What follows is a chronological review of some of the most important stories about the rise of Islam in Germany during 2013:
In January, the Turkish-run Kuba Camii Mosque in Eschweiler, a city situated along the German-Belgian-Dutch border and about 50 kilometers (30 miles) west of Cologne, for the first time began publicly calling Muslims to prayer.
The call to prayer was described as an «historical event» and was attended by numerous dignitaries, including the Turkish consul and the Turkish attaché.
The Turkish imam of the Kuba Camii Mosque, Bahri Ciftci, declared his hopes that «the public prayer call will be a symbol of a tolerant, intercultural and interreligious common coexistence.»
The mayor of Eschweiler, Rudi Bertram, said, «Tolerance must be practiced on a daily basis. We are all responsible for ensuring that there is a co-existence.»
The mosque is one of a growing number of Islamic institutions in Germany publicly calling the Muslim faithful to prayer—five times a day, seven days a week—with cries of Allahu Akbar! («Allah is Greater!»).
The sonorous prayer calls (known in Arabic as adhan) can be heard from great distances when amplified through electric loudspeakers. Critics say some German towns and cities are beginning to evoke the sounds and images of the Islamic Middle East.
On January 14, the City-State of Bremen signed a so-called state treaty with city’s 40,000-strong Muslim community. The agreement guarantees the protection of Muslim community properties, the approval of the construction of mosques with minarets and domes, the allotment of land for Muslim cemeteries, the supplying of halal food at prisons and hospitals, the recognition of three Muslim holidays, Muslim representation in state institutions and several other rights and privileges.
According to Erol Pürlü, the spokesman of the Koordinationsrat der Muslime [Muslim Coordination Council], a Turkish-Muslim umbrella group, the treaty with Bremen «sends a clear signal that Islam belongs to Germany.»
Bremen is the second German state to sign a treaty with local Muslim communities. Hamburg, the second-largest city in Germany, concluded a «historic treaty» with the city’s 200,000-strong Muslim community in November 2012.
Critics say the agreements do little to encourage Muslim integration into German society and instead will boost the growing influence of Islam in the country by encouraging the perpetuation of a Muslim parallel society.
Also in January, a court in Berlin convicted two Islamists of being members of al-Qaeda and sentenced them to a combined 15 years in prison.
Yusuf Ocak, 27, from Lübeck, Germany, and Maqsood Lodin, 23, an Austrian of Afghan background, were assigned by al-Qaeda to collect money and recruit members for the terrorist group in Europe. Ocak was arrested in Vienna and Lodin in Berlin in May 2011.
At the time of their arrest, police uncovered a treasure trove of intelligence, including more than 100 al-Qaeda planning documents that described some of the terror group’s most audacious plots and a road map for future operations. Future plots include the seizing of cruise ships and carrying out other large-scale terrorist attacks in Europe.
Meanwhile, German security officials warned that the country’s support for France’s fight against Islamists in Mali had increased the risk of a terrorist attack targeting German interests both at home and abroad.
Citing a classified government report, the daily Bild said on January 29 that more than 100 German Islamists are believed to have received paramilitary training at terrorist training camps abroad, and that half of that group had already returned to Germany. The classified report said the militants included many German converts to radical Islam who have received training from al-Qaeda on how to plan attacks as «autonomous cells» in Germany.
In February, Muslim plans to convert the Kapernaumkirche [Capernaum Church]—a former Lutheran church in the city of Hamburg—into a mosque, generated controversy across Germany.
From Berlin to Dortmund to Mönchengladbach, the proliferation of mosques housed in former churches reflects the rise of Islam as the fastest growing religion in post-Christian Germany.
Major German newspapers greeted the news with apparent resignation, and published editorials with titles such as «When Mosques Replace Churches,» «Tenant Allah,» «Christian on the Outside, Muslim on the Inside,» and «The New Normal.»
Also in February, a German-born Islamic jihadist calling himself «Abu Azzam the German» threatened to attack Berlin and kill German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
In a three-minute video posted on the Internet (the video has since been removed), the man can be heard singing in German an Islamic a cappella battle hymn known as a nasheed.
«We want to see Obama and Merkel dead!» he sings. «Our troops are already there [in Germany], what joy. You’ll bleed, your heads will roll! … Oh Allah, give the German people what they deserve!»
Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich that Berlin was guilty of «a human rights violation» for insisting that Turkish immigrants who want to live in Germany must integrate and learn the German language.
In March, Germany banned three Salafist Muslim groups the Interior Ministry said wanted to overturn democracy and install a system based on Islamic Sharia law.
