Magazine article The Christian Century

Germany Eyes Mosque Tax to Fund Muslim Groups

Magazine article The Christian Century

Germany Eyes Mosque Tax to Fund Muslim Groups

Article excerpt

In Germany, some politicians see taxing Muslims as a strategy to keep them from becoming radicalized. Some Muslim leaders think it might be a good idea, too.

The question is how to limit the influence of Muslim countries that finance mosques and provide foreign-born imams for their congregations. Many of those imams do not speak German, French, or other European languages, and their preaching can range from traditionally conservative to radically anti-Western.

The standard-bearer for this unexpected idea is a politician from the Christian Social Union, a party known for wanting to keep Muslim immigrants from pouring in to the traditionally Catholic southern state of Bavaria, where the party operates.

Alexander Radwan, a Catholic first-term member of the German parliament, is the son of an Egyptian Christian who moved to Germany and married a Bavarian. Radwan's contact with the Arab world is enough to make him one of the CSU's few politicians familiar with Islam.

On the German political spectrum, the CSU is just to the left of the Alternative for Germany party, which ended its first national convention on May 1, approving a party platform that says "Islam does not belong to Germany" and calling for a ban on minarets and full-face veils.

The CSU's no. 2 man, Andreas Scheuer, proposed that Berlin ban all foreign financing for mosques in Germany, as neighboring Austria did last year.

Yet while believers contribute to their mosques, many Muslims in Europe are not rich and many congregations are scraping by.

"If we stop all financing from abroad, we naturally have to make it possible for Islamic life to get sufficient finances here," Radwan told Munich's daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

Catholics and Protestants have a church tax to help finance their congregations, he argued, so why not a mosque tax for Muslims?

Germany taxes registered church members when they file their annual tax returns, charging a premium of 8 percent to 9 percent of what they owe the state. Tax authorities then redistribute the sums--usually somewhere around 2,000 euros ($2,300) for a white-collar taxpayer--to the taxpayer's church.

Creating a mosque tax for Germany's 4 million Muslims, who make up about 5 percent of the population, would tap a broad base of contributions that could replace foreign funds.

It would require mosque associations to be registered as religious institutions. …

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