Cablegate: Muslim Coordination Council Emerging

DE RUEHDF #0010/01 0880757
R 290757Z MAR 07




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: 06 BERLIN 2893

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Sensitive But Unclassified

1. (SBU) Summary: The 2006 initiative by Federal Interior
Minister Schaeuble to set up a "German Islam Conference" as an
official forum for exploring ways to achieve a better
integration of Muslims in German society (reftel) has spurred
efforts among major Muslim groups to form a single, overarching
umbrella organization that aims to represent the interests of
the Muslim community as a whole vis-`-vis German government,
both at the state and federal level. What is now being called
the Muslim Coordination Council (KRM) is slated to take over
this function and may be operational as early as this summer,
although a number of organizational problems remain. Observers
consider the establishment of the KRM an important - and long
overdue - step in the ongoing process of Muslim integration in
Germany. End Summary.

ZMD Leader Confident about Coordination Council

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2. (SBU) In a March 23 meeting with the CG, President of the
Central Council of Muslims in Germany (ZMD) Axel Ayyub Koehler
confirmed press reports that the establishment of a new Muslim
Coordination Council in Germany ("Koordinationsrat der Muslime"
- KRM) is well underway. Koehler, a Muslim convert who for many
years was active in local FDP politics in Cologne as a City
Councilman, took credit for efforts to create this central
umbrella organization that aims to represent Muslims living in
Germany and would serve as a single cooperation partner for the
government, on the federal, state and local level on all matters
relating to Muslim integration. Koehler told us that he had
been working for the last 20 years on the establishment of a
single Muslim representation in Germany, but because of the
diverse interests of the various groups it had not been possible
until fall 2006 to bring the four leading organizations together
for such a goal. He expressed confidence that a breakthrough
was near and that the Coordination Council would play an
important role in facilitating Muslim integration in Germany.

Member Organizations to Remain Independent

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3. (U) The four Muslim umbrella organizations participating in
the negotiations on the establishment of the Coordination
Council (KRM) are:

The Turkish Islamic Union (DITIB), Cologne

The Central Council of Muslims in Germany (ZMD), Cologne

The Islamic Council for the Federal Republic of Germany, Cologne

The Association of Islamic Cultural Centers (VIKZ), Cologne

According to Koehler, all four organizations, the most important
Muslim umbrella groups in Germany, will retain their
independence. Each will be represented on the governing board of
the KRM, and the Presidency of the KRM would rotate among its
member organizations every six months. Since all these
organizations have their headquarters in Cologne, the KRM would
also be based in this city (which Koehler referred to several
times as the "capital of Islam in Germany"), even if this would
require frequent travel to Berlin.

Statute and Rules of Procedure Still TBD


4. (SBU) Aside from a one-page letter of intent on the
creation of the KRM, signed by the four organizations in fall
2006, the negotiating partners have not agreed on other formal
documents. Koehler told us that negotiations have taken place
regularly over the last few months, with meetings held at least
once or twice a week. The talks are currently focusing on the

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drafting of a statute and the rules of procedure for the KRM,
which will be most likely organized in the form of a registered
society ("e.V.") under German association law. Although some
problems remain to be resolved, Koehler expressed optimism that
an agreement on these issues could be reached by summer. He
indicated that negotiations had been held up in the past by
DITIB's insistence (as the largest of the four organizations) on
having more influence in shaping the future policies of the KRM
than the other three member organizations. In addition, its
affiliation with the Turkish government often required DITIB to
obtain approval from Ankara before it could agree on certain
points, which also slowed down the negotiations. Koehler
predicted that DITIB, in order to be able to play a major role
in the KRM, would eventually have to emancipate itself from the
control of the Turkish government. He also maintained that many
German-based DITIB leaders had begun to accept the notion that
the KRM could only operate effectively on the basis of equality
among its membership organizations.