The Interior Ministry said on March 13 that it had banned three Islamic groups «DawaFFM,» «Islamische Audios» and «An-Nussrah,» which is part of the «Millatu Ibrahim» group [The Religious Community of Abraham] that was outlawed in June 2012.
In an effort to enforce the ban, hundreds of German police officers raided the homes of radical Islamists in Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Gladbeck and Solingen, and seized computers, cellphones and electronic storage devices, as well as money, documents and Islamic propaganda videos in Arabic and in German.
«Salafism, as represented in the associations that were banned today, is incompatible with our free democratic order,» German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said. «The groups aim to change our society in an aggressive, belligerent way so that democracy would be replaced by a Salafist system, and the rule of law replaced by Sharia law.»
On March 10, Hans-Georg Maaßen, the head of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, the Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (BfV), told the German newsmagazine Focus that the number of committed Salafists in Germany had jumped to 4,500 in 2012, compared to 3,800 in 2011.
Around 70% are Germans and 30% are non-Germans, coming from a variety of nations including Turkey, Morocco and Bosnia, according to an anonymous security official interviewed by the Associated Press. About a quarter of the Salafists in Germany are Muslim converts.
Although Salafists make up only a fraction of the estimated 4.3 million Muslims in Germany, authorities are concerned that most of those attracted to Salafi ideology are impressionable young Muslims who are especially susceptible to committing suicide attacks in the name of Islam.
Maaßen said the Salafist threat to Germany is rising and he warned that unless the government «takes decisive action against violent Islamists» the Salafist groups «will continue to grow and the threat of violence will increase.»
Police arrested a total of four Salafists involved in the plot. Two of the suspects were apprehended in Leverkusen near Cologne, where they were apparently observing Beisicht. Two others were arrested in Essen and Bonn, where police discovered a loaded firearm and ingredients to make explosives. Police also found a «death list» with the names of eight individuals marked in red.
The massive mosque complex—known as the Center for Islam in Europe-Munich (ZIE-M)—will cost an estimated €40 million ($51 million) and is designed to be a key strategic platform for spreading Islam throughout Europe.
Speculation is rife that the Persian Gulf Emirate of Qatar will pay for the project, although the Qatari Ambassador to Germany told the newspaper Münchner Merkur that no final decision has been made.
In April, Peer Steinbrück, the chancellor candidate for the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), said at a campaign stop in Berlin that he supported the idea of physical education classes in German schools being divided by gender as a courtesy to Muslims.
Steinbrück said: «If schools are able to do it, then they should.» After his comment was greeted with silence, Steinbrück added that the measure should be taken «out of consideration for [Muslim] religious convictions.»
The reaction to Steinbrück’s comments was immediate and fierce from across Germany’s political spectrum, an indication that overt support for multiculturalism is becoming a political liability in Germany.
On the same day that Steinbrück made his controversial comments about Muslim-friendly gym classes, Germany’s Central Council of Muslims (ZMD) demanded that the German government introduce statutory Muslim holidays throughout Germany.
In an interview with the daily newspaper Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (WAZ) on April 3, council chairman Aiman Mazyek said that granting one day during the month of Ramadan and another on the fast-breaking day of Eid al-Fitr would be «an important sign of integration» and «would emphasize tolerance in our society.»
The proposal was not well received. Wolfgang Bosbach, a member of parliament for the ruling Christian Democrats (CDU), told WAZ that he sees «far and wide no need» for the legal recognition of Muslim holidays, adding that Germany has «no Muslim tradition.» The current public holidays—such as Christmas and Easter—are part of a Christian-Western heritage, Bosbach said.
Also in April, Bavaria became the first state in Germany to classify so-called Islamophobes as extremists. The Bavarian branch of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, the BfV, also began monitoring German activists accused of fomenting hate against Muslims due to their «unconstitutional» opposition to the construction of a mega-mosque in Munich.
The move to silence critics of the mosque was announced by Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann in a press conference on April 12, and represented an unprecedented threat to the exercise of free speech in post-reunification Germany.
Herrmann made the announcement while presenting an annual report about threats to democratic order in Germany. A seven-minute video of the press conference with subtitles in English can be viewed here.
Herrmann singled out Freedom Bavaria as well as the Munich branch of a highly popular free speech blog calledPolitically Incorrect (PI), which focuses on topics related to immigration, multiculturalism and Islam in Germany.
On April 28, a major research study on religious attitudes in Germany found that more than half of all Germans view Islam as a threat to their country and believe it does not belong in the Western world.
The findings confirm the results of dozens of other surveys, and reflect a growing divide between the views of ordinary Germans and those of Europe’s multicultural elites, who for decades have promoted mass immigration from Muslim countries.
