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20th Aug 2018

Europe should train its Muslim clerics, Germany says

The German EU presidency has suggested Europe should train its Imams to improve the integration of the continent's Muslim population, calm tensions and fight "home-grown terrorism".

The German interior minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told journalists in Berlin on Thursday (11 January) that he, during the German presidency, together with the European Commission would encourage initiatives to train Islamic preachers so they could help integrate Muslims into European society rather than promote separation.

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  • The German presidency wants to start "an intercultural and inter-religious dialogue in the European Union" (Photo: PBS)

"Part of the Islamic world has yet to implement the Enlightenment," said Mr Schaeuble, referring to a European movement that in the 1600-1700s valued freedom and reason rather than tradition.

"We should not be arrogant but only helpful. After all, Christianity waged terrible conflicts for a few centuries until the process of Enlightenment took root, and part of Christianity shows signs of falling back in that direction," he stated, according to Reuters.

Mr Schaeuble highlighted the risk of Muslims in Europe living in separate societies and advised that integration is fundamental if Europe wants to prevent parallel societies from emerging.

The Christian Democratic politician added that Berlin wants to start and promote "an intercultural and inter-religious dialogue in the European Union."

"We understand that Islam is part of Germany with equal rights," said Mr Schaeuble, according to AFP. "But that also means they need to accept the fundamental rights and obligations of our society."

He explained that equal rights for women was a universal principle enshrined in the United Nations charter and not "some peculiarity" of Europe.

Tough on illegal immigration

Mr Schaeuble also stressed the need for the 27 EU member nations to get tough on illegal immigration and outlined German presidency plans for increased police cooperation and data exchange.

With the EU's recent expansion of Bulgaria and Romania to the east, "the German presidency will put a lot of emphasis on fighting illegal immigration across the Mediterranean but also from the east," said Mr Schaeuble, who also wants member states to boost funding, resources and cooperation for the trans-bloc Frontex border security operation and the Europol police network.

Europe has recently seen a rise in illegal immigration, especially in the Mediterranean where hopeful Africans take the dangerous trip in overcrowded boats from North Africa to Spain and Italy.

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