With refugees, Germany's Muslim population could be Europe’s largest

Updated 26 September 2015

With refugees, Germany's Muslim population could be Europe’s largest

BERLIN: When the flood of Middle Eastern refugees arriving in Europe finally ebbs and asylum-seekers settle down in their new homes, Germany could unexpectedly find itself housing the continent’s largest Muslim minority.
The arrival of so many Syrians fleeing their country’s brutal civil war is bound to change the face of Islam in Germany, which until now has been dominated by the Turks who first came as so-called “guest workers” in the 1960s.
While refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq and other Muslim countries are also arriving, the Syrians make up the largest single contingent — estimated at about 45 percent — and have the best chances of being granted political asylum here.
The longer-term impact on Germany, which unlike Britain or France has no tradition of taking in immigrants from former colonies, is unclear. Many are still struggling through problems all refugees face such as learning the language and getting a job. The number of those yet to follow them is also unknown.
Some trends are emerging, though, and Germans familiar with the Muslim minority see reasons for both hope and concern. The first change is simply in the numbers.
“We could suddenly have five million Muslims,” said Thomas Volk, an Islam expert at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, a think tank associated with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party.
France now has Europe’s largest Muslim minority with five million, followed by Germany with about four million. But the French figure is an estimate several experts say is too high.
Germany expects 800,000 refugees this year, most of them Muslims, and “this trend will continue,” Volk told Reuters. “It will not stop abruptly on Jan. 1, 2016.”
In addition, most are young adult men, so the numbers will rise further when those who settle here start families.

Multi-faith society
Merkel’s critics have raised security concerns about letting in so many unchecked refugees, but German security officials say they have not found any proof that jihadists are among them.
A broader question is what kind of Muslims will be joining a minority dominated by the local Turkish community, which makes up two-thirds of the German Muslim population.
Many Turkish immigrants were poor workers from rural areas who struggled to integrate into German society. Turkey has reinforced the diaspora’s link to their homeland by building mosques and sending imams, many of whom speak no German.
Lamya Kaddor, a German-born academic of Syrian descent, said Islam in mostly Sunni Muslim Syria was “conservative and open.”
“This is because of the religious composition of the country,” she said in an interview. “There are many different Christians, Druze, Alawites and some Shiites. Religion was never in the foreground. They’re very tolerant.”
Being accustomed to life in a multi-faith society, Syrians could integrate more easily into German society, Kaddor said. Syria also has no religious institution like Turkey’s well-funded Diyanet that oversees many Turkish mosques in Germany.
While individual Syrians may integrate more easily, their collective presence could further splinter a Muslim minority that already is unable to speak in public as a group.
Arabs are a tiny minority among German Muslims now but their total could rise to about one-fifth of the overall community, a change that could exacerbate rivalries among Muslim leaders.
“Arabic-influenced Islam will become more visible and German Islam more diverse,” said Aiman Mazyek, the son of a Syrian father and German mother who is chairman of the small Central Council of Muslims representing mostly non-Turkish Muslims.
A lively speaker in fluent German, Mazyek has already irritated some Turkish German leaders by outshining them in public and appearing as an unofficial spokesman for Muslims here. Rivalries like this have stymied efforts to get Germany’s four main Muslim associations to work together.
“Let’s face it — Arabs have a superiority complex,” said a German analyst who asked not to be named. “They think they know Islam better because they can read the Qur'an in their language.”

Better change of integration
Birol Ucan, spokesman for the large Omar Ibn Al-Khattab mosque in the Berlin’s multicultural Kreuzberg district, said some Syrians had turned up at his and other mostly Arabic-speaking mosques in recent months, but not that many yet.
“They’re still busy with refugee problems like finding shelter and getting their papers in order,” he said.
In general, the Syrians are better educated than other migrants coming here and have better prospects of integrating. “Syrians have a reputation for being hard workers,” Ucan said.
“They’re not classic guest workers,” Kaddor observed. “They’re middle class, even upper class — they’re always the first who can flee.” The most urgent task now, she said, is to provide them with German lessons and jobs so they can start a new life rather than languish in refugee shelters.
Ahmad Al-Kurdi, a 26-year-old sports instructor from Hama, lives up to the image Syrians have here. In the 10 months since he arrived, he has learned German well and will soon begin studying at a Berlin university for a masters degree.
“Life here is super,” he said in the flat he shares with another refugee. “But I want to go back — Syria is my country,” he added, without knowing when that might be possible.
Racist movements
How Germany will accept the changing face of Islam on its soil is also unclear.
Volk said the current public welcome for the refugees could morph into a more divisive debate about Merkel’s policies next year when four federal states hold elections.
Last winter, before it took the moral high ground in the refugee crisis, Germany saw a wave of anti-Muslim rallies led by a right-wing movement called PEGIDA, an acronym for Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West. Merkel condemned that movement as racists “with hatred in their hearts.”
Recalling that anti-immigrant parties won seats in several state legislatures in the 1990s after an earlier refugee wave, Volk said Merkel’s CDU had to start a broad public debate to counter prejudices against the Muslims.
“We must be careful. The populists could make (the refugees) into their issue,” he said.