The study, entitled «Religion Monitor 2013: Religiousness and Cohesion in Germany» (German and English), was produced by the Bertelsmann Foundation, one of the most influential think tanks and lobbying groups in Europe, and a strong proponent of «progressive» causes such as multiculturalism and global governance.
On April 29, the television news program RTL Extra (a 23-minute video of the RTL report can be viewed at YouTube here) explained how Muslim polygamists are being financially supported by German taxpayers.
The RTL report shows how Muslim men residing in Germany are taking advantage of the social welfare system by bringing two, three or four women from across the Muslim world to Germany, and then marrying them in the presence of an imam, a Muslim religious leader.
Although these polygamous marriages are not officially recognized by the German state—they are technically illegal and punishable by fines and imprisonment—the practice is commonplace among Muslims in all major German cities. In Berlin, for example, it is estimated that fully one-third of the Muslim men living in the Neukölln district of the city have two or more wives.
Once in Germany the women request social welfare benefits, including the cost of a separate home for themselves and for their children, on the claim of being a «single parent with children.»
The RTL report says that even though the welfare fraud committed by Muslim immigrants is an «open secret» costing German taxpayers millions of euros each year, government agencies are reluctant to take action due to political correctness.
In May, a major conference on German-Muslim relations ended in failure after Muslims attending the event refused to acknowledge the government’s concerns about the threats to security posed by radical Islam.
German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich had wanted the eighth annual German Islam Conference, held in Berlin on May 7, to focus on finding ways the government could work together with «moderate» Muslims in Germany to combat Islamism and extremism.
But Muslims attending the gathering were apparently offended by the insinuation that Islam could be radical or violent, and demanded instead that the German government take steps to make «Islam equal to Christianity» in Germany.
In June, an appeals court in northwestern Germany decided a contentious divorce case based on Islamic Sharia law. The ruling was one of a growing number of court cases in Germany in which judges refer or defer to Islamic law because either the plaintiffs or the defendants are Muslim.
Critics say the cases—especially those in which German law has taken a back seat to Sharia law—reflect a dangerous encroachment of Islamic law into the German legal system.
The Appeals Court [Oberlandesgericht] in Hamm, a city in German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, ruled onJune 2 that whoever marries according to Islamic law in a Muslim country and later seeks a divorce in Germany must abide by the original terms set forth by Sharia law.
The case involved a 23-year-old Iranian woman who married a 31-year-old Iranian man in Iran according Sharia law in 2009. The couple later immigrated to the German city of Essen, gave birth to a daughter but then separated in 2011. A lower court in Essen granted the woman a divorce in November 2012 and the husband appealed the decision.
The appeals court in Hamm sided with the woman because, according to the German judge, the couple agreed to abide by the principles of Sharia law at the time they were married and thus the case should be decided according to Islamic law, regardless of whether the couple was now living in Germany.
The court ruled that the woman was legally entitled to talaq, an Islamic means of obtaining a divorce by reciting the phrase «I divorce you» three times. The court also said the husband had violated the original terms of the Islamic marriage agreement by failing to provide financial support for his wife for a period of six months.
In a similar but separate case in April 2013, the appeals court in Hamm overturned a previous decision by a lower court in Dortmund and ordered an Iranian man to pay his estranged wife (also an Iranian) the equivalent of 800 gold coins as part of a divorce settlement.
That case involved a couple who were married in Iran in 2001, immigrated to Dortmund and later obtained German citizenship. The couple separated in 2007.
As part of the marriage agreement, the husband had promised his wife a dower of 800 Bahar Azadi gold coinspayable upon demand. The court ordered the husband to pay €213,000 ($280,000), the current equivalent value of the coins, in compliance with a marriage contract he signed in accordance with Islamic law, even though both individuals are now German citizens.
Also in June, a Turkish mosque in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia began sounding public calls to prayer from an outdoor loudspeaker system mounted on the roof of the edifice.
The Fatih Camii Mosque in Wipperfürth, a factory town situated 40 kilometers (25 miles) north-east of Cologne, began publicly calling the Muslim faithful to prayer during a formal «muezzin-induction ceremony» on June 21attended by local and foreign dignitaries, including the Turkish consul.
The Fatih Camii Mosque—run by the Turkish-Islamic Union for Islamic Affairs (DITIB), a branch of the Turkish government that controls over 900 mosques in Germany—received municipal approval for a muezzin publicly to call Muslims to the mosque for prayer five times a day after Mayor Michael von Rekowski said he wanted to show the world that Wipperfürth «takes pride in being an intercultural and interreligious community.»
