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July 15, 2021 4:35 pm

German Jewish Community Head Calls for Closer Ties With Independent Muslim Groups

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

The DITIB (Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs) building opposite the Cologne Central Mosque before it’s official inauguration in Cologne, Germany, September 29, 2018. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

A leader of Germany’s Jewish community said in a Thursday interview that he hopes to foster closer cooperation between Jews and Muslim groups, provided those organizations are not subject to “influence” from abroad.

Josef Schuster, President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, sees an opportunity for closer ties to independent Muslim groups, according to an interview with the German Catholic news agency KNA, in contrast with associations that are “partly controlled and massively influenced by foreign entities.”

One example is the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB), the largest Islamic association in Germany and is co-financed by the Turkish Ministry of Religion. The DITIB, which manages about 900 mosques in Germany, has come under criticism for functioning as an arm of the Turkish government.

Commenting on Germany’s federal elections in September, Schuster said he expected the new government to take proactive action against antisemitism. The German Jewish leader also pointed to the importance of the remembrance of Nazi crimes and emphasized the need for providing adequate support for concentration camp memorial sites.

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Looking back to recent achievements, Schuster hailed the creation of the position of a Federal Government Commissioner against antisemitism, which is held by Felix Klein, as a success. He also referred to similar structures with commissioners at the level of the federal states, who exchange views with Klein in a federal-state commission.

He noted that the state treaty between the Central Council of Jews and the federal government was also amended to increase the annual federal subsidy from 10 to 13 million euros.

“After the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the German government has provided considerable funds to protect Jewish institutions,” Schuster stressed.

These funds are currently being called up in consultation with the Federal Criminal Police Office and the state criminal police offices, he said.

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