CAIRO - A government-sponsored conference on Muslims in Germany has sparked a storm of criticism for focusing on terrorism as a key subject rather than promoting dialogue between authorities and the Muslim minority.
The conference only makes sense as a dialogue with Muslim religious communities, Erol PÃ¼rlÃ¼ of the Association of Islamic Cultural Centers (VIKZ) which says it represents 300 Muslim communities nationwide, told the SÃ¼ddeutsche Zeitung in a report cited by The Local newspaper.
Planned for next week, the agenda of the German Islamic Conference has drawn criticism of Muslim leaders across Germany.
The agenda, drafted by the interior ministry, puts terrorism as a key topic for talks.
Though his organization has accepted its invitation to attend, PÃ¼rlÃ¼ made it clear that expectations from the conference were low.
Kenan Kolat, chairman of Germany's Association of Turkish Communities (TGD), has voiced similar concerns.
In its current form, it no longer has any purpose, he said.
First started in 2006, the conference was established by then-interior minister Wolfgang SchÃ¤uble to improve the working relationship between the government and Muslim communities.
Topics discussed at subsequent meetings have included plans to put Islam on an equal footing with the Church, as well as Muslim religious education and the construction of mosques.
But the conference has witnessed a loss of support over stalled talks and lack of progress.
Making a shift towards issues of security, several prominent Muslim organizations have pulled out of the talks in the past two years.
Aiman Mazyek, chairman of the umbrella Central Council of Muslims in Germany, said the conference needed an overhaul.
Ali Kizilkaya, chairman of the Islamic Council of Germany, described the conference as a train travelling in the wrong direction.
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.
Germans have grown hostile to the Muslim presence recently, with a heated debate on the Muslim immigration into the country.
A recent poll by the Munster University found that Germans view Muslims more negatively than their European neighbors.
Germany's daily Der Spiegel had warned last August that the country is becoming intolerant towards its Muslim minority.According to a 2010 nationwide poll by the research institute Infratest-dimap, more than one third of the respondents would prefer "a Germany without Islam."
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net