Berlin rabbinical seminary expels outspoken advocate for Muslim refugees
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Berlin rabbinical seminary expels outspoken advocate for Muslim refugees

BERLIN (JTA) — A student at Berlin’s Reform seminary who is an outspoken critic of Muslim hatred in Germany has been expelled.

Armin Langer, 25, told JTA on Monday that he was dismissed from the rabbinical program at the Abraham Geiger College in Potsdam for failing to adhere to the school’s media rules, which require that students ask permission before speaking with the press.

Langer, who co-founded the Salaam-Schalom interfaith initiative in Berlin, has spoken regularly with journalists and written about his views, sometimes raising the hackles of the established Jewish community. The Hungary native said he had a letter from the college dated January 2015 giving him official permission to freely discuss his private political work with Salaam-Schalom.

A seminary statement addressed to the editor of the German weekly magazine der Spiegel and sent to JTA on Monday said the decision to eject Langer was based on his repeated failure to follow media regulations. Langer was reminded of his obligation several times, the statement said.

In November, in an editorial for a prominent left-wing daily in Berlin, Langer charged the head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany with racism for expressing fears that some Muslim refugees to Germany might harbor anti-Semitic views. In 2015, more than 1 million refugees, mostly from Muslim countries, sought asylum in Germany.

Langer, who also demonstrated outside the offices of the Central Council, later apologized in writing to Josef Schuster, the organization’s president.

He also told JTA that all his interviews and articles were in the name of Salaam-Schalom.

“Many of us share Armin Langer’s concern that refugees be welcomed in Germany and that the right to asylum remain an inviolable constitutional principal,” the seminary statement read in part. “We, too, are always striving for close and friendly relations with Muslim communities and associations in Germany and beyond. But we cannot tolerate a candidate for the rabbinical ordination violating his formal obligations so blatantly and repeatedly.”

In an editorial last December, Germany’s main Jewish weekly, the Juedische Allgemeine, said Langer had allowed himself to become a “useful idiot,” employed by mainstream media “to kick Jews in the shins.”

Langer, who is also finishing his academic studies at the University of Potsdam, said he was hoping Geiger would allow him to continue on the rabbinical track while at the same time guaranteeing him freedom of expression. The college said he could reapply in 12 months.