Sputnik: You have noted that this was an important step as it will allow Islam in Germany to emancipate itself from foreign states. How likely is this legislation to be accepted by German states?
Thorsten Frei: Of course, the started discussion is just a beginning and I'm sure that legislative changes will be very difficult. At the moment, there are still many open questions and, of course, the federal states would have to be involved, because they collect the church tax. But basically, it is important that we talk about opening Islam to German society and decoupling it from financial and political influence from the Emirates, Turkey or Saudi Arabia. So we have the task to create a political framework to reach this goal, as Austria, for example, did in 2015.
Sputnik: In your view, why is this tax being discussed now?
Sputnik: Do you think this law will help combat the influence of foreign fundamentalist ideologies? How serious is foreign influence on German Muslims?
Thorsten Frei: This is difficult to measure, because of course not all Muslims go to the mosque and most Muslims feel very close connected to our country and our laws. But it is a fact that Muslim communities receive a significant part of their funds from foreign governments. And imams from Turkey or Saudi Arabia are also sent to Germany for service. It is quite clear that they are state-selected and carry the political propaganda of these countries in German mosques and thus in the minds of our citizens. But it is also clear that the mosque tax cannot be the solution for the entire complex. It certainly needs more of a package of measures, a political framework, how Islam can act moderately in Germany. This also means that the state has to act more decisively against radicalisation. But a crucial contribution to better integration in Germany is the separation of foreign funding.
Sputnik: How can this tax impact Turkish-German relations?
Thorsten Frei: I am convinced that President Erdogan will use the whole thing for domestic purposes. But we have been able to see exactly how he deals with such things for years. In that sense, this is an internal question and for me only the best for Germany counts. Turkish interests do not matter in that case.
The views expressed in this article are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.