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published: 2/13/05
updated: 6/13/13

Islam in Germany

Since the work migration of the 1960s and several waves of political refugees since the 1970s, Islam has become a visible religion in Germany. As of 2004, there are 3 million Muslims (3.2% of the population). After Protestants and Roman Catholics, Muslims are now the third largest religious group in the country.

The large majority of Muslims in Germany is of Turkish origin, followed by people from Arab countries, former Yugoslavia, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The number of converts is small, although they play a major role in Islamic organizations and public debates. Most Muslims in Germany are Sunnis. There are some members of the Shia, mostly from Lebanon. Furthermore many Turks are Alevi and many Pakistanis belong to the Ahmadiyya. Both groups are considered non-Muslim by many mainstream Muslims.

Most Muslims in Germany live in the big cities of former Western Germany. However unlike in most other European countries sizeable communities exist in some rurals regions of Germany, especially Baden-Württemberg, Hessen and parts of Bavaria and North-Rhine Westphalia. Due to the lack of labor immigration before 1989 there are only very few Muslims in the former GDR.

Islamic Organizations in Germany

Only a minority of the Muslims residing in Germany are members of religious associations. The most important ones are:

  • DİTİB: German branch of the Turkish Directorate for Religious Affairs, Cologne
  • Islamische Gemeinschaft Milli Görüş: close to the Islamist Saadet Partisi in Turkey, Kerpen near Cologne
  • Verband der islamischen Kulturzentren: German branch of the conservative Süleymancı sect in Turkey, Cologne
  • Islamische Gemeinschaft in Deutschland: organization of Arab Muslims close to the Muslim Brethren, Frankfurt
  • Verband der Islamischen Gemeinden der Bosniaken: Bosnian Muslims, Kamp-Lintfort near Duisburg

The following are two umbrella organizations:

  • Islamrat in Deutschland, dominated by Milli Görüş and some of its suborganisations
  • Zentralrat der Muslime in Deutschland, domimated by the "Islamische Gemeinschaft in Deutschland" and the "Islamisches Zentrum Aachen"

Two organizations have been banned in 2002 because there programme was judged as contrary to the constitution: The "Hizb at-Tahrir" and the so called "Caliphate State" of Cemalettin Kaplan.


Since Islam is not a traditional religion in Germany and since most problems with enforced migration into Germany focus on this religious point, there are currently several intensive disputes about the place of Islam in the German state and society.

One currently discussed topic is the traditional Muslim headscarf worn by teachers in schools. The freedom of belief enjoined by the teacher contradicts, in the view of many, the neutral stance of the state towards religion; many also see the headscarf mainly as a political symbol of the oppression of women. As of 2004, some of the German states have introduced legislation banning headscarves for teachers. It is unclear if these laws will prove to be constitutional. However, unlike in France, there are no laws against the wearing of headscarves by students.

In the German federal states, with the exception of Bremen, Berlin and Brandenburg, lessons of religious education overseen by the respective religious communities are taught as a regular subject in public schools. It is being discussed whether apart from the Catholic and Protestant (and in a few schools, Jewish) religious education that currently exists, a comparable subject of Islamic religious education should be introduced. However all efforts to deal with the issue in cooperation with the existing Islamic organisations suggeted from the dilemma, that none of them can be considered a representative of the whole Muslim community.

Fears of religious fundamentalism came into the focus of attention after September 11, 2001, especially in relation to a renewed religious fundamentalism of second- and third-generation Muslims in Germany. Also the various confrontations between Islamic religious law (Sharia) and the norms of German Grundgesetz and culture are being discussed hotly. German critics come also from the rank of the liberals and from Christian circles. They first claim that Islamic fundamentalism violates basic fundamental rights whereas the latter see Germany as a state grounded in a Christian tradition.

Finally, the construction of mosques occasionally arouses hostile reactions in the respective neigborhoods.

Notable Germans and Islam

  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe - German national poet who had a favourable view of Islam
  • Friedrich Rückert - first translator of the Qur'an into German
  • Annemarie Schimmel - scholar on Sufism
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Islam in Germany