German politicians propose a ‘religion tax’ for Muslims to counter extremism


German politicians propose a ‘religion tax’ for Muslims to counter extremism

When Germans file their annual tax returns, religion matters a great deal. If you’re Catholic, tax authorities will likely collect an income tax surcharge of about 10 percent on behalf of your local church. The same applies to most Protestants.

The tax applies to almost all baptized Christians, and church representatives say that the state-enforced payments are crucial in financing cemeteries and community work.

So far, practicing Muslims have been excluded from that rule, but some leading members of the German government’s coalition parties appear determined to change that. Despite criticism from some Muslim communities, they maintain that a state-collected tax for all Muslims would help to boost moderate interpretations of Islam and counter the appeal of wealthy foreign donors who promote more radical interpretations.

“Besides Qatar and the [United Arab Emirates], what we’re mostly concerned about in the [Persian] Gulf region is Saudi Arabia,” Thorsten Frei, deputy head of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party and the Christian Social Union in parliament, told The Washington Post. Frei cited federal statistics showing that the vast majority of German Islamic State members are considered to be part of the Salafi movement, which is being promoted by Saudi Arabia. “We need to make sure that Islam in Germany emancipates itself from foreign influences,” said Frei.

Such deliberate government-mandated interference would be unheard of in countries where religion and state are more clearly separated. “When you explain this to Americans, they think you’re crazy,” said Aiman Mazyek, chairman of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, which serves as an umbrella organization for some communities. But in Germany, where the leading party carries the word “Christian” in its name, state and religion have always been more closely intertwined than in many other Western nations.

Top officials have made no secret of their recent plans to actively promote moderate interpretations of Islam. Germany’s Interior Minister, Horst Seehofer, vowed last month to stop “foreign interference” in German Muslim communities…

Source: The Washington Post

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