At the request of the mayor, leaders of the Wipperfürth mosque met with representatives of the Protestant and Catholic churches in town to «integrate» the timing of the Muslim prayer calls into the traditional schedule for the ringing of church bells.
On June 11, the head of Germany’s federal agency for domestic intelligence, Hans-Georg Maaßen, presented theannual intelligence report for 2012. Among many items of interest, the 450-page report states that 30 Islamist groups were active in Germany during 2012. The number of estimated Islamists jumped to 42,550, up from 38,080 in 2011.
The report also shows that Hezbollah is using mosques and other Islamic organizations in Germany to raise funds for the terrorist group’s activities in Lebanon. The report also shows a steady increase of Hezbollah operatives in Germany: 950 in 2012, up from 900 in 2010.
On June 25, German police foiled an Islamist terror plot to use remote-controlled airplanes filled with explosives as guided missiles. Nearly 100 police raided homes in the German states of Bavaria, Baden-Wurttemberg and Saxony. Two of the suspected plotters were students in the aeronautics department at the University of Stuttgart, who were developing systems for using GPS to guide pilotless aircraft, according to the German public broadcaster SWR.
Meanwhile, the Goethe-Universität in Frankfurt and the Justus-Liebig-Universität in Giessen opened a joint center for Islamic theology. The center is the fourth taxpayer-funded department of Islamic theology in Germany.
In addition to the center in Frankfurt/Giessen, Islamic theology departments have also recently opened at universities in Tübingen (January 2012), Erlangen/Nürnberg (September 2012) and Münster/Osnabrück (October 2012).
Islamic theology courses at German universities are so popular that they are «changing the German religious landscape,» according to the news service Deutsche Welle.
German Education Minister Annette Schavan says the Islamic centers are a «milestone for integration» for the 4.3 million Muslims who now live in Germany. She says Germany has a demand for more than 2,000 Islam teachers, who are needed to instruct more than 700,000 Muslim children.
The German government claims that by controlling the curriculum, the schools, which are to train Muslim imams and Islamic religion teachers, will function as an antidote to «hate preachers.» Most imams currently in Germany are from Turkey and many of them do not speak German.
But the idea has been criticized by those who worry that the Islamic centers will become a gateway for Islamists who will introduce a hardline brand of Islam into the German university system.
In July, Muslim mobs ushered in the beginning of Ramadan with three nights of rioting in Hamburg. The unrest began on the evening of July 12 when more than 150 Muslim youths attacked police and burned cars in Altona, the westernmost district of Hamburg. More than 100 riot police were deployed to restore order. An 11-minute video of the Hamburg unrest, with cries of «Allahu Akbar!» («Allah is Greater!) can be viewed here on YouTube.
Also in July, the German news agency Deutsche Welle reported that German military canteens have adapted to Ramadan and altered their menus to provide Muslim soldiers with foods that are prepared according to Islamic Sharia law.
According to Deutsche Welle, army canteens are better equipped than many other large kitchens to prepare food for Muslim and non-Muslim soldiers separately: «The cooks use separate forks and ladles and make sure that the meat is stored separately. And if we grill together, the cooks always have some aluminum foil with them, so that the turkey breast doesn’t touch the bacon.»
In August, a gang of Islamic radicals in Eisenhüttenstadt, a German city near the border of Poland, attacked a young Muslim couple for violating the Ramadan fast.
During the incident, at least ten Chechen jihadists broke into an apartment at the asylum seekers facility in Eisenhüttenstadt and beat the couple, who are refugees from Chechnya, to the point that the woman suffered a miscarriage. According to local police, Chechen gangs have a history of enforcing Islamic Sharia law in the city.
In September, the state of Lower Saxony signed a preliminary «state treaty» with local Muslim representatives to recognize Islam as an official religion. The document, dated September 30, addresses 30 specific grievances presented by the Muslim community, which constitutes around 7% of the overall population of the state.
«A mutual skepticism has occurred in the past and our government wishes to show its respect to the Muslims with this treaty,» according to the minister-president of Lower Saxony, Stephen Weil. Similar «treaties» have also been signed in Bremen and Hamburg.
On September 11, judges at the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig ordered a Muslim schoolgirl to take part in mixed-sex swimming lessons. Her parents had insisted that the girl, 13, not take part in swimming lessons at her school in Frankfurt because she felt «uncomfortable» swimming with «bare chested» boys near her. She either wanted to be allowed to skip the lessons or be given special instruction on her own.
The court ruled that the «social reality of life in Germany comes above her religious beliefs,» and ordered her to attend swimming lessons wearing a full-body-covering garment known as a «burkini» in order to accommodate her beliefs.
