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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
09DUSSELDORF19 2009-05-08 15:19:00 UNCLASSIFIED Consulate Dusseldorf
Cable title:  

LEADERSHIP CHANGES IN GERMAN MUSLIM COUNCIL; LITTLE PROGRESS

Tags:   PGOV KISL GM 
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RR RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHNP RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSK RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHDF #0019/01 1281519
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 081519Z MAY 09
FM AMCONSUL DUSSELDORF
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0203
INFO RUCNFRG/FRG COLLECTIVE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
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					  UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 DUSSELDORF 000019 

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KISL GM
SUBJECT: LEADERSHIP CHANGES IN GERMAN MUSLIM COUNCIL; LITTLE PROGRESS
ON AGENDA

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1. (SBU) Summary: Concluding his six-month rotating leadership
of Germany's Muslim Coordination Council (KRM), spokesman Erol
Puerlue called for patience in judging its work. He said it was
a challenge to deliver tangible results, partly because of
differences within the KRM but also because the policy changes
Muslims seek from the German state are politically difficult to
achieve. During his tenure, Puerlue made little progress on his
priority, religious education. Several senior Muslims have told
us recently the KRM is "ineffective" in large part because three
of its four constituent groups (DITIB, Association of Islamic
Cultural Centers (VIKZ), and Islam Council (IRD)) can do little
without instructions from their headquarters in Turkey. One
senior KRM member attributed most of the difficulties to the
German state, which he alleged was systematically blocking
progress, while another senior leader laid most of the blame on
DITIB, which he claimed has little interest in the emergence of
an alternate power center. End Summary.



Last Six Months Show More Patience Needed



--------------------------



--------------------------







2. (U) Reflecting on their term at the helm of the KRM, former
VIKZ Secretary General Erol Puerlue and other VIKZ leaders told
Poloff recently that they made modest progress over the last six
months, but that patience was necessary on their agenda.
Puerlue expressed satisfaction that the KRM had become more
institutionalized during his tenure, moving into its own longer
term office space in Cologne and thus no longer requiring the
group's secretariat to rotate between the headquarters of the
four constituent organizations. He considered his other main
accomplishment the scheduling of an internal conference on
Muslim religious instruction in German schools that took place
under KRM sponsorship in late April (and that was closed to
outside observers).





3. (U) Puerlue and the VIKZ leadership expressed satisfaction
that construction of the new DITIB central mosque project in
Cologne would begin soon. Demolition of the DITIB headquarters
building, on whose grounds the mosque will be built, began April
24 with its offices moved to a neighboring street. Tents have
been erected near the site to accommodate some activities that
took place at the DITIB complex. All building permits have long
been issued and the cornerstone is likely to be laid by June.
The estimated construction time will be about two years. The
VIKZ leaders pointed out that wherever possible they prefer
mosques without minarets, the height of which was a major source
of controversy in the Cologne case.



Other KRM leaders comment



--------------------------







4. (SBU) We have heard several other inside views of the KRM
and its work recently. One senior member told CG that DITIB had
become the major hindrance to the group's work, as it continues
to resist signing a key document without which the KRM cannot
become a partner for state governments (which have legal
responsibility for education matters in Germany). He had
originally thought that coordination with Diyanet in Ankara was
the problem, but after two years passed and a DITIB signature
remains outstanding, he reluctantly concluded that its leaders
do not wish to allow the KRM to become too influential.





5. (SBU) A member of the government-sponsored German Islam
Conference with excellent insights into the Turkish community
recently gave us a similar view of the KRM. He noted that three
of the KRM's four constituent organizations, DITIB, VIKZ and
IRD, have a primarily Turkish membership and are controlled by
religious and/or political groups in Turkey. He maintained that
the leaders of these organizations in Germany, and by extension
the KRM, do not have real power and cannot make any real
decisions or innovations on integration issues in general or
more specific issues, such as Islamic religious instruction at
public schools.





6. (SBU) He lamented that the most powerful DITIB

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representatives in Germany do not speak German and have only
limited understanding of German views on Islam and German
society more broadly. At Diyanet headquarters, DITIB leaders do
not devote the time and resources necessary to make the
organization play the leadership role it could. IRD, VIKZ and
the Central Council of Muslims (ZMD) were much better plugged
into German society, but are small in comparison and have been
involved in controversies over the last two years. He was
therefore pessimistic about the KRM's ability to emerge as the
kind of spokesman for German Muslims that its leaders wish.





7. (SBU) The spokesman of another KRM group recently offered
the least favorable explanation of the lack of progress in
religious education, attributing it to an unwillingness by some
German state-level authorities to accept Islam as a fully equal
religion with Christianity and Judaism. In an April 24
conversation with CG, the leader expressed serious annoyance
that the process of enabling children to learn about Islam in
German schools was taking so long. He claimed that many of the
issues raised by the NRW government were legalistic and that
other German states had approached the issue in a more pragmatic
manner. His overall assessment was an exasperated "I hope to be
able to see religious instruction in the schools here before I
die" (he is in his late 40s).



Former KRM Spokesman Returns



--------------------------







8. (U) On April 1, the leadership of the KRM returned to the
ZMD, which put forward the first KRM spokesman, Ayyub Axel
Koehler, at the group's inception in April 2007. Koehler served
in that capacity from April - September 2007. A German convert
to Islam who was once a member of the Cologne City Council for
the Free Democratic Party (FDP), he will serve as KRM Spokesman
until September 30, 2009. Koehler (71) told CG on May 4 that
his priority for his term was to make progress on religious
education, if necessary to go forward with a Muslim-government
Round Table as has happened in Lower Saxony, which he
characterized as significantly further along than NRW, once the
most progressive state in Germany in terms of how it deals with
integration and Islam issues. He thought the NRW government
would be open to this approach because it has precedent in other
states, although expected resistance.



Comment



--------------------------







9. (SBU) With new office space and two years of experience
talking and negotiating with the German government, the KRM may
become more of an institution and more visible in the future,
but results to date have been limited. In our interaction with
KRM leaders over the last two years, we have been struck by
their sense of frustration that progress on their priorities has
been slow, but their growing appreciation of why achieving their
goals requires time. Each KRM constituent has a different
perspective, with DITIB and Islam Council more inclined to
attribute the slow progress primarily to German unwillingness to
accord Islam the same legal status as Christianity and Judaism,
while several senior ZMD leaders tend to see the problem as much
or more in the influence Turkey exercises over DITIB, Islamrat
and VIKZ. The VIKZ may be in between, with an appreciation of
both positions. The VIKZ and ZMD have been the most
communicative with us, the former probably in part because of
its strong desire for acceptance after having faced alleged
financial malfeasance issues and charges of indoctrinating youth
via its network of boarding schools, and the latter out of a
desire to reinforce its support for the German constitutional
order and to dispel lingering mistrust about its motives. VIKZ
presents itself as moderate and independent of influence from
Turkey, although we also hear other views.





10. (SBU) Koehler remains an influential force in the German
Muslim communities because he is an ethnic German with political
experience and can navigate easily between the German
government, society, and the Muslim groups. His failing health
and advanced age, however, may limit his effectiveness. Some
observers believe ZMD is increasingly influenced by younger

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leaders associated with Secretary General Aiman Mazyek or with
the eminence grise Ibrahim El-Zayat, who is suspected by the
Office of the Protection of the Constitution of having been
involved in money laundering and serving as a Muslim Brotherhood
representative in Germany. End Comment.





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