Islam in Germany


Muslims first came to Germany as part of the diplomatic, military and economic relations between Germany and the Ottoman Empire in the 18th century.[2] Twenty Muslim soldiers served under Frederick William I of Prussia, at the beginning of the 18th century. In 1745, Frederick II of Prussia established a unit of Muslims in the Prussian army called the “Muslim Riders” and consisting mainly of Bosniaks, Albanians and Tatars. In 1760 the Bosniakcorps was established with about 1000 men.

In 1798 a Muslim cemetery was established in Berlin. The cemetery, which moved in 1866, still exists today. By the year 1900, there was a small Islamic minority in Germany consisted of over 10,000, mostly Muslim Slavs and European Turks.[citation needed]

In World War I about 15,000 Muslim prisoners of war were interned in Berlin. The first mosque was established in Berlin in 1915 for these prisoners, though it was removed in 1930. After the war, a small number of Muslims stayed in Berlin.

In the 1920s there was a small Muslim community in Berlin, composed mainly of students and intellectuals. The first mosque built for an establish Muslim community in Germany, the Ahmadiyya Mosque Berlin was established in 1924 by the Indian imam Maulana Sadr-ud-Din. The Central Institute Islam Archive was founded in 1927.

The German section of the World Islamic Congress and the Islam Colloquium, the first German Muslim educational institution for children, were established in 1932.

At this time there were 3,000 Muslims in Germany, 300 of whom were of German descent. The rise of Nazism in the country hasn’t specifically targeted Muslims at all, but German Muslims felt an atmosphere of suspicion as a religious minority and xenophobia associated with Hitler’s beliefs against other religions and racism against “non-Aryans” (i.e. non-European foreigners). By the end of World War II there were only a few hundred Muslims living in Germany.

After the West German government inviting foreign workers (g: “Gastarbeiter”) this figure sharply rose to currently 3.5 Million (debated) within 2 centuries (most of them Turkish from the rural region of Anatolia in Southeast Turkey), sometimes called a “parallel society” within ethnic Germans.


Only a minority of the Muslims residing in Germany are members of religious associations. The ones with the highest numerical strength are:

* Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat Deutschland: German branch of the Ahmadiyya Muslim based in Frankfurt am Main.
* Diyanet İşleri Türk İslam Birliği (DİTİB): German branch of the Turkish Presidency for Religious Affairs, Cologne
* Islamische Gemeinschaft Milli Görüş: close to the Islamist Saadet Partisi in Turkey, Kerpen near Cologne
* Islamische Gemeinschaft Jamaat un-Nur: German branch of the Risale-i Nur Society (Said Nursi)
* Verband der islamischen Kulturzentren: German branch of the conservative Süleymancı sect in Turkey, Cologne
* Islamische Gemeinschaft in Deutschland organization of Arab Muslims close to the Muslim Brotherhood, Frankfurt
* Verband der Islamischen Gemeinden der Bosniaken: Bosnian Muslims, Kamp-Lintfort near Duisburg

Furthermore there are the following umbrella organisations:

* Zentralrat der Muslime in Deutschland, domimated by the “Islamische Gemeinschaft in Deutschland” and the “Islamisches Zentrum Aachen”
* Islamrat in Deutschland, dominated by Islamische Gemeinschaft Milli Görüş and its suborganisations

In addition there are numerous local associations without affiliation to any of these organisations. Two organisations have been banned in 2002 because their programme was judged as contrary to the constitution: The “Hizb ut-Tahrir” and the so called “Caliphate State” founded by Cemalettin Kaplan and later lead by his son Metin Kaplan.

German converts

According to German TV reports, over 4000 Germans converted to Islam in 2006.[3][4] In 1989 a national register run by an Islamic organisation listed over 10,000 German converts.


On January 21, 2007, the Central Council of Ex-Muslims was founded.[5] It is a German association (Verein) of non-religious, secular persons who were Muslim or originate from an Islamic country. It was founded on January 21, 2007 and has more than 100 members. The apostate also represents some hundreds and thousands of ethnic Turks and South Slavs residing in Germany whom withdrew from the Islamic faith.


Since Islam is not a traditional religion in Germany and since most problems with migration into Germany focus on this religious point, currently there are several intensive disputes about the place of Islam in the German state and society.

Currently discussed topics are the head-scarf worn by teachers in schools and universities. The freedom of belief enjoined by the teacher contradicts in the view of many the neutral stance of the state towards religion; many people also see the head-scarf mainly as a political symbol of the oppression of women even though many Muslim women reject this view. As of 2006, many of the German federal states have introduced legislation banning head-scarves for teachers. It is almost clear 2006 that these laws will prove to be constitutional. However, unlike in France, there are no laws against the wearing of head-scarves by students.

In the German federal states with the exception of Bremen, Berlin and Brandenburg, lessons of religious education overseen by the respective religious communities are taught as an elective subject in public schools. It is being discussed whether apart from the Catholic and Protestant (and in a few schools, Jewish) religious education that currently exists, a comparable subject of Islamic religious education should be introduced. However, all efforts to deal with the issue in cooperation with the existing Islamic organisations is due to the dilemma that none of them can be considered a representative of the whole Muslim community.

The construction of mosques occasionally arouses hostile reactions in the respective neighborhoods. In 2007, an attempt by Muslims to build a large mosque in Cologne sparked a controversy.[citation needed]

See also: Cologne mosque controversy

Fears of religious fundamentalism came into the focus of attention after September 11, 2001, especially in relation to a renewed religious fundamentalism of second- and third-generation Muslims in Germany. Also the various confrontations between Islamic religious law (Sharia) and the norms of German Grundgesetz and culture are being discussed hotly. German critics come also from the rank of the liberals and from Christian circles. The first claim that Islamic fundamentalism violates basic fundamental rights whereas the latter see Germany as a state and society grounded in the Christian tradition.

A growing number of muslim immigrants, mostly Turks, is creating a parallel Muslim society in Germany that is in part related to Islamic fundamentalism.[6]

[edit] Islam and German intellectual life

Several prominent figures of German-language intellectual life are known for their positive attitude to Islam:

* Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832), Germany’s most famous literary artist, was writing a verse drama on the life of Muhammad at his death. His work West-östlicher Diwan of 1819 is considered by many Muslims as an evidence, that Goethe even was a Muslim. This was claimed in a 1995 fatwa.[7]
* Friedrich Rückert (1788–1866) translated the Quran into German.
* Annemarie Schimmel (1922–2003) was a leading scholar of Islam and Sufism and the author of more than 100 books.
* Hans Küng (1928- ), a dissident Catholic theologian at the University of Tübingen, has called for “peace among the religions.”

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