Heiko Maas is one of the most determined warners of new anti-Semitism in the land of the perpetrators among top German politicians. The German Foreign Minister’s ethical standards are high. The SPD politician declared with programmatic intent that he did not go into politics because of Willy Brandt, but “because of Auschwitz”.
Now, of all things, the Foreign Office (AA), headed by Maas, has to deal with the accusation of having hired a consultant who allegedly does not clearly distance herself from anti-Semitism and Islamism.
A few days ago, the head of the AA cultural department, Andreas Görgen, congratulated Nurhan Soykan, the deputy chairwoman of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany (ZMD), on Twitter for her appointment as a consultant in the AA team “Foreign Policy and Religion”. There she is supposed to work with a budding rabbi and an evangelical pastor.
Since then, the AA has been criticized. Integration and religion experts such as Ahmad Mansour and Volker Beck publicly intervened. Media in several countries took up the topic. And members of the Bundestag demand that the appointment be revoked.
[Wenn Sie die wichtigsten Nachrichten aus Berlin, Deutschland und der Welt live auf Ihr Handy haben wollen, empfehlen wir Ihnen unsere runderneuerte App, die Sie hier für Apple- und Android-Geräte herunterladen können.]
The ZMD has been a valued partner of the German government for many years, and not just at the Islam conferences. Critics, on the other hand, complain that the Council’s largest member association, the Union of Turkish-Islamic Cultural Associations in Europe (Atib), is attributed to the far-right, Turkish-nationalist Gray Wolves by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution.
ZMD deputy chief Soykan accuses her opponents of missing the necessary distance to anti-Semites and Islamists on social media and with public statements.
One example is a Deutschlandfunk interview from six years ago, in which the then ZdM general secretary warned against “attacking and insulting Jews in general”, but at the same time defending the Al-Quds demonstrations by hate slogans and anti-Jewish people Stereotypes are shaped. You have to give young people an opportunity “to clear the air of this demonstration and sometimes want to show their anger,” she said.
Opponents of her appeal also refer to Soykan’s expressions of sympathy on social media, which allegedly applied conspiracy theories, the Israel boycott movement BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) or contributions by the German publicist Jürgen Todenhöfer, who had little understanding of Israel and a lot of understanding for the terrorist militia of Islamic people State brings up.
Not only opposition MPs, but also those from the ruling CDU party, therefore think the AA’s decision is wrong. Soykan “has represented a number of conspiracy theories and completely unacceptable theses,” warned FDP MP Oliver Luksic. Her appointment contradicts the Foreign Minister’s announcements against anti-Semitism. Luksic’s demand: “Maas should intervene here as a minister and correct this embarrassing wrong decision.”
The religion expert of the Union faction, Christoph de Vries (CDU), now accuses the AA of “carelessness in dealing with Islamism and nationalism”. “I can only give a vigorous warning of an appeasement policy with highly problematic Islamic associations and anti-constitutional forces,” he says.
The Council’s strongest member associations were attributed to the Muslim Brotherhood and the extreme right-wing movement of the Gray Wolves, “who pursue a racist and fascist ideology”.
[Jetzt noch mehr wissen: Mit Tagesspiegel Plus können Sie viele weitere spannende Geschichten, Service- und Hintergrundberichte lesen. 30 Tage kostenlos ausprobieren: Hier erfahren Sie mehr und hier kommen Sie direkt zu allen Artikeln.]
The ZMD is also a member of the Islamic Center Hamburg (IZH), which is controlled directly by the Iranian Mullah regime from Tehran and has been organizing the anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic Al Quds Day in Berlin for years.
“The leadership of the ZMD knows all of this very well and has deliberately not acted because the exclusion of these Islamist and ultra-nationalist forces would have made the ZMD completely insignificant,” says the CDU politician. ZMD top officials could therefore “not work in the service of our state”.
Left-wing MP Sevim Dagdelen argues in a very similar way. “Mr. Maas, but also the federal government as a whole, are making themselves unbelievable in this fight against legal and anti-Semitism with this” advisor, “she warns. Her calling is also a “slap in the face of the majority of Muslims in our country who do not want to have anything to do with right-wing extremists, genocide deniers and Islamists à la Muslim Brotherhood”.
It was “grotesque” to declare the ZMD to represent almost five million Muslims in Germany, who spoke for a maximum of 20,000 Muslims.
Volker Beck, a longtime member of the Greens in the Bundestag and now a lecturer at the Center for Religious Studies at the University of Bochum, is also very critical of the role of the ZMD. “There was no need for the Federal Foreign Office to appoint a representative of this problematic association,” he said. “The ministry could also have entrusted an Islamic scholar of religion with this task.”
A foreign policy expert from one of the government factions also condemned the appointment. “Advisers to the Federal Foreign Office must be against any suspicion of being close to anti-Semitism,” said Jürgen Hardt (CDU), foreign policy spokesman for the Union faction. The AA culture department, whose task is to balance and communicate, must “act more sensitively to the appointment of its advisors than has been done here”.
The goal of promoting understanding between religions and cultures is “clearly missed by the current personnel discussion”.
The FDP fraction spokesman for foreign policy, Bijan Djir-Sarai, called the personnel decision “very difficult at various levels, but unfortunately not surprising”. She once again shows “how much ignorance and how little tact in the federal government there is in the Islam debate”. A “hardliner like Ms. Soykan” certainly does not stand for the well-integrated and tolerant people of the Muslim faith in Germany. At the same time, her calling is “a symbol of German foreign policy, which far too seldom stands alongside those who actually represent our liberal-democratic values”. The FDP politician added: “Heiko Maas’ story that he went into politics because of Auschwitz remains a phrase.”
The AA culture department seems surprised by some allegations against Soykan and not happy at all about the development. But Heiko Maas’ department sees no reason to revise his decision.
The ministry said it wanted to address religions’ responsibility for peace with religious communities worldwide, better understand their possible impact on society and politics, and strengthen their constructive potential. Soykan, like her Christian and Jewish colleague, will “advise the AA on these issues”.