The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Ibrahim Kalin is senior advisor to Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan. This article first appeared in Today’s Zaman in Istanbul and is reprinted with its permission.
(Photo: “Stumble stones” in Berlin’s Wilmersdorf district November 7, 2008/Fabrizio Bensch)
The metal plaques, called Stolpersteine, or “stumble stones,” are set into the ground at my father’s ancestral home in this picturesque village south of Frankfurt.
(Photo: Presidents Christian Wulff (R) and Abdullah Gül, followed by wives Bettina (R) and Hayrünnisa, during official welcome in Ankara October 19, 2010/Umit Bektas)
When German President Christian Wulff recently declared that Islam “belongs to Germany,” Christian Democratic politicians there howled and Muslims living in Germany and Turkey cheered. Now Wulff, on an official visit to Turkey, has told the Turkish parliament that “Christianity too, undoubtedly, belongs to Turkey.” This time there was applause in Germany, and silence from the Turkish deputies listening to him in Ankara on Tuesday.
Hamburg may soon become the first German state officially to recognize Islam as a religious community and give its Muslims the same legal rights as Christians and Jews in dealing with the local administration.
Germany’s inflamed public debate about Islam and integration risks serious overheating as politicians compete to make ever tougher statements criticizing Muslims immigrants they accuse of refusing to fit in here.
Germany has announced it will fund Islamic studies at three state universities to train prayer leaders and religion teachers more in tune with Western society than the foreign imams preaching at most mosques here.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has said Muslims must obey the constitution and not sharia law if they want to live in Germany, which is debating the integration of its 4 million-strong Muslim population.
(Photo: An imam leads prayers at a mosque in Dortmund on German Unity Day, October 3, 2010./Ina Fassbender)
German President Christian Wulff said Sunday that Islam had a place in Germany, during a speech celebrating two decades of the country’s reunification.
Pope Benedict on Sunday expressed “shame and horror” over the wartime suffering caused by his German homeland and said he was moved to mark the 70th anniversary of a key air victory with Britons.
Does Pope Benedict sound different when he speaks a foreign language? I’m not referring to his German accent — anyone following his visit to Britain these days can attest to the fact that he has one in English. But does he say the same thing when he speaks in his native German — or in Italian or French, two languages he also speaks fluently (and better than English). Does he present his ideas with the same words? Does the message come across in the same way? How does it “feel” to the listener?