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GERMANY. The knowledge of the Islamic Orient accumulated by envoys, pilgrims, and prisoners during the Middle Ages in German-speaking countries (e.g., contacts between the Carolingian court and the caliphate of Baghdad, during the Crusades and the Ottoman conquest of large parts of southeastern Europe) was important but did not result in a systematic academic reception. In this sense the sixteenth and part of the seventeenth centuries belong to the “prehistory” of Arabic and Islamic studies. In contrast to Paris or Leiden, German universities were for a longer period unsuccessful in creating permanent teaching positions for the contemporary languages of the Orient. Nevertheless, Arabic was taught at Faculties of Divinity as well as in some Gymnasiums and Lateinschulen. After the foundation of the Universities of Halle (1694) and Gottingen (1738), Oriental languages were part of the curriculum of the Faculty of Philosophy, although the first scholars in this field were primarily engaged in theological questions, for example Johann David Michaelis (1717-1791) and Johann Gottfried Eichhorn (1752-1827). The Collegium Orientale Theologicum founded in Halle in 1’702 by August Hermann Francke (1663-1727) combined biblical philology with missionary zeal. The almost exclusive use of Latin by German scholars (until the middle of the nineteenth century) did not facilitate a broader reception of Eastern languages and cultures.

Kölner Zentral Moschee in Germany

Kölner Zentral Moschee in Germany

Modern German Scholarly Interest in the Islamic Orient. In western Europe, the age of the French Revolution witnessed a vivid interest in the contemporary Orient. The works of William Jones (1746-1794), Friedrich von Diez (1751-1817), Prussian charge d’affaires in Constantinople, and Joseph von HammerPiirgstall (1774-1856) explain the extraordinarily broad influence on some Arab, Persian, and Ottoman authors on Johann Wolfgang Goethe and his contemporaries von (West-ostlicher Diwan, 1819). The ingenious translations of Friedrich Mickert (1788-1866), including the Qur’an and Hariri’s Maqdmat cannot be overestimated. Around 1800 a limited number of periodicals devoted to the Islamic East appeared (such as Asiatisches Magazin in Weimar, 1802, and Leipzig, 1806-1810; and Fundgruben des Orients/Mines d’Orient in Vienna, 1809-1818). The first form of institutionalization was the foundation of the German Oriental Society (Deutsche Morgenldndische Gesellschaft) and the publication of an annual (ZDMG [1845, 1847]). In Leipzig, Heinrich Leberecht Fleischer (18o1-1888), a student of Silvestre de Sacy, was the most influential German Arabist of the century with a large number of students from many countries. Besides extensive work on the texts and manuscripts, many German scholars concentrated on the life of Muhammad, the history of the Qur’an (e.g. Theodor Noldeke [1836-1930], Geschichte des Koran, 186o, and the early centuries of the caliphate (Gustav Weil [18o81889], Geschichte der Chalifen, 1846-1851, Julius Wellhausen [1844-1918], Das arabische Reich and sein Sturz, 1902). Important monographs were devoted to Persian and Turkish subjects.

After the proclamation of the Second German Empire (1871) the need for trained civil servants, officers, missionaries, and businessmen became more apparent. The Seminar fur Orientalische Sprachen (S.O.S.) was created in the German capital in 1887 to cover these requirements (it is now affiliated with the University of Bonn). Academic teaching was still characterized by the close integration of Arab and Persian studies in their “mother philologies”-Semitic or Indo-European Studies. The first professorship devoted exclusively to Turkish was created for Karl Foy at the S.O.S. Der Islam (Berlin 191o-) and Die Welt des Islams (Leiden 1913-; and until 1923 the organ of the Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Islamkunde) started to appear in these years. Important contributions to Islamic studies were done by learned “men on the spot,” such as the consuls Johann Gottfried Wetzstein (1815-19o5) and Johann Heinrich Mordtmann (1852-1932).

Against the philological mainstream some scholars advocated an integrated research of the contemporary Orient disregarded convential borderlines between disciplines. Carl Heinrich Becker (1876-1933) who occupied between 19o8 and 1913 a chair of history and culture of the Orient at the new Kolonialinstitut in Hamburg, and Martin Hartmann (1851-1918) in Berlin were the most prominent representatives of a sort of Islamkunde (Islamic Studies) embedded in sociological and historical studies. Concurrently area studies (Auslandskunde) in the service of national political and economical interests were born. Auslandskunde reappeared in the 1960s under the label of Regionalforschung (regional studies) but did not lead to the development of larger departments or institutes.