5. (SBU) However, another source close to the negotiations
told us that DITIB would obtain three seats on the future
Governing Board of the KRM, while the three other organizations
would receive two seats each (an arrangement that would also
avoid the possibility of a tied vote). In addition, DITIB would
have the right to exercise a veto on certain decisions of the
KRM, our source said. Embassy Berlin has received identical

Positive Reaction, Support from NRW Integration Ministry

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6. (SBU) NRW Integration Minister Armin Laschet recently called
the plans for establishment of the KRM a "big and important
step" for Muslim integration in Germany, but pointed out that
because most Muslims were not organized under any of these
groups, the participating four organizations - despite their
importance - still only represented a minority. NRW Integration
Commissioner Thomas Kufen, at whose initiative the negotiations
on the establishment of KRM got started last fall, told us that
the leaders of the four organizations will brief him and
Minister Laschet on the results of their negotiations and
discuss them with Ministry experts before the KRM is officially
launched, as early as this summer.

Disagreements on Religious Instruction


7. (SBU) Kufen pointed out to us that although the NRW
government is looking forward to working with the KRM on many
aspects of Muslim integration, it could not accept the KRM as a
cooperation partner in connection with the planned introduction
of Muslim religious instruction at NRW schools. This matter
could only be discussed and regulated in cooperation with local
Mosque communities. The KRM was an association, and not a
religious community, Kufen said, and could therefore not play a
role in the ongoing negotiations, which are to prepare the
ground for Islamic religious instruction at local schools in
Cologne and Duisburg by the summer of 2008.

8. (SBU) In our conversation with Koehler, it became quite
evident that he (and leaders of the other participating
organizations) still hoped the KRM could serve as the competent
cooperation partner for the NRW state government on questions
relating to Islamic religious instruction. He presented us with
an 80-page curriculum that had been developed several years ago
by the ZMD's pedagogic working group for Islamic religious
instruction at German grade schools, expressing the hope that
this could serve as the basis for a revised and updated concept
to be jointly worked out by the KRM and the NRW school
authorities. Kufen stressed, however, that the NRW government
would stick to its position, i.e. would not accept the KRM as
cooperation partner in this respect.

Shiites but not Alevites Represented on the KRM

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9. (SBU) Asked whether the KRM would also represent Shiites in
Germany, Koehler answered in the affirmative, pointing out that
the Islamic Center Hamburg with its many Shiite members was a
member organization of the ZMD. On the "Alevite Community in
Germany" (AABF), which has elements of Shiism in its creed,
Koehler referred to this organization as primarily a political
group of former Turkish communists and leftists who used a
religious cover to attract followers. It therefore had no place
on the KRM, he stated. AABF Secretary General Ali Toprak
confirmed to us that, contrary to press reports, his
organization had indeed not been invited by the other Muslim
groups to cooperate with them in forming the KRM. Toprak
stressed that even if the Alevite Community had received such an
invitation, it would not have cooperated, because it wants to
retain its status as an independent religious community. He
added that the Alevites do not feel represented by the KRM,
"neither in political nor in theological terms." (Note:
Koehler referred favorably to another Alevite group, the ABAF,
indicating that it is a member of the Islamrat, which would
presumably open the door to its membership in the KRM. End



10. (SBU) The cooperation of the four leading Muslim umbrella
organizations and the soon-to-be constituted Muslim Coordination
Council is a significant development within the Muslim community
in Germany. It is likely to facilitate efforts by the federal
and state governments to achieve a better integration of
Germany's Muslim minority, even if many problems still remain
unsolved, in particular the issue of Islamic religious
instruction in schools. The creation of the KRM will likely
open a new chapter in the development of Muslim life in Germany.
Koehler's role in this process seems to arise out of his
political experience and his long service in local government.
His age (68) and failing health (heart problem), however,
suggests that he is not likely to remain in a leadership
position for long. A new generation of articulate Muslim
leaders, such as Aiman Mazyek of ZMD and Bekir Alboga of DITIB,
both of whom were born and raised in Germany, stand ready to
move into these leadership positions. End comment.

11. (U) This message was coordinated with Embassy Berlin.

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