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Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière Calls for Improving Muslim Participation in German Society (May 17, 2010)

To decrease tensions between Muslim communities and the German government, the Ministry of the Interior organized a second German Islam Conference. At the opening of the conference, Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière called for active integration measures to improve the participation of Muslims in German society.

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“Improving the Participation of Muslims in Germany!”: Speech by Federal Minister Dr. Thomas de Maizière, MdB [Member of the Bundestag], to the plenum of the German Islam Conference on May 17, 2010, in Berlin.

Germany has become more diverse in terms of religion. Nearly five percent of the German population is Muslim. Half of the Muslims living in Germany – we are talking about two million people – are already German citizens. Muslims have found a home in Germany. Our country is a homeland to them.

In view of this fact, my predecessor coined the phrase: “Islam is a part of Germany.” This description of the state of affairs was as accurate as it was overdue.

But where do we want to go? What do we want to achieve?

What does it actually mean, “a part of Germany”? The word “part,” on the one hand, points to membership in a larger whole – as is shown by words such as participation and partaking. At the same time, however, it also points to the opposite: partition, separation, parallelism. Our work lies in this ambivalence.

Strengthening the sense of belonging – that is our goal. Greater participation of Muslims as citizens of our country – that is what we want to achieve together.

Participation also means: assuming responsibility. Let us then shape the present and the future together – in shared responsibility for the society in which we live and in which our children will also live side by side.

It is precisely in times of economic crisis and social upheaval that one thing becomes clear: religions provide people with stability. For many, religions form the foundation of a value-bound life within the context of various social frameworks. Religious bonds are stronger.

Religions form the foundation of a life oriented toward criteria that do not establish material profit as absolute. Religions create bonds and coherence – also in modern, secular societies.

But religious diversity also represents a challenge to societal cohesion. Boundaries and marginalization can also trigger conflicts.

For me, promoting cohesion means – going beyond religious or cultural boundaries – engaging in discussion, seeking solutions together, solidifying bonds, and thus strengthening the shared sense of responsibility for our country.

However, promoting societal cohesion in Germany does not in any way mean making everything the same, leveling every difference. The goal of the German Islam Conference is not assimilation. Our goal is to prevent diversity from becoming a problem.

The goal is to promote the integration of Muslims in Germany by way of participation. To that end, the German Islam Conference provides an institutionalized, nation-wide framework for the dialogue between the state and Muslims in Germany.

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