World War I saw an unprecedented instrumentalization of the Oriental disciplines in the service of political aims. An important number of Orientalists served in Ottoman uniforms (e.g., Gotthelf Bergstrdsser, Franz Babinger, Helmut Ritter). This generation occupied academic positions until the next postwar period. National Socialism compelled many scholars to leave the country and created a serious discontinuity in many branches of Islamwissenschaft, in which Germany had taken a leading position. Prominent emigrants to the United States, Britain, and Turkey were Ettinghausen, Herzfeld, Kahle, Rosenthal, Schacht, Sfissheim, and Walzer.

The recovery of Islamic studies after 1945 was slow. Only a limited number of newly created universities showed interest in non-European studies (e.g., Bochum, Bayreuth, Bamberg). There are successful interdisciplinary research and publication projects such as Verzetchnis der Orientalischen Handschriften in Deutschland or Tubinger Atlas des Vorderen Orients. With the foundation of a research institute and library in Beirut and Istanbul, the German Oriental Society has become a significant platform of scholarly communication.

German Political Interest in the Islamic World. Prussia delegated in 1756 an extraordinary envoy to Istanbul, who, in 1761, concluded a treaty of friendship and trade with the Ottoman Empire. Two years later, the Turkish ambassador Ahmed Rismi Efendi traveled to Vienna and Berlin. The year 1790 marked the formation of a Prussian-Ottoman alliance. During the nineteenth century a network of consular missions of Prussia and other German principalities emerged in the provinces of the Ottoman Empire. After the proclamation of the Second Empire, Germany endeavored to diminish British influence by close cooperation with the Ottoman Empire. Respecting its territorial integrity Germany considered the Turkish realm a marketing area and source for raw materials. Important landmarks were the foundation of the Society du Chemin de Fer d’Anatolie (1889) and a growing military involvement after 1882. During his first voyage to the Orient Wilhelm II declared himself protector of 300 million Muslims. In 1903 Germany finally received the concession for the Baghdad railway. The Berlin-Baghdad “axis” was supposed to counterbalance the Gibraltar-Cairo-Calcutta connection and was the most severe test of GermanBritish relations. The German assistance to the regimes of Abdfilhamid II (r. 1876-1908) and the Young Turks presupposed “a political indifference toward the sufferings of the Christian peoples of the Turkish Empire” (Naumann, 1899). The appointment of Otto Liman von Sanders as chief of the German military mission in Constantinople in October 1913 was widely understood as a strengthening of the German position in the Near and Middle East. Generally, considerations of political prestige were stronger than economic reasons, as in the Morocco crises of 1907-1911. At the outbreak of World War I Germany occupied second place to France as creditor of the Ottomans (20.1 to 50 percent). In contrast to the Turkish and Moroccan engagement, German politics were more reserved toward Egypt and Iran.

During the World War I the Nachrichtenstelle fur den Orient was charged with the support of mutineers in the British and French colonies. German war propaganda was mainly influenced by Pan-Islamic motives. At the same time, German and Austrian advisers and teachers occupied many positions in the Ottoman administrative and educational apparatus.

Prominent Germanophiles among Turkish and Arab intellectuals were Mehmed Akif [Ersoy] (1873-1936), Ahmad Shawq! (1868-1932), and Sati` al-Husri (18821968). As in prewar times, Turkish authors were fascinated by the formation of the German state, and Arab nationalists, such as the Bath, saw it as a model for nation-building [See the biographies of Ersoy and Husri.]

Islam in Germany and German Muslims. The earliest Muslim presence in German-speaking countries is connected with Ottoman prisoners of war after the imperial reconquista of the Balkans. Some of them converted to Christianity. Until the mass immigration of “guest workers” (Gastarbeiter) in the 1960s as a consequence of the German-Turkish treaties of 1961 and 1964, Muslims did not represent an important demographic factor. Larger cities such as Berlin (whose first mosque in the quarter of Wilmersdorf completed in 1927), had a heterogeneous colony of diplomats, students, and merchants. In May 1958 refugees from the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia formed a Religose Verwaltung der Muslemfluchtlinge in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland and Berlin. The administration edited a journal in German, Al-muhadschirun.

