German Islam forum hits out at extremism, forced marriage
BERLIN - Agence France-Presse
AA photoA conference aimed at furthering Muslim integration in Germany on Thursday condemned forced marriages and voiced concern over stepped-up recruiting by an ultra-conservative Islamic group.
Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich told the one-day forum that extremism by Salafists had no place in Germany after a recent drive by the group to distribute 25 million German-language copies of the Koran.
"We all agree that Salafist extremism is not acceptable and does not work in a free society, as we have in Germany," he said in opening remarks.
The move by a group of Salafists called "The True Religion" this month to hand out the Koran on the streets of Germany, Austria and Switzerland and via the Internet in a bid to convert non-Muslims provoked uproar in Germany.
Domestic violence and forced marriage were also singled out by the forum, set up in 2006 and attended by federal, state and local officials as well as Muslim groups representing more than half of Germany's mosque congregations.
It stated that everyone has the right to "freedom from physical and mental harm, as well as the right to enter a marriage or to refrain from it by their own decision and in the framework of the applicable laws".
More than 3,000 women and girls in Germany, most from Muslim families and many of them minors, were forced to wed or threatened with forced marriage in 2008 -- the most recent year with sufficient data, according to official research released in November.
Germany passed legislation in 2010 against forced marriages, making it a criminal act punishable by up to five years in prison and providing means for victims taken abroad to return to Germany.
The country counts some three million Turks or Germans of Turkish origin among its 82-million-strong population but the issue of integration remains a matter of politically-charged debate.
The domestic intelligence service estimates there are about 2,500 Salafists, who espouse an austere form of Sunni Islam, in Germany and says it has them under official observation.