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German Muslims Form Umbrella Body

More than 15,000 German Muslims celebrated the birth of an umbrella representative body grouping the country's four largest Muslim bodies, a move expected to allow the sizable minority to speak with one voice for the first time.

German Muslims Form Umbrella Body
More than 15,000 German Muslims celebrated on Tuesday, April 10, the birth of an umbrella representative body grouping the country's four largest Muslim bodies, a move expected to allow the sizable minority to speak with one voice for the first time.

"We are responding to the desire of Muslims and to the demands of politicians and society at large that there should be a single contact point," Aiman Mazyek, General Secretary of the Central Council for Muslims in Germany, one of the founding partners, told Reuters Wednesday, April 11.

The Coordination Council of Muslims in Germany (KRM) also comprises the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB), the Islamic Council (IR) and the Association of Islamic Culture Centers (VIKZ).

"We represent conservative and liberal Muslims -- we are like a colorful bouquet of flowers and do not represent just one point of view," Mazyek said.

He added that the new body will represent about 2,000 of Germany's roughly 2,500 mosque communities.

The council presidency will rotate every six months among the leaders of the four founding bodies.

The announcement was made during a celebration organized by Muslims in Cologne to mark the birthday of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).

There are some 3.4 million Muslims in Germany, including 220,000 in Berlin alone. Turks make up an estimated two thirds of the minority.

Islam comes third in Germany after Protestant and Catholic Christianity.

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Ibrahim Al-Zayyat, a prominent Muslim community leader, said the new body crowns strenuous efforts by the four organizations.

"All bodies involved exerted concerted effort to achieve this long-aspired-for dream," he told IslamOnline.net.

In a meeting held in Hamburg in 2005, the major Muslims organizations agreed to close their ranks and form a unified body to represent them.

Zayyat said key issues on the council's agenda would be a state recognition of Islam as a religion, supervising Islam classes in schools and supervising Shari`ah-compliant slaughter of animals.

"Now, there is no justification for the government's argument it has no Muslim partner to talk to," he asserted.

The Muslim activist added that the coordination council will be entitled to discuss Muslim-related issues with the government on behalf of the sizable minority.

The foundation of the umbrella representative body comes one month before the second round of talks between Muslim leaders and Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, slated for May 2.

The two sides are expected to follow up on the implementation of recommendations made during their first meeting, held on September 27, 2006.

Schaeuble told Muslim leaders at that meeting that their internal divisions made it difficult for the government to find an interlocutor on pressing issues related to the minority.
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