In September, the Austrian Integration Fund (ÖIF), a department of the foreign ministry published a study, Forschungsbericht ‘Rolle der Moschee im Integrationsprozess [The role of the mosque in the integration process].
Most imams however, were unwilling to have a conversation. And according to the ÖIF, only two of the mosque associations foster the integration of their members.
For the purposes of the study, researchers of the ÖIF visited 16 mosques in Vienna and spoke with individual imams at Friday sermons.
With few exceptions, the Viennese mosques are strictly run along ethnic lines: “There are Turkish, Albanian, Bosnian, Arabic, Pakistani and other mosques, in which sermons are generally held exclusively in the respective national language. Only in rare instances are parts of the sermon — or even more rarely, all of the sermon — translated into German.”
These are “closed spaces in terms of ethnicity and language” and it fosters “social integration into an internal ethnic environment, and thus ethnic segmentation.” In eight of the 16 mosques surveyed, this trend is further reinforced by “widespread and openly-propagated nationalism”.
A Bosnian mosque association that also runs a soccer club was singled out in the report. During the discussion, its imam said: “Every country, as with Austria, has its rules and laws and — something I always stress — it is our religious duty to comply with these standards and to integrate accordingly.”
The authors were also struck by the almost complete absence of women at Friday prayers: “Only three of the mosques… provide women with their own space, which is reserved for them and actually used by them. If they exist at all, most of the mosques make the women’s areas on Fridays available to men, too.”
The Turkish Milli Görüs movement, was noted to be particularly radical. Milli Görüs is closely associated ideologically with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and remains one of the largest Islamic organisations in Europe.
According to the report, the imam in the Milli Görüs mosque “openly advocated for the establishment of a politically united Ummah under a caliphate.” The fitna [upheaval] he says, was brought into the Islamic community from the outside.
The authors of the study say that the imam “sees himself surrounded everywhere by enemies of Islam, who want to prevent the Islamic community from dominating the world as foretold in prophecies”.
The study concluded: “In summary, it may be said of the 16 mosque associations surveyed in this study, that with the exception of mosques D01 [one of the few German-speaking mosques] and B02 [the aforementioned Bosnian mosque], they do not actively promote the social integration of their members.
“For the most part, they have an inhibiting effect on the integration process.”
According to the study, at least six of the 16 mosque associations examined (37.5 percent) pursued “a policy that actively impedes integration into society and to some extent exhibits fundamentalist tendencies”.
Half of the 16 mosques examined “preach a dichotomous worldview, the pivotal tenet of which is the division of the world into Muslims on one side, and everyone else on the other” while the remaining six were found to practice “explicit denigration of Western society”.
German journalist Constantin Schreiber who, in 2016, spent more than 8 months attending Friday sermons in German mosques, published a bestseller in Germany: Inside Islam: What Is Being Preached in Germany’s Mosques.
Fluent in Arabic, Schreiber introduced himself to the mosque associations as a journalist, disclosing that he intended to write a non-fiction book about mosques in Germany. The few imams with whom he was allowed to speak, spoke almost no German. “Apparently it is possible to live in Germany for many years with your wife and children, and still not even be capable of buying bread in German,” Schreiber noted.
During sermons Schreiber noted the constant stream of criticisms against life in Germany.
“Time and again, such as in the Al-Furqan mosque [a Sunni Arab mosque in Berlin] Muslims seemed committed to the idea that they are some sort of a community with a shared destiny: ‘You are a diaspora! We are a diaspora! … They [Germans] resembles a torrent that annihilates you, which obliterates you, and takes away your values and replaces them with its own values’.”
Schreiber also noted the lack of transparency surrounding the Islamic faith, with no official directory of mosques. “Newly opened mosques are not recorded anywhere, and neither the intelligence services nor regional authorities are aware of their existence.”
The city of Hanover actually rejected Schreiber’s appeal for information on mosques: “We do not want to have these institutions subjected to general suspicion.”
University professors – whose salaries are paid by German taxpayers – refused to provide information about Islam and mosques, the subject they were appointed to teach.
Scholars of Islamic studies and Islam experts “are very obliging in offering to be interviewed on current political issues” but the same openness does not exist when questions are asked about the faith.
Schreiber’s conclusion is that “mosques are political spaces”. He added: “The majority of the sermons I attended were aimed at resisting the integration of Muslims into German society. If the issue of life in Germany was raised, then it was primarily in a negative context. Frequently, the imams described everyday life in Germany as a threat and urged their communities to resist. The common feature of almost all the sermons is their appeal to the faithful to shut themselves off and to keep to themselves.”
In “virtually every mosque”, Schreiber said “scores of refugees who had not been living in Germany very long” were present.