Dear President,

Dear Colleagues,

I thank the rapporteur for producing a report on a subject of crucial importance. According to the rapporteur, the purpose of the report is to determine to what extent the foreign financing of Islam in Europe is transparent. Having read the report, I am not sure whether it fulfils its purpose. This is not a criticism of the rapporteur.

In the prudent explanations I clearly see the effort of balance, but let’s not deceive ourselves; contrary to the good intent, such reports will not make the debate more factual and objective, since they ignore the legal and socio-political challenges and struggle with the actual and supposed effects. First of all, I find it problematic to discuss foreign financing in the negative context of radicalisation. Member States must in any case ensure transparency. Hence, all religious communities are obliged to the same transparency obligations, the Muslims neither to more nor to less!

Speculations that disregard existing legal framework and the ignorance that by most of the Islamic religious communities mentioned in the report accounting duties are natural due to their size, all the more nourish suspicions and fears, not only among the majority populations, on which is mostly focused, but much rather and increasingly among Muslims. For it is not only suspicions of them that remain, but they are increasingly exposed to Islamophobic attacks.

In my opinion, the report lacks above all a discussion on the question whether some external funding might not exist due to the fact that, contrary to constitutional requirements in most European states, Muslims are not equal to the Christian and Jewish religious communities and are therefore practically excluded from corporate rights. In most European states the tax money of Muslims flows indirectly to the Christian religious communities, while the Muslim communities in Germany, for example, are even denied the self-conception as religious communities, so that self-financing possibilities are also very limited because they are often denied the inherent status.

The Islamic law in Austria mentioned in the report is also partly unconstitutional. I would have liked the report to have made it clear that particularly this Act is based on suspicions of Muslims and that it is extremely discriminatory in comparison with other religious communities.

Above all, I would like to emphasise the findings of the Venice Commission mentioned in paragraphs 103, 104 and 105 of the report. Ultimately, this means that the discussion here is wrong. Foreign funding is not the actual problem; above all, in most cases it is not the cause but the effect of the denial of equality and equality of Islamic religious communities with those of Christian and Jewish religious communities.

Full equality will make foreign financing obsolete. Irrespective of this, the legally guaranteed autonomy of religious communities to receive donations remains, even from abroad. In addition, the Venetian Commission has recently confirmed the right to finance religious organisations through “their spiritual centres outside the territory”.

So we do not need new recipes. We must apply existing and proven principles equally to Islamic communities. It is precisely then that we will be strengthening the belonging of Islam in Europe and need not worry about many of the issues underlying the report.

Thank you for listening.


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