Munich Forum for Islam (MFI)
Munich forum for Islam (MFI) is a member of the “Alliance for Tolerance, Democracy and Rule of Law” in Munich
Who is MFI?
The MUNICH FORUM FOR ISLAM (MFI) is an initiative of Muslims in and around Munich with the aim to meet the challenges of an increasingly multicultural society and to contribute to a harmonic and successful urban society. We Muslims are called upon to contribute our share to a free and equal society in modern Europe, in accordance with God’s message and in accordance with the universal principles of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. At the focus of MFI there are two authorities, which do not compete but harmonize with each other: God’s revelation on the one hand and the constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany on the other hand.
MFI wants to build a bridge between Islam and Europe. Although Islam has been resident and rooted in some parts of Europe for centuries now, we still know very little about its contributions to European art and culture. MFI will steer a middle course: a course between one extreme that wants to exclude Islam from European culture and views Islam as a general threat and the other extreme that sees Europe as an enemy territory and declares western democratic core values as incompatible with Islam. MFI stands for a twofold appreciation: for Europe and for Islam, for a double sympathy and for the ability to put both entities in line with each other while preserving the identity of both. MFI finally means mutual openness for Europe and Islam, mutual acceptance and respect, integration and harmony of their values as well as cutback of competitive thinking, so that tensions and conflicts cannot emerge anymore.
For the realization of an Islam in the European context it requires the interaction of numerous forces, institutions and established organisations that should monitor upcoming debates at an early stage, in order to avoid detrimental developments. The central task would be to concentrate on new arising questions of the adolescent Muslim generation and to develop new contemporary approaches. It is also equally important to cater for the embedding of an academically profound and sophisticated Islam comprehension as well as to lend a European Muslim our support in identity formation. But principally Muslims need a change of perspective that allows them to use their mind, to offer criticism, to develop new, contemporary approaches and to venture into new impulses and interpretations, without neglecting the cultural heritage. With this in mind MFI wants to be understood as a contribution to an intact and likewise indigenous and multi-coloured Munich, contrary to the concept of Islam as something foreign The development of ghettos or parallel societies shall be counteracted more effectively than it has been the case before and elsewhere. Moreover we shall try to set a shining example of a succeeding modern European and Bavarian urban society
Thoughts about the philosophy of MFI
MFI is innovative: the concept is completely detached from influences of former countries of origin and thus different from the usual Muslim community structures. MFI is progressive as it is responsive to the here and now and the Muslim living in contemporary in Germany. Furthermore MFI is oriented to the common future of all of us.
MFI wants to become a valued partner for the Muslims in Bavaria, for preserving their Islamic identity and simultaneously for consolidating the democratic and pluralistic social order in Germany. The aim of MFI is to interconnect Muslim initiatives and to add to a more effective cooperation both among themselves and with public organizations. Successful integration requires participation in society and dialogue on an equal footing.
MFI focuses on the identification of the Muslim society with the mainstream society, leaning on the overall concept: Language (German), Homeland (Germany) and Religion (Islam) are not contradictory to each other! The now growing young generation of those Muslims who identify themselves with Germany, the German language and its democratic values is yearning for a visible address that can confirm their identity as Muslims fully arrived in their country, in their day. MFI wants to bridge the divide between Islam and Europe and envisions itself as an offer of a religious denomination set in Germany.
MFI takes a stand for an institutional Islam, located in Germany. Public institutions complain about the absence of representative Muslim voices at federal, state and local levels. Although a clergy in the sense of priesthood is foreign to Islam there are no caveats against an organized Islamic life. When the Islam institutionalizes and achieves the status of an entity in the sense of a recognised religious association, then this is going to have a favourable effect on both the Muslims as well as the state and society.
Such a representative and autonomous organization, oriented on the German framework, with specific connections to the federal and state levels, is going to represent the Muslims’ interests and be the counterpart for state and society in all relevant sectors. When it accepts diversity as an opportunity and allows equal participations of all religions, Germany has the potential for a social policy with global appeal, “Christianity is doubtlessly a part of Germany. Judaism is doubtlessly a part of Germany. But by now Islam is a part of Germany, too.” Federal President Christian Wulff (2010)
The fellow campaigners of MFI define themselves as “European Muslims”. They want to link cultures, connect Islam and modernism, work constructively and be measured against the global scale. They do not see the other as an adversary or an enemy, they do not think and feel nationalistic or otherwise extreme, they endeavour to develop the cultural, scientific, human, ethnic and aesthetic dimensions of religion, they espouse merits like human rights, democracy and rule of law, freedom of religion and expression, pluralism of thought, of religion, of languages and of ethnicities, security of the individual and of the country, education, tolerance and confidence within the society as well as fairness and equality between the individuals, preservation of creation, empathy and morality. The protection of the human being and his dignity is also a question of faith and at the same time a matter of life and death in a humane society.
