Cablegate: Muslim Political Observers On Risk of Extremist

Published: Fri 10 Dec 2004 10:15 AM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Muslim Political Observers On Risk of Extremist
Violence in Germany
REF: A) The Hague 2864 B) Frankfurt 6156 (NOTAL) C) Hamburg
60 D) 02 Frankfurt 10187, E) Frankfurt 1390 F) Frankfurt
9141 G) Frankfurt 0567
Sensitive but unclassified not for internet distribution
1. (SBU) SUMMARY. Muslim political contacts in Frankfurt's
district see the predominantly secular character of
Germany's largely Turkish Muslim community as a bulwark
against Islamic extremism but cite the area's growing North
African population and the presence of far-right German
groups as potentially destabilizing factors. While
fragmented religiously and politically, ethnic Turks in
Germany are united across party and religious lines by their
support for Turkey's entry into the European Union. END
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Turkish Secularism Makes Extremism in Germany Less Likely
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2. (SBU) Consulate representatives met with Muslim
representatives of Germany's major political parties to
assess the danger of Islamist attacks along the lines of
that against the Dutch filmmaker Van Gogh and potential
reactionary violence against Germany's 3.1 million Muslims.
Former European Parliament member Ozan Ceyhun (Social
Democrats/SPD) underscored the largely Turkish and secular
composition of Germany's Muslim population as a safeguard
against religious extremism. Ceyhun warned, however, that
Germany's growing North African community (while still
relatively small) harbors significant religious
fundamentalist and anti-American elements.
3. (SBU) Hesse Green Party caucus chief Tarek Al Wazir (of
Yemeni descent) noted that fundamentalist Muslims -- while a
minority -- are less inclined to integrate into local
communities and often retain ties with like-minded groups
outside Germany, opening the door for extremist influences
from other parts of Europe and the Middle East. (NOTE:
Alleged Al Qaeda Hamburg cell member and September 11
plotter Mounir el-Motassadeq came from Morocco, while a
Frankfurt terror cell convicted of plotting to attack the
Strasbourg Christmas Market in 2000 was of Algerian origin.
A Frankfurt mosque raided by police in June on suspicions of
extremist activity received partial funding from the
Moroccan consulate (refs B-D) END NOTE).
Fear of Right-Wing Violence
4. (SBU) Ceyhun expressed fear that right-wing political
groups could carry out "reprisal" attacks against Muslims in
the wake of the Van Gogh controversy in the Netherlands.
Local Muslims reacted with alarm to the November 18
firebombing of a Turkish mosque in Sinsheim near Heidelberg
(no one was hurt in the attack). Following the December 3
arrest of a 17-year old ethnic German of Tajik origin in
connection with the bombing, however, Baden-Wuerttemberg
police described the attack as an isolated incident.
Muslim Political Participation On The Rise
5. (SBU) Muslim political participation in the region has
increased significantly in recent years, fueled in part by
expanded naturalization under the federal citizenship law of
2000. Over 700,000 Muslims in Germany now carry a German
passport, and another 800,000 were born in Germany. Turkish
Germans are predominantly Sunni with a significant Alevi
minority. Although socially conservative, the vast majority
of Turkish voters (80% in 2002 national elections) back the
SPD because of its support for Turkey's EU membership bid.
Germany's Green Party has also seen a rise in Turkish
membership because of a platform that is seen as friendly
towards immigrants and opposes recent anti-headscarf laws
(refs E-F).
6. (SBU) Mr. Sina Afra of the Liberal Turkish-German Union
(a Free Democrat/FDP-affiliated group) estimated that 10-15%
of Germany's Turkish community are non-practicing, while an
equivalent are deeply religious. The majority are somewhat
observant but increasingly participate in German society:
Afra cited as an example the increasing number of Turkish
high school graduates in Germany (from only 2,000 in 1989 to
around 45,000 today). Ceyhun affirmed the positive trends
but noted that Muslims integrate into German society at
varying speeds; even many with German citizenship live in
Muslim sub-communities. Several city governments in SW
Germany have pioneered successful initiatives to integrate
their large immigrant populations, particularly Frankfurt's
"Mama learns German and Papa too", a program providing
German-language instruction to immigrant mothers and fathers
(ref G).
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Support for Turkey's EU Entry Trumps Party Affiliation
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7. (SBU) Our Muslim interlocutors noted broad and vocal
support among Turkish Germans for Turkey's entry into the
EU. Not surprisingly, contacts made the case for Turkey to
be judged fairly under the Copenhagen agreement, with Al
Wazir remarking that Germany "cannot renege on promises made
to Turkey decades ago." Mr. Meze Zafer of the German-
Turkish Forum (a Christian Democrat/CDU affiliated political
group) opined that support for Turkey's EU membership tends
to isolate Turkish CDU members from fellow conservatives and
hinders progress on other political and religious issues.
Ceyhun struck a rare discordant note by saying that he
believed Turkey would end up only with the "privileged
partnership" envisioned by the CDU, painting instead a role
for Turkey as leader of a group of pro-western states in the
Middle East (including Egypt, Israel, and Iraq) that could
partner with the EU on important issues. Ceyhun voiced his
disappointment over Turkey's tepid participation in the
coalition supporting a democratic Iraq.
8. (SBU) Right-wing German politicians in this largely
conservative region have used the Van Gogh incident and
fears of Islamic extremism to score points in Germany's
debate on integration, including Baden-Wuerttemberg
Education Minister Annette Schavan, who declared that
Germany should compel Muslim religious leaders to preach in
German. Germany's Office for the Protection of the
Constitution (which monitors extremism) estimates that only
0.1% of Germany's Muslims belong to radical Islamic
movements and believe that the secular and moderate leanings
of most Muslims in Germany mean that fundamentalist appeals
are unlikely to gain traction within the community at large;
although such groups pose an obvious danger.
9. (SBU) The economic contributions of Germany's Muslim
immigrants (particularly given the country's aging workforce
and dwindling birth rate) are significant; however, recent
anti-headscarf laws show the country's struggle to integrate
a culture seen by many as incompatible with "German" values
(such as gender equality). Fear sparked by the Van Gogh
murder has added a new subtext to Germany's continuing
debate on how to accommodate diversity. END COMMENT.
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