On September 19, a dispute in Berlin over efforts by multiculturalists to ban Christmas was resolved after Mayor Klaus Wowereit stepped in to declare that Christmas is still legal. A row erupted after the left-leaning Green Party in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin announced that the traditional Christmas markets that have taken place in the neighborhood for generations would henceforth be held under the religiously-neutral term «Winterfest.» Muslims make up roughly one-third of the population in Kreuzberg. Wowereit said he had received complaints about the ban from angry people all across Germany and said the dispute had harmed Berlin’s reputation.
Meanwhile, the first Desert Flower Center was opened in Berlin in cooperation with the hospital Waldfriede. The center is the first medical facility in Europe to offer comprehensive treatment for victims of female genital mutilation. Around 50,000 women in Germany are affected by FGM, 20,000 of whom live in Berlin.
The German parliament recently redefined FGM as a criminal offense in its own right, punishable with a jail term of up to 15 years. Previously, it fell under the grievous bodily harm category, with sentencing restricted to a maximum of ten years.
In October, the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel reported that 200 German Islamists fighting against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad have gathered in northern Syria and established their own camp, known as the «German Camp.» The war-torn country is currently «by far the most attractive location for jihadists,» according to a classified intelligence document that was leaked to the magazine.
According to Der Spiegel, the 71-page document sheds light on the extent to which Germany’s Muslim population is supporting the Syrian jihadists. Humanitarian aid charities and fundraisers have amassed hundreds of thousands of euros in what intelligence agencies dub «trigger events,» where imams collect funds for weapons acquisitions and call on young men to join the jihad.
The newspaper Die Welt said that German security services are increasingly concerned that the fighters will return to Germany more radicalized after potentially receiving terror training from Al-Qaeda and Islamic groups in the country.
In November, the Marzahn-Hellersdorf Adult Education Center in eastern Berlin sparked a nationwide debate after it removed a series of six nude paintings out of deference to Muslim immigrants. Critics said the decision was an overzealous bid at cultural sensitivity.
School officials feared the works may shock Muslim students and prevent them from attending class. The school is located nearby a newly established refugee center, which draws immigrants and asylum-seekers to the neighborhood.
In December, a new study found that the majority of Muslims in Europe believe Islamic Sharia law should take precedence over the secular constitutions and laws of their European host countries.
The «Six Country Immigrant Integration Comparative Survey«—a five-year study of Moroccan and Turkish immigrants in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Holland and Sweden—was published on December 11 by theWZB Berlin Social Science Center, one of the largest social science research institutes in Europe.
According to the study (German and English), which was funded by the German government, two thirds (65%) of the Muslims interviewed say Islamic Sharia law is more important to them than the laws of the country in which they live.
Three quarters (75%) of the respondents hold the opinion that there is only one legitimate interpretation of the Koran, which should apply to all Muslims, and nearly 60% of Muslims believe their community should return to «Islamic roots.»
The survey shows that 44% of the Moroccans and Turks interviewed agree with all three of the above statements, which makes them «consistent fundamentalists,» and fundamentalist attitudes are just as widespread among younger Muslims as they are among older Muslims.
In a commentary on the study, the German newspaper Die Welt said the findings cast serious doubt upon the unbridled optimism of European multiculturalists, who argue that Muslim citizens will eventually internalize the liberal democratic mindset of Western society.
«The data are not suitable for simple conclusions,» the paper writes. «But it must be recognized: democracies must beware of those who believe a free society is something that needs to be vanquished.»
Also in December, a discussion paper (German and English) published by the Berlin-based Gustav Stresemann Foundation—a think tank dedicated to the preservation and advancement of liberal democracy in Europe—warns that national and international Islamic organizations are increasingly putting pressure on Western politicians gradually to criminalize any critique of Islam.
The author of the report, the German political scientist Felix Strüning, provides a meticulously detailed analysis of the Islamic lobbying effort—by means of a «human rights lawsuit»—to silence Thilo Sarrazin, a prominent German banker who has criticized the refusal of Muslim immigrants to integrate into German society.
Strüning writes that German political authorities are increasingly bending to pressure from German Islamic organizations by adopting Muslim definitions of «Islamophobia» in public discourse, thus creating legal uncertainty as to «who can say what about Islam and Muslims in Germany.»
«Critics of Islamic ideology and its organizations are constantly confronted with lawsuits and have to legally defend themselves against the accusations of blasphemy or incitement-to-hatred,» Strüning writes. «Even if it does not come to a conviction, such processes cost a lot of time and money, which in many cases includes one’s reputation and possibly even his or her job. Thus, also in the West, we are experiencing an increasing de facto application of Islamic law in matters of Islam.»
Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute. He is also Senior Fellow for European Politics at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.