Islam depicts life and freedom as God’s highest endowment to his creatures, therefore each form of pressure, violence, terror and suicide is in contradiction with the principle of the sanctity of life. As God’s holiest creature every human being enjoys inviolability: hence nobody is allowed to be reproached, humiliated, condemned or killed for his/her belief or non-belief, his/her gender, his/her language, religion, nationality, mind-set, social status or way of life. In Islam the killing of one human being is considered like the killing of all mankind (Quran: 5/20)
MFI champions the equal status of men and women. Men and women are absolutely equal in the face of God. Women are as autonomous as men, concerning their behaviour and action. Women have the right to take part in social discourses and they have the right of self-determination. Each form of violence, be it physical, psychic or mental, is to be condemned in the extreme. Discriminations have absolutely no kind of basis in religion. The active and visible cooperation of Muslim women is going to be decisive for the development of our common society. Based on prophet Mohammad’s declaration: “women are the men’s sisters”, European Muslims can provide women their rightful, equal role in society beginning in the Muslim environment and thus set an example for the Islamic world. This is where MFI firmly sets one of its focal areas trying to implement emancipation into the Islamic everyday life.
MFI espouses an enlightened and rational Islam. The very fact that the Quran sets the imperative “Read!” before “Believe!” is a hint that a creed that precedes knowledge has to stay errant. The golden age of the Islamic civilization emerged because of the diligence of people who were simultaneously profound theologians and scientists, people who did not separate Quran-text and intellect. Today Muslim intellectuals and theologians stand in front of a tremendous challenge. The revival of religion in Europe should lead to a penetration of modern thinking with a view to cooperation between intellect and religion, moreover it should lead to a “new enlightenment” through conformity with moral criteria. Nowadays it will be possible for all Muslim theologians and scientist in Europe to refloat Islamic principles like Ijtihâd (free judgement) and Tajdîd (innovation in religious discourse) and they will be able to correct religious aberrations. Especially in Germany Muslims at all levels have to lead the way in finding and providing new answers. MFI will offer a platform for intellectual and rational exchanges and debates.
MFI wants to address the general public’s concerns, which cannot be detached from the still widespread negative image of Muslims, and thus make a badly needed and effective contribution to a more compatible development for all involved parties. Individual and societal reasons for racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and any kind of xenophobia and discrimination can only then be defeated successfully when we all will be working together constructively and in our mutual interest.
On that note MFI banks on a cooperation and partnership of the Bavarian state government, the state capital Munich, all democratic parties and institutions, the religious communities, the media and the public, in order to bring about this challenging project in Munich, that could function as a beacon beyond our borders.
Architecture of MFI
The architecture of the ensemble shall signalize familiarity with the city fabric, be open and transparent, geared to cooperation and simultaneously enrich the cityscape in a modern and innovative way. It is understood, however, that concrete statements about structural concepts can be made only after a site is selected. Nevertheless there is an architectural basic concept that mirrors the contentual objective, independent of specific conditions regarding the locations. The centre is not supposed to be a hermetically sealed district, but an intermediate space, being open to everyone. Both its architectonic main body and its urban design will significantly contribute to this. It is envisaged to create an aesthetically attractively shaped, open portal directed to the city. A multi-purpose place of venue with a clear urban gesture. As an architecturally integrated part of the surrounding the Centre invites passers-by with stairs, projecting roofs, loggias, passages and gardens to traverse and pause. Large glass surfaces and a garden courtyard carry forward the inviting gesture. A library, a café, a restaurant and a lounge are further elements that supervise the communicative outflow.
Based on this, we have an openly flowing order of the rooms that leads from a transparent lobby area inwards. When arrived here you feel both inside and outside. Inner courtyards and views that are purposely directed at the neighbourhood support the communicative openness with a concurrent present comfort. The special structure relinquishes the definiteness of historical concepts. The Centre mirrors its region and complies with its surrounding. The architecture has to follow the peoples’ will. An encounter centre cannot be a dismissive block of buildings that is decorated with foreign architectural elements, as that would not be useful for meeting. The different usages are configured in the manner that they build an open structure. The variety of references becomes apparent. A vivid, colourful, civic centre emerges and enriches the so-called “Metropolis with a Heart” with yet another component that is well worth seeing.
Building Blocks of MFI
The project MFI stands for a religious, cultural, social and academic institution in a structured space of four components: Mosque, Museum, Community Centre, Islam-Academy
Mosque of MFI: Prayer room for reflection, worship and a place of peace
Just like synagogues and churches mosques are places for worship and being closer to God. However, places of worship are also gathering places and thus places for meetings and exchanges and a channel for new messages. This is why mosques will continue to be a central point for the integration of the Muslim religion in our country.
