of the ZMD is the "Union of Turkish-Islamic Cultural Associations in Europe e.V." (ATIB).

As shown in the official report on the protection of the constitution for 2021, published in early June, ATIB is ideologically affiliated with the Turkish “Grey Wolves”, which, with 18,000 followers, is one of the strongest right-wing extremist movements in this country.

The fascist ideology of the Grey Wolves is heavily influenced by antisemitism, and its followers systematically spread racist hatred against members of the Kurdish, Yezidi and Alevi communities and other minorities.

In view of this fact, one must ask why, even in Germany’s highest political circles, the ZMD continues to be considered and accepted as a representative and credible point of contact for German Muslims.

It would certainly not occur to politicians and state institutions in this country to favor an association in which Reichsbürger or supporters of neo-Nazi parties such as the NPD were organized – and rightly so.

In this context, politicians and ministries frequently put forth the argument that any dialogue is better than no dialogue when it comes to the concerns of German Muslims. However, there are two reasons that this is not a valid position:

On the one hand, absolute limits can and must, of course, be drawn in dealing with associations and organizations, partly because the ZMD has for years not made transparent who is among its members - a circumstance that is tacitly accepted.

And on the other hand, the majority of Muslims in this country do not feel at all represented by these organizations and associations. At the same time, of course, they have every right to have their political and religious interests represented.

These facts, which have been publicly known for years, must finally be given proper attention and appropriate consequences must be drawn. If not, the democratic parties will ultimately damage their own struggle against all forms of antisemitism and racism.

Dr. Remko Leemhuis is Director of the American Jewish Committee Berlin.