The organized immigration of Turkish and Yugoslav (and to a limited degree Moroccan and Tunisian) guest workers found its end with the “recruitment stop” of November 1973. Even though a small percentage of the workers returned to their countries of origin, the phenomenon of “chain migration” (mainly of separated families) and the important number of Turkish, Lebanese, Syrian, and Iranian citizens demanding political asylum (in accordance with Article 16 of the German Constitution) have steadily increased the Muslim population of Germany. The Turks concentrate in big cities and industrial agglomerations, but are more or less present in the whole country except the former East German states. Although the number of places of worship of the different ethnic groups and schools is high (roughly 1,000-1,200), most mosques are provisionally accommodated. The inauguration of the Faith Camii in Neo-Ottoman style in the southwestern town of Pforzheim in 1992 was generally interpreted as a breakthrough to normality.

There are no reliable figures on German converts to Islam by conviction or marriage. After their first meeting in Aachen 1976, conferences of German-speaking Muslims assembled 500 persons or more. Recent estimates count 8,000 converts, 30,000 Muslims by marriage (mostly German wives of Turkish immigrants), and a total of 100,000 German citizens confessing Islam (Der Spiegel, no. 14 [1992]). Striking is the almost complete absence of prominent converts (but note the highranking diplomat Murad Hofmann, born in 1931, and his book Der Islam als Alternative, Munich, 1992).

The Turkish minority, which in 1989 constituted some 1.6 million individuals, is composed of Sunni and heterodox (Alevi; Ar., `Alawi) members, but this cannot be determined exactly. The Alevi/Bektasi (Ar., Bektashi) groups have started a religious-based organization, and there are have been attempts to recreate the traditional prayer ceremony, the Cem, attracting Alevis of different regional and ethnic origins.

The federal structure of the German political system in combination with the unsolved problem of the Muslim community as a “recognized public body” renders the solution of questions of education and cultus difficult. Most states lack Muslim groups of a multiethnic/ multinational representation that can serve as viable negotiator with German authorities (the Berlin Islamf5deration being an exception). After many setbacks in the 1970s there has been a tendency to consolidate existing Muslim networks in uniform and effective federations. A common feature of these federations is that their central administrations are concentrated in Cologne. They coordinate activities in neighboring countries (particularly France and the Benelux countries), and some of them are on good working terms with international Islamic organizations.

Another distinctive feature of Muslims in the German diaspora is a continued process of fission since 1970s. The first generation of immigrants who shared the hope of a quick return to their home countries had no desire to contribute to the institutionalization of Islam. Later, groups such as the Siileymani brotherhood (founded by Suleyman Hilmi Tunahan [d. 1959]) were extremely active in the gaining control of “neutral” mosques (directed by a registered Verein according to the law of associations) under the name of Islamic Cultural Centers (Islam kultur Merkezleri Birligi/IKM). In 1992 there were approximately 200 centers under the umbrella of the IKM and their members rose from 12,000 in 1981 to 20,000. [See Islamic Cultural Centers.]

The Presidency of Religious Affairs (Diyanet 1sleri Baskanligi [DIB]) in Turkey, anxious not to lose influence among the Turkish minorities abroad, controls a growing number of communities by means of its own federation (Diyanet Isleri Tiirk Islam Birligi). On the occasion of the great religious festivals, the Directorate of Religious Services Abroad (Dis Hizmetleri Miidiirhigii) sends abroad a number of high-ranking servants as preachers. The Organization of the National Vision (Avrupa Milli gorus teskilati [AMGT]) seems to be by far the largest and most influential federation to be formed since 1977. AMGT is the international organization of the Turkish Milli Refah Partisi (National Welfare Party), the successor since 1982 of Necmettin Erbakan’s Milli Selamet Partisi (National Salvation Party). The organization had at least 20,000 members in Germany in 1992. [See Avrupa Milli gorus taskilati; Refah Partisi; and the biography of Erbakan j Cemalettin Kaplan, a former adherent of AMGT organized in 1985 the radical Islam Cemiyetleri ve Cemaatlarl Birligi [ICCB]. Composed of roughly 5,000 members in 1992, it sympathizes with the Iranian concept of an Islamic Republic. In March 1993 Kaplan declared himself caliph of the Muslims. The hermetic Nurcu movement, with so-called madrasahs as meeting places, is omnipresent. The first nucleus of this expanding organization was created in Berlin in 1967. [See Nurculuk.]

