Plans of the ministry of the interior: those who preach should speak german

In the future, foreign clergy are to present proof of their German language skills. The focus is primarily on imams.

And do they speak German? That interests the Federal Ministry of the Interior Photo: dpa

Foreign clergy in Germany are to provide proof of their German language skills in the future, according to the Federal Ministry of the Interior (BMI). Due to immigration, there is also an increased need for religious care, said a spokeswoman for the BMI in Berlin on Monday. At the same time, the "integration policy significance" of religious personnel must be taken into account, she added. One wants to change the residence law as well as the employment regulation accordingly. In detail, the design is not yet completed.

The regulation should apply to all religions. The debates of the past year, however, suggest that the focus is primarily on imams. For example, the most recent German Islam Conference in November dealt with the question of whether and how communities could organize themselves more independently of other countries.

Up to now, the imams of the largest Islamic association in Germany, Ditib, have been sent by the Turkish religious authority Diyanet. The association has been criticized for its closeness to the Turkish government.

Some Islamic communities, such as the Ahmadiyya, train their imams in Germany. However, not only Muslims would be affected. In response to a question from the taz, the German Bishops’ Conference explained that there are currently around 1,300 priests from abroad working in Germany. The largest group among them are Indian clergy with about 30 percent, followed by Polish (26 percent).

"Stroking right-wing gut feelings"

It is "fundamentally positive" if all clergy working in Germany can speak German, a spokesman for the Central Council of Muslims told the taz. However, it is important that Muslims in the communities are provided with the religious services "that they need and demand.

Aziz Bozkurt, chairman of the migration working group in the SPD, stressed the importance of accompanying measures: The goal should be "for German Muslims to be able to lead their community life in German mosques with preachers trained in Germany," he said. Focusing on a single aspect contributes to "stroking right-wing gut feelings," he said.

It would be "fundamentally positive" if all clergy working in Germany knew German, said a spokesman for the Central Council of Muslims

Filiz Polat, a Green Party member of the Bundestag, said that only training imams in Germany would be "a real alternative to employing imams from Turkey." The BMI’s plans would "hit the local Muslims hardest, who have no alternatives." Ditib did not comment by press time when asked.

The BMI’s plans are still very vague. What level of language is to be required is apparently still open, as is the question of the extent to which clerics from the European Schengen area will be affected. In addition, the plans have apparently not yet been discussed with the other ministries. A spokesman for the Federal Ministry of Labor said on Monday that "no current status is known" there.

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