Against this backdrop, Germany fosters dialogue with the Islamic world, thus continuing a tradition that began in the 19th century with Goethe and Rückert. The dialogue aims both to promote understanding between the West and the Islamic world as well as pluralism in society and also to counter stereotypes and the tendency to see outsiders as enemies. When it initiated the „Dialogue with the Islamic world” at the Federal Foreign Office in 2002, Germany became the first Western country to make this a political focus. A Special Representative for Dialogue among Civilizations was appointed, a post currently held by Ambassador Heinrich Kreft. He advises all levels of the Federal Foreign Office on questions of intercultural dialogue and is supported by a division that coordinates the dialogue with Islam at the German missions in the Islamic world.
Projects and exchange programmes
The most important associates in the implementation of intercultural dialogue projects and exchange programmes are partner organisations that work in the field of cultural relations and education policy such as the Goethe-Institut, the German Academic Exchange Service and the Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations.
Schools and education as well as working with young people are among the dialogue’s priorities. Further emphasis is placed on events that stimulate the exchange of ideas within society in Islamic countries.
Communicating in the local language is the key to reaching the respective target group. The elites who have been educated in local institutions are thus being addressed directly through projects in their native language and, in addition, it is possible to carry out more projects in rural areas. In many countries, women and young people have no knowledge of Western languages. Publications, workshops, film festivals, the website www.qantara.de as well as that of the German Information Centre in Cairo are widely read now that they are available in Arabic.
The dialogue in Islamic countries cannot be separated from the dialogue with the approximately four million Muslims living in Germany. They make up an important part of German public life. Since September 2006 the German Islam Conference has served as a forum for regular dialogue between the government at the federal, Länder, and municipal levels and representatives of the Muslim community.
Having a globally-minded Islamic world as a neighbouring region is in Europe’s interest and increases the security of all. Cultural dialogue with the Islamic world promotes peaceful coexistence, mutual respect, and joint efforts to improve the future.
Applications requesting funding for projects within the framework of the European-Islamic Intercultural Dialogue can be submitted to Division 609 (Cultural and Media Relations with the Maghreb, Near and Middle East) at the Federal Foreign Office. Decisions on financial support are made on the basis of a criteria catalogue developed specifically for the programme.
The Arab word “qantara” means bridge. The internet portal Qantara.de contributes to the dialogue with the Islamic world.
German Arab youth website
The German Information Centre Cairo offers Arab-language information about Germany on its website.