With regard to transnational connections, among the above-mentioned groups only the DIB officials are connected with the consular service of the Turkish Republic. It is known that the Muslim World League supported individual imam-hatips during the 1980s. The Suleymanli are a modern branch of the Naqshbandiyah Sufi order. A strictly hierarchically organized inner group is distinguished from an outer group of mere sympathizers. The organization exists in the conditions of dar al-barb (the non-Muslim realm in Islamic jurisprudence) and is thus prepared to make compromises in questions of everyday life. The National Vision has a developed political program in Turkey and offers itself as the Islamic alternative to the established parties, whereas Kaplan’s group (ICCB) rejects all forms of cooperation with a secular system. Among the federations, the National Vision has a clear proximity to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Even though there is no sign of the formation of a supraethnic Islamic community in Germany, many common traits on the local level exist. After most Muslims in Germany abandoned the option of returning to Turkey, kindergartens, social clubs, youth and women’s associations, halal businesses, Islamic colleges for girls, Qur’an courses, and religiously oriented summer camps have flourished. The relatively high standard of living makes the Muslims in Germany a favorite clientele for international Islamic banking and insurance organizations.

Migrant Islam in Germany has anticipated many trends of the new Islamic pluralism in Turkey after the 1980s. The future will show if it contributes to the formation of a “parallel society” sharing many of the mores of the larger German society or to the emergence of a German Islam with particular institutions and values.


Abdullah, Muhammad S. Geschichte des Islams in Deutschland. Graz, 1981. Written for a broad public, without references and unreliable, but still the only book claiming to describe the history of Islam in Germany.

Antes, Peter, and Klaus Kreiser. Muslims in Germany-German Muslims? Questions of Identity. Birmingham, 1985. General overview. Binswanger, Karl, and Fethi Sipahioglu. Turkisch-islamische Vereine als Faktor deutsch-turkischer Koexistenz. Benediktbeuren, 1988. Important study of Turkish Muslim organizations in Germany, based on official sources.

Bobzin, Hartmut. “Geschichte der Arabischen Philologie in Europa bis zum Ausgang des achtzehnten Jahrhunderts.” In GrundriB der Arabischen Philologie, edited by Wolfdietrich Fischer, vol. 3, pp. 155-187. Wiesbaden, 1992. Many references to sources and research literature.

Denffer, Ahmad von, ed. Islam hier an heute: Beitrdge vom 1.-12. Treffen Deutschsprachiger Muslime, 1976-1981. Cologne, 1401/1981. Gerholm, Tomas, and Yngve Georg Lithman, eds. The New Islamic Presence in Western Europe., London and New York, 1988. Important articles on many neglected aspects of European and especially German Islam.

Kreiser, Klaus, et al., eds. Germno-Turcica: Zur Geschichte des

Turkisch-Lernens in den Deutschsprachigen Landern. Bamberg, 1987. On the history of German interest in Turkish civilization. Lahnemann, Johannes, ed. Kulturbegegnung in Schule and Studium: Turken Deutsche, Muslime-Christen, ein Symposium. Hamburg, 1983. Other volumes of the “Nurnberger Forum,” with many contributions on Islamic-Christian relations in Germany, appeared in 1986 and 1989.

Marrd, Heiner, and Johannes Stuting, eds. Der Islam in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland. Aschendorff, 1986. Mainly on legal aspects of the Islamic community in Germany.

Nielsen, JOrgen S. Muslims in Western Europe. Edinburgh, 1992. Includes a chapter on the situation in the former West Germany (pp. 13-38).

Nirumand, Bahman, ed. Im Namen Allahs: Islamische Gruppen and der Fundamentalismus in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland. Cologne, 1990. Well-informed collection of articles from an agnostic viewpoint. Schiffauer, Werner. Die Migranten aus Subay: Turken in Deutschland, eine Ethnographie. Stuttgart, 1991. Excellent, theoretically demanding monograph on a group of Turkish immigrants.

Wild, Stephan A. “National Socialism in the Arab Near East between 1933 and 1939.” Die Welt des Islam 25 (1985): 126-173.


Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/germany/

  • writerPosted On: June 8, 2013
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