Language Barrier for Imams Paves Way for Native Radicals: NGO

German Cabinet approved a resolution that seeks German language skills requirement for religious leaders from other countries in order to work in Germany. Turkish Muslim NGO secretary general warned that such law would pave the way for native radicals whom are known as “hate preachers.”

“We expect foreign imams to be able to speak German,” an Interior Ministry spokesperson said on Wednesday while talking about the bill. Although the draft supposedly applies to all religious clergy, German public and politicians agree that it targets Muslim Imams coming from Turkey to work in mosques through out Germany.

The secretary general of Islamic Community Milli Gorus or IGMG, Bekir Altas released a statement following the German Cabinet move. Altas reminded in his statement of native German “hate preachers” whom are known for their rhetoric skills. “If we tear down the responsibilities of religious leaders to German language skills, we will be left with hate preachers. Religious leaders have much bigger wider responsibilities,” said Altas. He also criticized German media’s attitude towards the draft. “German media mediates a language as if Imams in Germany do not speak a German word. This is not true,” Altas reiterated.

Bekir Altas

Although German government claims that the bill does not aim just Islam, it is widely accepted that Imams coming from Turkey to work in German mosques are the group which will be most affected by this decision. Other religions have only a handful if none religious staff coming to Germany from outside the EU. Currently labor laws in Germany do not have any requirements for work visas issued for charitable or religious purposes.

Green party lawmaker Filiz Polat criticized the bill, saying it would worsen the country’s shortage of Muslim clerics. According to recent data, Germany has around 2,000 mosques, with nearly 90% of imams coming from other countries.

According to German media, the language level requirement will be “basic level,” which translates into A1 certificate. It would still be extremely hard for older imams in Turkey to acquire A1 level in order to secure a visa to work in Germany.

The draft still needs to be approved by the German Federal Parliament. However, it is certain that overwhelming majority of German Parliament members would approved the resolution.

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