CAIRO - Clearing misconceptions about their faith, Muslim participants at an annual German conference on Muslim integration have reiterated that Islam exhorts followers to promote racial and gender equality.
At the conference, we've realized that no matter how religious a woman or a couple is - equality is more a social problem that needs to be looked at separately from religion, GÃ¶nÃ¼l Halat-Mec, a family lawyer and member of the German Islam Conference (DIK), told Deutsche Welle on Sunday, April 22.
Germany hosted an annual government-sponsored conference on Thursday to discuss integration of German Muslims into the society.
The key topic of the event, attended by delegates from Muslim groups and federal and state governments, was equality between men and women.
Halat-Mec said gender inequality has nothing to do with Islam.
What we've worked out in the Islam conference is that many issues are not linked to religion or Islam, but are rather rooted in traditional patriarchal structures of society.
And that depends on the social situation of the women - are they working, are they independent?
The issue of gender equality was thoroughly discussed in the conference's groups Equality between men and women and Integration of Muslims into the job market.
During the discussions, participants found that inequality sometimes occurred in non-Muslim families.
That's no different from the situation we have in non-Muslim families or couples, Halat-Mec said.
The conference, which concluded Thursday, was marred by remarks by Volker Kauder, head of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives in parliament, who said that Islam does not belong to Germany.
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.
Participants also tackled issue such as forced marriage and the influence of Islamist groups on young people.
Domestic violence and forced marriage have nothing to do with religion and must not be tolerated, Halat-Mec, a founding member of FRAINFRA (Frankfurt Initiative of Progressive Women), told Deutsche Welle.
These are human rights violations.
The family lawyer said it was important that this has also been backed by the Muslim organizations in Germany.
Halat-Mec opines that coherence in German society could be achieved through more integration between the society and its Muslim community to avoid misconceptions.
The government as well as society must send the right signals and make clear that "you're here with your religion - but your religion is not a hindrance in this country, she said.
We are working towards better education opportunities for you. We do want to work on more integration between the society of the majority and the Muslim society.
Prejudices can be reduced that way.
Germans have grown hostile to the Muslim presence recently, with a heated debate on the Muslim immigration into the country.
Last week, Volker Kauder, head of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives in parliament, infuriated the Muslim minority by saying that Islam does not belong to the European 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."