Germany’s Muslim population is becoming more religious and more conservative. Islamic associations are fostering the trend, particularly through their work with the young — accelerating the drift towards a parallel Muslim society.
Surveys in the country have charted a significant increase in fundamentalist attitudes, particularly among younger Muslims. The experiences of Ekin Deligöz, a member of the German parliament representing the Green Party, underscore the potential dangers. Having called on Muslim women to remove their headscarves, Deligöz faced death threats and now receives police protection.
Under the guise of religious tolerance, German society stood blithely by as some parts of its Muslim communities began turning into parallel societies. For years, the country’s courts have been excusing Muslim girls from coed swimming lessons and class outings – citing the most absurd reasons for their rulings.
Today the impact of Islamist indoctrination is noticeable at almost all schools with a high proportion of Muslim pupils. Although a few courts have reevaluated their position in the meantime and ruled in favor of compulsory school attendance – as, for example, in Hamburg during 2005 – teachers are complaining that fewer and fewer Muslim pupils are taking part in swimming, sports in general, or school trips.
School is one of the few places where young Muslims come into contact with the non-Islamic environment. As a result, the teachers often see what is happening most clearly. Dietmar Pagel, principal of the Hector-Peterson High School in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin, actively seeks dialog with his students. But with increasing frequency, he and his colleagues feel they are banging their heads against a brick wall.
“Lots of our adolescents have a fundamentalist outlook on life,” he says. Many more girls are wearing headscarves, and almost all the Muslim students fasted during the major Islamic holidays, with catastrophic consequences for their performance at school. “The further we get into Ramadan, the more distracted the pupils become.”
He cannot get through to his pupils any more, Pagel complains.
“If I say that headscarves are worn less in Turkey than here, they simply counter: ‘That’s why we came to Germany, so that we can openly practice our religion.'” And sometimes they simply remind him that – as a non-Muslim – he would be better off keeping such views to himself.