Following worries over foreign funding and extremism, Germany considers a “mosque tax”
Eine Moscheesteuer könnte helfen, den ausländischen Einfluss auf islamische Gemeinden in Deutschland zu verringern. Die Bundesregierung weist die Zuständigkeit den Ländern zu. Mehrere stehen der Idee aufgeschlossen gegenüber, berichtet @naber @welt https://t.co/l8Tyqg6DzD— WELT Investigativ (@investigativ_de) 13 May 2019
On 12 May, German magazine Welt published on the possibility of introducing a Moscheesteuer, or ‘mosque tax’, analogous to the German Church tax. In the article, the tax is described as a tax to be paid over salaries and capital gains, by members of Evangelical churches, the Catholic Church and the Jewish communities. Other religious communities, though recognised as public corporations eligible for it, have waived their right to tax their members through the government.
Remarks by member of the Bundestag Stefan Ruppert in the press, were reason for Welt to investigate the possibility that mosques could be financed in the same way. Ruppert sees it as a ‘political duty’ to seek out a dialogue with Islamic congregations. He did tell Welt that the possibilities for mosques to apply for the status of public corporation, necessary for a ‘mosque tax’ must first be created:
“Because these include clear criteria such as adherence to our rule of law and acceptance of those of different or no religious faith.”Stefan Ruppert, MP
Presently, Islamic congregations do not pay the tax. Contrary to Christian congregations, it is unusual to register members. That, however, would be a key requirement for recognition as a public corporation. To the German Federal government, a ‘mosque tax’ is a “possible way” to ensure the financing of Islamic congregations independently from foreign sources.
Church taxes are not the Federal government’s responsibility, however, so it sees no real role for itself in the discussion on a ‘mosque tax’. Welt, therefore, asked the 16 Bundesländer for their opinion in the matter. Ten responded.
Multiple Bundesländer see various hurdles in the way of successful implementation of a ‘mosque tax’. A spokesperson for Rheinland-Pfalz says the state “cannot make predictions beyond what would be necessary for recognition [as a public body].” Nevertheless, he welcomes “all measures leading to a stronger financial independence from third parties for Islamic organisations.” His colleague from Bremen merely states that a ‘mosque tax’ “must be wanted by the congregations themselves.”
A speaker for the Berlin Senate emphasizes that independent financing would be “preferred“, but pointed at an alternative proposal by Senator Klaus Lederer for a general ‘cultural tax’, which is to replace the present Church tax. Mecklenburg-Vorpommern meanwhile welcomes the option in order to cut foreign influence in German mosques, reducing “the danger of possible radicalisation.”
The same sentiment echoed in Baden-Würtemberg. Influence by outside actors through financing is seen as problematic, because of adverse effects on theological and political opinions:
“Worst case-scenario is the encouragement of radical-Islamic or anti-democratic content or aspirations.”Spokesperson for the Department of the Interior of Baden-Würtemberg
As in Berlin, Baden-Würtemberg is not convinced a ‘mosque tax’ is the way to go.
Those Bundesländer that responded all seem to share the opinion that foreign financing for German mosques is less than ideal. Welt states that Islamic congregations have long been dependant on income from abroad. It especially mentions the problem in this regard with the Turkish government under Erdogan. The Turks have used their financing of the Turkish-Sunni organisation Ditib, which runs around 900 mosques in Germany, as a way to bolster its political-ideological influence in Germany. One of the ways it did this was by systematically sending imams there from Turkey.