Germany's Muslims Band Together New Umbrella Group Founded

The leading Muslim organizations in Germany have joined forces to form an umbrella group. Now the German government will have a single negotiating partner on important issues affecting Muslims -- that is, if the group succeeds in agreeing on a common position.

A worshiper at a Berlin mosque. A new umbrella group is hoping to represent the interests of Germany's Muslims.

A worshiper at a Berlin mosque. A new umbrella group is hoping to represent the interests of Germany's Muslims.

Henry Kissinger once famously quipped: "Who do I call if I want to call Europe?" The German goverment has long had the same problem when it came to pursuing dialogue with its own Muslim community: Who to call? Now the four leading groups representing Muslims in Germany have banded together so that, at last, the government in Berlin can call that elusive phone number.

The founding of the new umbrella group -- the Coordination Council of Muslims in Germany (KRM) -- was unveiled during a Muslim religious celebration in Cologne on Tuesday. The group will combine the Turkish-Islamic Union for Relgious Affairs (DITIB), the Islamic Council (IR), the Central Council of Muslims (ZMD) and the Association of Islamic Culture Centers (VIKZ). The new council will represent the interests of the estimated 3.2 million Muslims living in Germany to the government.

Bekir Alboga, spokesman for the DITIB, made the announcement at the Cologne Arena in the presence of thousands of Muslims who had gathered to celebrate the birth of the prophet Muhammad. He said that KRM will represent the interests of all Muslims in Germany and it plans to open offices in each of the country's states. He also emphasized that individual mosques and associations will be welcome to join KRM. "The door is open to all Muslims," he said.

The member organizations are hoping that if they speak with one voice they will be able to have a greater influence over important decisions that affect Muslims in Germany, such as integration policy. A committee has been meeting for over six months to iron out the details.

In September 2006 Germany's interior minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, organized an Islam Conference where he called for a more comprehensive structure for Muslim organizations. He said that the state wanted to establish a dialogue with the Muslim community, but that it needed a single negotiating partner when it came to important issues.

Rafet Öztürk of the DITIB said that the new council will make every effort to agree on a common position, but that the member organizations will remain independent. "We also want to put ourselves to the test -- to see if we are capable of reaching joint decisions," he told the German news agency DPA on Wednesday.

The radical Islamic organization Milli Görüs, which has been long under observation by Germany's domestic intelligence agency, is not a founding member of the KRM. However, it is indirectly associated, as an influential member of the Islamic Council.



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