CAIRO - A new book alleging that belief in God is not mandatory in Islam is drawing criticism from Muslim leaders in Germany for running against the basic Islamic teachings.
"Faith is elementary, but so are deeds supported by faith," Zekeriya Altug, head of the northern German branch of the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB), told Deutsche Welle on Thursday, February 28.
"Alone, neither is enough.
It is the combination that creates a whole."
A book released by Austrian author Mouhanad Khorchide alleges that belief in God is not mandatory in Islam.
He says that paradise was open to anyone who lived a good life, regardless of whether he believes in God or not.
Khorchide argues that Islam is all about accepting love and mercy of God as well as putting Islamic teachings into practice.
The author, who heads an organization training Islam teachers, says that anyone who applies Islamic teachings in his daily life becomes a Muslim.
He insists that God, after all, is not interested in whether someone is a "believer" or "non-believer."
Khorchide argues that his explanation meets the needs of the young people.
"We face the challenge of many young people who say they are not interested in a restrictive God, or a God that scares [them]," he said.
He said that it is the same reason that he teaches that religion exists for people and not for God.
He insists that God's concern is for people, the teacher believes, not self glorification.
The first pillar of Islam is the Shahadah (the proclamation that there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is His Messenger).
The four other pillars are the daily prayers, Zakah (alms), fasting and the pilgrimage.
Critics, however, reject calls demanding the author to show remorse about his views.
"From a religious perspective that goes too far," Altug said.
"Every person has to decide what they regret and when to show remorse, which has to come from inside. It cannot be imposed."
This came after Ramazan Ucar of the Association of Islamic Communities in Hamburg (UCAR) called on the author "to express his regret and conduct himself like a Muslim."
Altug opines that the Muslmi author has expressed his views with good intentions.
"There is a need to sit down talk," he said.
"The issue should not be seen as a fight but as a constructive discussion. That's the only way we will move forward."
The author echoes a similar opinion, believing that the debate would benefit the Muslim community in Germany.
"Everything new causes concern or insecurity at first," he said.
"But I think we are heading in the right direction. I see a path ahead of us - the association means well. We all learn from our mistakes."Germany has between 3.8 and 4.3 million Muslims, making up some 5 percent of the total 82 million population, according to government-commissioned studies.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net