US lawsuit against Qatari emir’s brother to be re-filed in Massachusetts court

Updated 28 January 2020

US lawsuit against Qatari emir’s brother to be re-filed in Massachusetts court

  • The move was intended to force Sheikh Khaled, who had been avoiding being served, to acknowledge and accept legal service
  • Two former contractors alleged they were denied wages and threatened by Sheikh Khaled after they refused his orders to kill two people

The attorney for two former contractors suing Sheikh Khaled Al-Thani, the brother of the Emir of Qatar, has asked a Florida Federal Court judge to dismiss their lawsuit so they can re-file the claims before a different Federal court in Massachusetts.

The former contractors alleged they were denied wages and threatened by Sheikh Khaled after they refused his orders to kill two people. The original lawsuit had Sheikh Khaled as the principle defendant but on Nov. 5, 2019 it was expanded to include race car company Al-Anabi Racing USA LLC, which Sheikh Khaled owns.

The move was intended to force Sheikh Khaled, who had been avoiding being served, to acknowledge and accept legal service.

Failing to serve a defendant or a defendant’s business assets can result in the lawsuit being thrown out by a judge in the American judicial system.

The expansion of the lawsuit worked. After ignoring the lawsuit for more than seven months, lawyers for both Sheikh Khaled and Al-Anabi Racing USA LLC, filed responses. They asked the Federal Court on Jan. 2 this year to dismiss the Pittard/Allende lawsuit, arguing Florida lacked Federal jurisdiction over the case.

According to Bloomberg Markets, Al-Anabi Racing USA LLC, is based in Duxbury, Massachusetts, although it has an office in Florida.

“After the Pittard case complaint was amended, several individuals bravely stepped forward to share their stories and experiences with the defendants in the Pittard case,” said Rebecca Castaneda, the attorney for security professional Matthew Pittard and paramedic Matthew Allende, who are seeking $33 million in damages.

“In light of the information that they have provided, and the new plaintiffs’ claims and causes of actions against the defendants and others, we have requested that the Pittard case be dismissed from the Middle District of Florida.

“The cases of Matthew Pittard and Matthew Allende will be supplemented with additional legal claims and information that has been obtained and re-filed in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the District of Massachusetts.”

Sheikh Khaled’s attorney, Alejandro Soto, of the Florida law firm Fridman Fels and Soto, PLLC, argued in their motion to dismiss in January that Sheikh Khaled had no legal presence in Florida and that Florida’s Federal courts had no jurisdiction over his actions.

“While the amended complaint invokes Florida law, it otherwise fails to allege any facts supporting Sheikh Khaled’s contacts with the state,” Soto said in his Jan. 2 dismissal demand.

“By all accounts — including plaintiffs’— Sheikh Khaled is a citizen of the state of Qatar whose domicile and primary residence — both during the time period alleged in the amended complaint and now — have always been in Qatar.

“Moreover, the amended complaint does not allege a single fact suggesting that any of the alleged conduct giving rise to this case occurred in or arose from Sheikh Khaled’s contacts with Florida. Indeed, the only alleged connection that Florida has with this case is plaintiff Matthew Pittard’s alleged residence in it.”

Attorneys for Al-Anabi Racing LLC, Armando Rosquete and Javier A. Reyes of the Bell Rosquete Reyes Esteban, PLLC law firm, argued that Sheikh Khaled was not employed by Al-Anabi Racing USA LLC and claimed Florida lacked jurisdiction to hear the case.

“Contrary to this settled jurisdictional jurisprudence, plaintiffs failed to plead any facts to establish personal jurisdiction or even provide a factual framework under which this court could analyse personal jurisdiction,” Reyes and Rosquete said in their Jan. 2 dismissal demand.

“Indeed, other than an unsupported conclusory allegation in a single paragraph, plaintiffs include no jurisdictional facts that connect Al-Anabi to Florida. Plaintiffs do not allege that they were injured in Florida, nor do they allege any facts regarding Al-Anabi’s contacts with the state.

“The amended complaint is devoid of facts that could — even when analysed in the light most favorable to plaintiffs — show that the purported injury or other conduct alleged even occurred in Florida,” Reyes and Rosquete added.

Attorneys Reyes, Rosquete and Soto all failed to respond to repeated inquiries for comment on their dismissal filings.

Pittard and Allende alleged in the lawsuit, originally filed on July 23, 2019 before Federal Judge Thomas P. Barber, that Sheikh Khaled ordered them to kill two individuals who posted negative and embarrassing comments about the sheikh on social media.

According to Castaneda, Sheikh Khaled ordered the killing of a Los Angeles-based drug dealer who was trying to blackmail the sheikh with claims he had compromising photos and videos of the sheikh.

“We don’t know the veracity of the drug dealer’s claims, but the sheikh took them seriously and he wanted Pittard and Allende to kill the blackmailer,” Castaneda said.

In another case, Castaneda said Sheikh Khaled allegedly ordered the two security contractors to murder a Moroccan woman who was a friend of the sheikh’s wife. Castaneda said Sheikh Khaled feared the woman was feeding embarrassing information about him to a Saudi national at a time when his brother, Emir Al-Thani, and Qatar were in an international row with Saudi Arabia and three other Arab countries.

Pittard and Allende allege they were threatened at gunpoint by an angry Sheikh Khaled when they refused his orders in September 2017 to murder the two individuals he suspected had sullied his social reputation. The lawsuit claims Sheikh Khaled's threats against Pittard and Allende continued to escalate.