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Cablegate: Outgoing Muslim Leader Comments On His Tenure As Krm

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1. (SBU) Summary: Outgoing Muslim Coordination Council (KRM)
Spokesman Ali Kizilkaya on September 22 gave us a critical view
of progress in relations between Germany's Muslims and the
German state. Reviewing his six month tenure, which ended
September 29, he asserted that the KRM had made progress as a
coordinating body. He highlighted areas in which Muslims still
face discrimination, commenting as well on a continuing
reluctance by senior German government officials to host Iftars
and contrasting this with the very positive American practice.
He declined to be drawn out into an in-depth discussion of the
Federal Interior Ministry's "Islam Conference," observing only
that the German government clearly preferred more
liberal/secular interlocutors. Kizlkaya himself is
controversial because his home organization, the Islam Council,
is dominated by the Milli Goerues movement, which is under
observation by German authorities in several states. End

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2. (SBU) In a September 22 meeting at the Islam Council
(Islamrat) office in Cologne with Mission POL MC, Duesseldorf CG
and P/E Specialist, Kizilkaya expressed great satisfaction that
a broad alliance of political and social groups in Cologne
actively opposed the September 19-20 "Anti-Islamization
Congress," organized by the extreme right group "Pro Koeln."
Calling the demonstrations against the congress "the largest
public protests in solidarity with the Muslim community in
German history," he commented that similar or even larger
demonstrations during the 1990s were directed against xenophobia
in German society in general and were not specifically focused
on the concerns of the Muslim minority. (Note: Cologne police
decided September 19 to ban the "Anti-Islamization Congress," a
controversial move, because it was based not on the threat of
violence from extreme-right organizers, but from some far-left
"autonomous" groups." End Note.)

Developments in the KRM

3. (SBU) The KRM was developing well, Kizilkaya asserted,
although it had only been in existence for 18 months.
Cooperation between the four member organizations had improved,
as the leaders had become better acquainted and developed a more
trusting and harmonious work relationship. During his six
months as KRM spokesman, KRM leaders only disagreed on one
issue, the introduction of naturalization tests for immigrants
who wanted to become German citizens. The Central Council of
Muslims (ZMD) welcomed this, but the other three KRM members
rejected it. Kizilkaya admitted that no progress had been
achieved in establishing KRM structures at the state level, a
priority when he took over in early April. He attributed this
primarily to internal problems at DITIB, the religious
organization affiliated with the Turkish government, which was
in the midst of a restructuring and a comprehensive reform of
its statutes. Once DITIB's problems were resolved, KRM would
resume efforts to establish structures at the state level. He
claimed not to know who from the Association of Islamic Cultural
Centers (VIKZ) would succeed him as KRM spokesman, as this was
an internal VIKZ decision and not discussed at the KRM level.
(Note: The VIKZ on September 29 announced the appointment of
Erol Puerlue, a ConGen contact, for the next term.)


4. (SBU) Kizilkaya did not mince words in deploring the
"continuing pervasive discrimination of Muslims in Germany." He
listed four areas where this discrimination was evident,
conceding that progress had been made in one less important

-- Islamic religious instruction at public schools. Calling
this the most important and burning issue for the KRM, Kizilkaya
pointed to the Protestant and Catholic religious instruction
model available and well established at German schools.
Asserting that 800,000 Muslim pupils are denied their
constitutional rights to receive such instruction, he lamented
that tens of thousands of Muslims leave school every year
without having had the opportunity to learn about their faith.
He dismissed the various pilot projects in place in several
German states as "purely cosmetic" and far short of what was
needed. He insisted that absolutely no progress has been made
in this area, despite the fact that the Interior Ministry's
German Islam Conference had given priority to this issue. In
response to a question from CG, he acknowledged that there had
been movement in Lower Saxony, but alleged that this did not
alter the larger picture. Kizlkaya presented a maximalist view
of the KRM's requirements and did not outline any room for
compromise or flexibility.

-- Academic training of Muslim religion teachers. Kizilkaya
called it "encouraging" that NRW Science Minister Pinkwart

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announced the establishment of a second chair for Islamic
Studies at Muenster University and that Pinkwart would seek
support from Muslim organizations for the appointment of the new
professor. (Muslim organizations had protested heavily after
the occupier of the first chair at the university expressed
views that some considered to border on apostasy.) This was the
first time that a German government official had made such
assurances, Kizilkaya stated. He was waiting to judge whether
Pinkwart proved his words by his actions.

-- Legal status of their organizations and mosque communities in
Germany. Unlike Christian churches and Jewish communities, they
had thus far not received the status of corporations under
public law, which resulted in serious disadvantages for Muslim
groups, including for example that Muslim groups have no
representation in the advisory councils of public broadcasting
institutions. Muslim groups and mosque communities have "the
same status as bowling clubs" (registered associations or
"eingetragene Vereine"), in Kizlkaya's formulation, which he
called an untenable situation.

-- Difficulties in obtaining construction permits for new
mosques. Describing difficulties in drastic terms, Kizilkaya
contended that it might be easier to obtain an operating license
for a nuclear power plant than to overcome the hurdles presented
by German zoning and construction laws, which he said were often
made artificially high for Muslims.

-- The only area where Kizilkaya saw progress concerned the
recognition of Islamic holidays by school authorities, which
gave Muslim students the right not to attend school on one or
two Islamic holidays, depending on the state.

The Importance of Hosting Iftars

5. (SBU) Kizilkaya dodged the question of who was his most
important Federal government interlocutor, stressing instead the
importance of state governments because of their lead role in
such vital issues as religious instruction. He would "never"
turn to Maria Boehmer, Federal Integration Commissioner and
Minister of State in the Chancellor's Office, calling her "the
wrong person" for that position. Because many Muslims in
Germany were citizens, it was incorrect to consider them an
"integration" challenge, he said. Calling Interior Minister
Schaeuble the most important KRM interlocutor, Kizilkaya was
pleased that Schaeuble had tried to attend this year's KRM Iftar
dinner in Cologne but was disappointed that he had to regret.
Praising the Embassy's and Consulate's role in attending and
hosting Iftar dinners, Kizilkaya expressed the hope that German
government officials would follow that example. Muslim leaders
received official greetings for Ramadan, but were still awaiting
an invitation to an Iftar dinner hosted by a German Minister, at
the federal or state level. He acknowledged that NRW
Integration Commissioner Kufen has been inviting to Iftars in
recent years, but asked why NRW Integration Minister Laschet had
not done so.


6. (SBU) Kizilkaya has opened up considerably as a contact over
time, becoming more communicative during his term as KRM
spokesman. He was not as strident in his criticism of German
attitudes towards Islam, in government and society in general,
as in previous meetings, but he was also not particularly
positive either. Kizilkaya repeatedly stressed his desire for
full integration of Muslims in German society, but was fuzzy
about what steps both sides should take to make this happen from
the bottom up; he focused almost exclusively on expectations for
German government action. He declined to comment on the state
of affairs in the German Islam Conference, observing only that
he was not particularly pleased with it, in part because the
German government evidently had reservations against him as a
person, while at the same time favoring other, more liberal or
secular, Muslim representatives. Kizilkaya demonstrated
sensitivity to the perceived lack of engagement by senior German
federal and state officials on Muslim issues, but also did not
lay out an entrepreneurial vision for how Muslim leaders can
move into a more prominent role.

7. (U) This message has been cleared with Embassy Berlin.

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