Mosques characterize an open and welcome place for people without distinguishing them due to their gender, their origin, their language or their worldview. There can be no scale that rates after being a man or woman, with or without headscarf, very religious or less religious. For our “Munich Mosque” this means on the one hand: freedom and independence of ethnic-ideological understanding of religion and on the other hand: the endeavour to start off a discourse, that is as profound as possible, that regards a universal context and that includes new arising questions. Last but not least this means to support the German language acquisition and to transit the still multilingual daily life in the mosque to our common national language. A place of worship for a congregation with multi-ethnic backgrounds different from existing mosques by using German as the central language.
At the Munich Mosque sermons are principally held in German. Additional sermons in the languages of origin like Turkish, Bosnian, Albanian, and Arabic will be provided.
A city of culture like Munich, that enjoys international reputation, that is annually visited by hundreds and thousands of tourists from Muslim countries, visited by Muslim diplomats and politicians, needs a representative and international mosque as is planned for MFI: with a modern, timeless architecture, where women and men, children and adults, natives and guests find a place for their prayers, where the place can become an attractive interface for the different cultures.
The central theme of the MFI museum is the early history of Islam in Europe and shows its connection up to the present day of contemporary modernism. And it will project into the future – searching for new ideas and perspectives of human culture and social existence through dialogue, communication and encounter of artists with diverse cultural backgrounds. As a result it will point out to superregional and pluralistic solutions and perspectives.
Islam as a cultural religion is part of our universal development. From ancient times – from the earliest civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt over to ancient Greece and Rome the first Muslims absorbed the discoveries of science, philosophy, arts, architecture, literature and music and cultivated them further. In the Middle Ages these new developments of the Islamic culture of that time found their way to Europe via Spain and Sicily and were adopted by the Europeans. The European era of the Renaissance rests mainly on this interaction. Even our city of Munich reveals unsuspected traces of that heritage. Some of them have been digitally presented within the framework of a project called “Isar-Arabesque”, as a first attempt for a MFI museum. (www.isar-arabesken.de)
In the new museum for Islam in Munich it is planned to have regular meetings of artists, concerts, screenings, exhibitions and workshops, with the aim to look for new perspectives and opportunities for the future, furthermore discussion evenings, support of culture and communication, independent of origin and religion.
The museum wants to undertake the task to promote arts and science and to seek for common features and new pluralistic perspectives, solutions and ideas, which are to be achieved through interreligious and transnational thinking.
The community centre of MFI considers itself as a hub for religious, societal, cultural and social concerns. MFI is going to act in the following fields: religious enlightenment, inner Islamic cooperation, interreligious dialogue, integration, education, human rights, preservation of creation, arts, culture and public relations.
However, the first objective is the cultural, social, structural and identificatory integration of the Muslim population. This has to do with four groups of people, the group of children, the group of adolescents, the group of women, and the group of elderly. MFI wants to assist them by the managing the different stages of life, support them and accompany them in a socio-pedagogical and religious way, in order to become socially competent, dedicated and constructive citizens of this society.
MFI considers itself as a kind of interface between Muslims and non-Muslims in the society. MFI wants to become an intercultural meeting place, a place where different generations of Muslims as well as non-Muslims from all nations meet and get to know each other. Old and young, women and men, traditional or liberal, German, Turkish, Kurdish, Bosnian, Arabic, Albanian, Afghan or Persian – each of them shall find the appropriate offers and therefore contribute to a positive organization of communal life in Munich.
MFI views education as a central task. In this sense it is planned to establish a facility for basic and continued theological education for Imams and other multipliers like religion teachers, chaplains and community leaders; moreover it is intended to submit offers for religion in school curricula and to provide authentic information about Islam for the general public. Primarily it is thought of an education for Imams and other multipliers of different fields. As a platform for the scientific discourse MFI can and shall work on the development of an Islamic theology in Europe. Furthermore the Isla-Academy considers itself as a research institution for Islamic discourse in Europe in the 21st century. For the longer term the aim is to realize a university level education for Imams in cooperation with the relevant institutions and authorities. An Imam education in Germany does not only generate a desirable dynamic for the development of a theology of Islam in Europe, but also reacts to the religious life of Muslims, especially to the adolescent generation’s longing for integrating their religion into the European context. Besides it reacts to the need of the mainstream society for enlightenment and integration by skilful Muslims. MFI will network closely with the planned university centres of Islam studies, e.g. by offering students the opportunity to collect experience through internships in different communities.
The practical education takes place in “real life”, in the actual, daily environment of a vivid, Muslim community with all opportunities and challenges that emerge out of this. Here, the students do not encounter only books, but also people with questions and problems, that have to be central for their education. To this we want to link the lasting value of the MFI model. MFI does definitely not compete with the establishment of chairs for Islam Theology at universities, quite to the contrary. For the longer term a cooperation of university facilities with a project like MFI is imaginable, as the academic process will be rooted there and only there, on the basis, on the grass roots.
In the academy there is a public, multilingual Library with books and media about Islam and other religions, books about philosophy, culture and history, especially the history of Europe, Germany, Bavaria and Munich