(dpa) - German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble complained Thursday of "a lack of understanding" between Germans and Muslims as the two sides discussed ways to improve the integration of the Muslim community in Germany.
The German Islam Conference meeting in Berlin had a responsibility to foster "a culture of listening" as well as a "common understanding of how we can co-exist," the minister said.
The day-long meeting, the third in the past 18 months, was expected to decide on the introduction of free Islam classes for Muslims in German public schools.
"We have freedom of religion. That means there is equality and as a result of this it is possible to introduce religious instruction for Islam," Schaeuble said ahead of the talks.
One of the conditions for this is that Muslims in Germany organize themselves as a religious community under Germany's religious incorporation laws, said Schaeuble.
The Islam conference first met in September 2006 and again in May 2007. Thursday's session reviewed proposals by four working groups related to Germany's 3.4 million Muslims, half of them Turks.
In his opening speech, the interior minister conceded there were still differences between the two sides, but denied there was "a major dispute about values."
Schaeuble hopes that introducing Islam classes at schools will help prevent a radicalization of young Muslims.
He told the online edition of the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper that such classes could lead to a change in the way Islam is propagated in mosques in Germany.
A spokesman for the Coordination Council for Muslims in Germany, Bekir Alboga, called the introduction of Islam classes "a big step forward."
Five figures representing mosques and 10 secular Muslims speak for the Muslim community at the conference, which also comprises 15 members of the German government and state institutions.
A survey published in Germany's Die Ziet magazine on Wednesday showed three-quarters of the Turkish community feels that Chancellor Angela Merkel does not speak for their interests.
The government's commissioner for integration, Maria Boehmer, said the results showed "that we have a lot to do to increase the sense of belonging among migrants of Turkish origin."
The Emnid survey found that 58 per cent of Turks felt unwanted in Germany and 44 per cent were opposed to intermarriage with Germans.
In line with a recent call by Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan for Turks not to abandon their identity, 92 per cent said "Turks in Germany should maintain their own culture."