The Building of a Muslim community and Germany's multicultural Society

While the German public imagines one cohesive Muslim community, it still consists of a large variety of different and competing voices. A feeling of belonging between Muslims of different national, linguistic and political backgrounds is slowly emerging. Markers of this development can be observed after notable discursive events in nationwide media that lead to Muslim individuals taking a stance as Muslims. This paper will take a look at how prominent individuals with a Muslim background and Islamic communalists are drawing on their Muslim identity raising the urgent question: "Who can speak for Muslims?" In 2007, four German Islamic umbrella organizations joint in order to represent Islamic associations towards officials and government representatives. The founding was accompanied both by the claim of the Islamic organizations for equal treatment compared to established religious communities and the request from the governmental side for a unified Muslim representational body. In this way the institutionalisation of Islam in Germany is heavily shaped by the public debate on Muslims in Germany and the engagement of government officials. The German Islam Conference, a long-term negotiation process in which the Federal Interior Ministry invited Muslim representatives, however, has fuelled the debate on the question of legitimate representatives for Muslims in Germany by inviting Muslim individuals besides functionaries of Islamic associations without leading to the acknowledgement of Islam as a religious community according to German law.

About Riem Spielhaus

Riem Spielhaus, (Humboldt University, Berlin) is a Research Fellow at the Centre for European Islamic Thought, Copenhagen. The main focus of her research is on minority studies especially on Muslims in Germany and Europe. Her research interests include identity politics, transnational Muslim networks, and female religious leadership and activism in Germany. Her dissertation on the emergence of a Muslim community in Germany between ascription and self-identification was awarded the Augsburg Science Award for Intercultural Studies 2010. She co-authored a comprehensive study on Islamic prayer rooms in Berlin (2006) and has been working as advisor for the commissioner for Migration, Refugees and Integration of the German Federal Government. She was a member of several working groups, which were set up by the German government and civic organizations like the Islamforum Berlin 2005-2009) and the first “German Islam Conference” (2006-2009).She is the author of several articles, including "The Concept of the Muslim Enemy in the Public Discourse" and "Media Making Muslims: the Construction of a Muslim Community in Germany through Media Debate."