After decades of political denial, Germany has come to recognise the fact that its society has become culturally, linguistically, ethnically and religiously diverse. Policymakers have started to respond to these social changes, but what remains lacking is a positive, coherent vision of how to manage ethno-religious diversity within the country’s prevalent integration paradigm and human rights based constitutional setting. The assimilationist nature of Germany’s governance of ethno-religious diversity is particularly salient in its response to the presence and claims-making of Muslim communities.
German legislature has remained reluctant to address the manifold barriers Muslims face with regard to their educational opportunities, employment and, most significantly, the practice of their faith – despite the constitutional protection of “freedom of faith” and the “undisturbed practice of religion”. In addition, Muslim communities continue to face major roadblocks in their struggle for institutional recognition.
Political passivity in conjunction with assimilationist interventions and restrictive administrative practices have often led to a situation where it has been up to the judiciary to balance constitutional principles with and political limitations of Muslims’ practice of their faith. As a result, and given Germany’s strong federal structures, the current legal and administrative landscape is highly inconsistent and varies considerably across the country.