BERLIN – When Germans submit their annual tax returns, religion is very important. If you are a Catholic, the tax authority will probably impose an income tax surcharge of about 10 percent on your local church. The same applies to most Protestants.
The tax applies to almost all baptized Christians, and church officials say state-enforced payments are crucial to financing cemeteries and community work.
So far Muslim practitioners have been excluded from this rule, but some leading members of the coalition parties of the German government seem determined to change that. Despite criticism from some Muslim communities, they claim that a state-imposed tax would help all Muslims promote moderate interpretations of Islam and resist the attraction of rich foreign donors who advocate more radical interpretations.
"Apart from Qatar and [United Arab Emirates]]what we are most concerned about in the Gulf [Persian] is Saudi Arabia," said Thorsten Frei, vice chairman of the Christian Democratic Union Party of Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Christian Social Union Parliament, opposite the Washington Post.
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Freely cited federal statistics showing that the vast majority of members of the German Islamic State are considered part of the Salafi movement being promoted y Saudi Arabia "We have to make sure that Islam emancipates itself from foreign influences in Germany," said Frei.  Such deliberate government interference would be inconceivable in countries where religion and state are more clearly separated. "If you explain that to the Americans, they think you are crazy," said Aiman Mazyek, chairman of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, which serves as the umbrella organization for some communities. But in Germany, where the leading party wears the word "Christian," state and religion are ever more closely connected than in many other Western countries.
Top officials have made no secret of their recent plans for active promotion of moderate interpretations of Islam. German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer made a promise last month to stop "foreign interference" in German Muslim communities.
The German government is now planning to force foreign government donors to make their financial contributions to the Muslim communities in Germany transparent, according to a report by the Süddeutsche Zeitung and the German public service television. The report showed that the measures were aimed at reaching Kuwait and Qatar, which are known to make a major contribution to foreign Muslim communities.
However, the focus seems to be on Saudi Arabia. Germany and Saudi Arabia have met on numerous fronts in recent months. Merkel was the first world market leader to stop arms sales to Riyadh after the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. The CIA has come to the conclusion that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has ordered the killing of Khashoggi on October 2 at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.
But the Saudi practices had criticized the politicians and secret services in Germany much earlier. The Saudi-led intervention in Yemen has cost thousands of lives. In Germany, intelligence agencies reportedly warned as early as 2015 that the money from the Arabian Persian Gulf countries was being used to radicalize some hundreds of thousands of refugees who came to Germany this year.
A representative of the Saudi Embassy in Berlin On Friday, he was unable to comment on the reports, but Saudi Arabia has rejected similar allegations in the past.
Some representatives of Muslim communities also claim that the vast majority of their funds come from domestic donations and not from foreign contributions. "But it really depends on the community we talk about," said Islam scholar Lamya Kaddor.
Turkey's payments to imams working with the so-called Ditib community, for example, have a notable external influence. Kaddor believes that it is a good step to force foreign donors to disclose their contributions, but believes a tax would hinder further promising efforts.
Church, there is no leader in Islam, "said Kaddor. This would make the introduction of a mosque tax much more difficult than, for example, the distribution of funds collected on behalf of the Catholic Church. So far, most Muslim communities lack the necessary legal status to sustain taxpayers' money, and politicians who support the proposal say it is up to these communities to meet the criteria.
There is also disagreement as to whether such a system would have been mandatory, as suggested by the conservative legislature Frei and others. Many Muslims already provide 2.5% of their income, which is not spent on the cost of living, to needy people, although these contributions are not monitored by their communities.
Aiman Mazyek from the Central Council of Muslims in Germany said the government should "do" not help financially, but in terms of providing the administrative resources. "For some, however, this is too far.
"As a Muslim, I oppose the government's idea of how to spend my money," Kaddor said. "It's not about the government."