FaithWorld

German Muslims feel neglected in general election campaign

markazMany of Germany’s 4 million Muslims feel forgotten and ill-inclined to vote in the Sept. 27 general election, and even politicians acknowledge they have woken up too late to their ballot box potential. In Duisburg in the industrial Ruhr region that is home to Germany’s biggest mosque, conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel and Social Democrat (SPD) challenger Frank-Walter Steinmeier stir little interest, still less political passion.

“I haven’t got a job, nor have my mates. Politicians don’t care,” said Ismet Akgul, 19, standing with friends outside an amusement arcade in the Marxloh suburb where about 60 percent of the population has immigrant, in most cases Turkish, roots. “Firms see a foreign name on an application form and chuck it in the bin.” (Photo: Merkez mosque in Duisburg, 26 Oct 2008/Ina Fassbender)

Of the roughly 2.8 million people in Germany with Turkish roots, only about 600,000 can vote, many failing to register or acquire citizenship. Only five lawmakers out of 614 in the Bundestag (lower house of parliament)  have Turkish origins.

The main parties in Duisburg, which is traditionally an SPD stronghold but has just re-elected its first conservative mayor, are targeting the Turkish community with special campaign events and posters and adverts in Turkish.

“We neglected immigrant voters for too long. But we’ve woken up now and are starting to win them over,” said Thomas Mahlberg, a conservative Christian Democrat (CDU) lawmaker from Duisburg.

Islamophobia in Germany? Berlin wakes up after outcry over killing

German politicians have woken up to the potential fallout from the bloody killing in a Dresden courtroom of a 31-year-old Egyptian mother which has unleashed anger in the Islamic world.

It took Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has talked much about boosting the integration of Germany’s roughly 3.5 million Muslims, several days to condemn the killing, perpetrated by a German of Russian origin suspected of being a neo-Nazi.

dresdenSuddenly, the government is trying to soothe tensions to avert a potential storm similar to the violence which erupted over Denmark’s publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad. And less than three-months before an election, politicians are also worried about security — intelligence services say Germany is already a target due to its deployment of troops in Afghanistan.

Berlin campaign for religion lessons unites faiths

Berliners on Sunday voted against introducing compulsory religion lessons in schools. Social Democrat Mayor Klaus Wowereit has welcomed the result as a victory for “togetherness” and common values for Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim or aetheist children.

Campaign posterFor details on the result, look at the Reuters story.

However, as Pro Reli leader Christoph Lehmann said, the campaign to boost the status of faith-based lessons in the German capital — a city with a long secular tradition — has put the subject firmly on the agenda and made it a talking point.

Celebrities and politicians, even conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel,have joined the call for religion lessons. Perhaps she was trying to make amends with members of her predominantly Catholic Christian Democrats (CDU) who were angry with her for criticising the Pope in the row over a Holocaust-denying bishop.

Vatican orders Williamson recant after calling case closed

Holy flip-flop!

Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, who is Number 2 to Pope Benedict at the Holy See, ordered Bishop Richard Williamson to recant his Holocaust denial “absolutely, unequivocally and publicly” if he wants to serve as a prelate in the Roman Catholic Church. The tough statement, reported here by our Vatican correspondent Phil Pullella, came after a mounting chorus of Catholic bishops denounced Williamson’s statement and more or less clearly urged the apparently reluctant Vatican to take some strong disciplinary measures. Many of those appeals included calls for Williamson’s ultra-traditionalist Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) to support Second Vatican Council reforms they have until now rejected. (Photo: Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, 19 June 2008/stringer)

Bertone’s statement (original here in Italian) also said clearly that an indispensible condition for a rehabilitation of the four SSPX bishops whose excommunications were lifted last week was “full recognition of the Second Vatican Council and the Magisterium of popes John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II and Benedict XVI.”

This might seem like the logical next step in the Vatican’s damage control campaign. But now look at the interview with Bertone the Italian Catholic daily Avvenire published just yesterday. When asked about Williamson’s comments, he answered: “There’s no need to confuse things… The Society of Saint Pius X …has asked the pope for forgiveness for this regrettable episode. The pope spoke clearly on Wednesday. It seems to me that the question can be considered closed.” (emphasis mine).

Germans fall out of love with their pope

When Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected the head of the Roman Catholicism in 2005, the best-selling daily Bild caught the national mood with a frontpage headline crowing Wir sind Papst! (We’re Pope!). Now, Germans are falling out of love with their pope for readmitting to the Church an excommunicated bishop who denies the Holocaust. For the vast majority of Germans, denying the Holocaust is beyond the pale. Shunning anyone who does deny the Holocaust is considered a civic virtue. So seeing the world’s most prominent German rehabilitate a Holocaust denier is quite distressing for a upstanding, post-war German democrat. How could he do it? (Photo: Pope Benedict at the Vatican, 2 Feb 2009/Alessandro Bianchi)

The Vatican and Catholic bishops around the world have been defending the pope, saying the lifting of the excommunications for the controversial Bishop Richard Williamson and three other bishops was an internal Church issue unrelated to his political views. They say repeatedly that this is not a rehabilitation, but simply a readmission to allow discussions on rehabilitation to start. After botching the initial announcement, the Vatican has had a tough time trying to convince public opinion in other countries. In Germany, where many understandably think Holocaust deniers deserve no sympathy whatsoever, this task is proving to be doubly difficult.

From Chancellor Angela Merkel and former Foreign Minister to leading Catholic thinkers, Jewish groups and editorial writers in top-selling newspapers — they’re all criticising the pope’s controversial decision to welcome Williamson back. Here is our news story from Berlin wrapping up the reaction. In Rome, another German, Cardinal Walter Kasper, bluntly told Vatican Radio: “There wasn’t enough talking with each other in the Vatican and there are no longer checks to see where problems could arise.”

Germany still fighting anti-Semitism

To mark the 70th anniversary of ”Kristallnacht”, when Nazis ransacked Jewish shops and homes and set synagogues ablaze, the German parliament this week passed a resolution on anti-Semitism.

It says anti-Semitism is still a problem that Germany needs to take seriously and calls for a team of experts to report regularly on anti-Semitic activity in Germany and to recommend steps to combat it.

A row with the Left party over the resolution sparked criticism from the Central Council of Jews and overshadowed a wider debate in Germany on the subject.