In Germany, church taxes (Kirchenstauer) are collected from practicing Catholics and Protestants in order to pay for the church expenses. Taxes are collected by the state and then channeled to church authorities. This practice ensures that German churches do not have to depend to foreign donations for support. But mosques in Germany do not have such a system, making mosques to rely on voluntary donations.
When Germans file their annual tax returns, religion matters a great deal. If you’re Catholic, tax authorities will likely collect an income tax surcharge of about 9 percent on behalf of your local church. The same applies to most Protestants and Jews. The tax applies to almost all baptized Christians, and church representatives say that the state-enforced payments are crucial in financing cemeteries and community work. Those who do not want to pay the religious tax; can leave the church by signing an official declaration. Many people quit the church but remain active in their faith.
Now German lawmakers are considering a mosque tax for Muslims, similar to the church tax. The idea is to distance the mosques from foreign influence like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and Turkey. Germany’s government and progressive Muslim leaders have supported the idea.
Intelligence agencies have cited a 2016 report in which it was stated that S. Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar are sending preachers to Germany as well as funding the mosques and religious schools. Turkey is also said to have deep influence on mosques in Germany, last year President Erdogan inaugurated a splendid mosque in Cologne.
In the absence of a similar tax, mosques in Germany are reliant upon donations, raising concerns about possible financing by foreign organizations and governments, which have sometimes prompted questions about the promotion of fundamentalist ideologies. For example, there has been growing concern about the influence of the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB), an arm of the Turkish government based in Germany.
Officials estimate that there are around 4.7 million Muslims living in Germany, of which 3 million are of Turkish origin. But these figures include people whose families are Muslim by tradition and the number of practicing Muslims could be much lower.
The founder of Berlin’s IbnRushd-Goethe mosque, Ms. SeyranAtes, supported the measure, saying Islam “has a huge influence from outside, from foreign countries.” She added that German Muslims “have to stand up themselves. They have to take care about their own religion here in Germany. So Muslims in Germany should do something for Islam in Germany.” The idea is to make sure that Islam in Germany emancipates itself from foreign influences.
Several European countries, including Austria, Sweden, and Italy, also use church taxes to fund Catholic and Protestant institutions. We support such a tax if it can ward off fundamentalist and violent extremists ideologies. But passing the mosque tax law will not be easy considering what Interior Minister Seehofer said in March 2018 “Islam does not belong to Germany, Muslims who live with us obviously belong to Germany. “Truth is Islam belongs to Europe.