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Mosques Shake Germany

  • October 27th, 2008
  • Posted by Grace Tobin

The building believed to be Eastern Germany’s first mosque celebrated its opening last Thursday in Berlin — and saw 150 citizens voicing theirorg-pic.jpg opposition.

More than 300 German officials and members of the Muslim community attended the gathering.

Berlin’s mayor Klaus Wowereit said the mosque was a symbol of religious and cultural tolerance in the town, but more than 500 police protected the mosque opening.

Four different protest groups were originally expected; on the night only the Heinersdorf Community of Interested Citizens, a local organisation,  was represented.

During the mosque’s construction there were violent demonstrations organised by the far-right National Democratic Party, a fire was lit in the building contractor’s site trailer, and obscene words were spray-painted on the mosque’s dome.

Mosque construction is on the increase in Europe and more than 270,000 people from Italy, Norway, Switzerland and Britain have signed petitions against the plans.

The European Union has a population of more than 16 million Muslims.

Yet it is Germany making the headlines, with almost 200 mosques expected to be built over the next few years, for three-million Islamic citizens …
Mushead Al Freih, a 31-year-old Muslim lived in Europe for a year in 2005 and said he always felt part of the community.

“There was a big population of Muslims but not very many Mosques”, he said.

Mr Al Freih said the Germans were unfair to protest against building the mosques because the Muslims were German citizens.

“Maybe the Germans think ‘this is our country so why are the Middle East people taking it?’ but it is like any other country and they [the Muslims] are citizens.

“They live in the same country, they eat the same food and work and pay tax…why should they be treated any different?” he said.

In Cologne, attempts to block construction of a new mosque, accompanied by some violent demonstartions, made world news in August.

Stone-throwing protesters disrupted an “anti-Islamification” event against a large mosque’s construction approved by the city council.pro-cologne.jpg

The Pro-Cologne movement was attacked by a counter-demonstration of 3000 people before taking refuge on a boat on the Rhine river.

Cologne Mayor Fritz Schramma said Pro-Cologne members were “arsonists and racists” and encouraged the city to give the party “the cold shoulder.”

The extreme right-wing party said the mosque is an “immigrant invasion” of Europe and wants to build a “European, patriotic, populist right-wing movement.”

A book has been written about the disputes, and protests continue, despite construction beginning at the end of the year.

Many German locals are said to have a fear of terrorist attacks, jihad and Europe’s integration into the Islamic religion.

Al Freih said the Germans were having trouble accepting the Muslims because of negative images in the mass media.

“If Germans think of Muslims they think Osama Bin Laden is Muslim so everyone else is the same thing…but we [Muslims] are never taught to kill anyone”, he said.

Another Muslim, Imran Sagir, director of a German property development company told Spiegel News he could understand the German citizen’s fears.

“When you hear on the news about crimes committed in the name of Islam who can blame people who don’t want a mosque in the neighborhood?” he said.

But Al Freih, who now lives in Australia, said Muslims shouldn’t be judged because of a few bad people.

“The people like Osama Bin Laden are not Muslim…anyone that kills is not Muslim”, he said.

“I study my religion and it never says to hurt or kill any person so no one should think Muslims will do this.”

There have been various German political parties created on the single issue of protesting mosque construction such as the Pro Cologne initiative, and other extreme groups that claim to fight against “creeping Isamisation” — blamed in German media reports for increasing violent acts.

certain Christian groups recently protested with signs inscribed with “this is Christian land”; a mosque in Bavaria was bombed with Molotov cocktails and construction trailers were set alight in Berlin …
Muslims in Germany are seen as very accepting of other religions, while not allowing their own faith to be characterised by extreme fundamentalism.

A new study “Muslim religiosity in Germany”, based on interviews with 2000 Muslims living in  the country, found 90 percent were religious compared to 70 percent of the German population.

Former chairwoman of the Expert Council for Immigration and Integration, Rita Süssmuth said the study dealt with clichés:

“In the past Muslim religiosity has been perceived as very political, but in fact politics and political attitudes play only a very subordinate role for Muslims”, she said.

Only 16 percent of respondents said their faith had a significant effect on their political views and 65 percent rejected the idea of an Islamic party.

Dr Martin Rieger, the head of the study, said the results showed a high level of tolerance towards other religions.

“The results of the study also indicate that religiosity is a resource for civil society that might be utilised more fully to promote integration”, he said.

The Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB) organises most of the mosque construction in Germany.

Ethnic Turks make up more than 70 per cent of Germany’s Muslims.

There are almost 2,600 Islamic centers in Germany and more than 200 structures classed as mosques; mostly inconspicuous structures on city outskirts.

In Ingolstadt a mosque was built next to a hazardous-waste disposal facility.

Al Freih said it was wrong for German Muslims to be treated any differently to other citizens especially when they are so accepting of all people.

“It’s not right…they give something to the country so the country should give something back”, he saidmuslim.jpg.

In Iraq, where Al Freih was born, he said there were more churches than mosques in his suburb.

“No one ever said that was wrong…it is their religion so they wanted churches to pray in”, he said.

“If Germans moved to Australia then they would be treated equally… If they wanted to build another church here, we would let them”, Al Freih said.

Forselen said Muslims were already integrated into German society.

“A lot of them have little shops like newsagents or grocery shops and some are even teachers or doctors,” she said.

On Sunday Germany’s largest mosque, the Merkez Mosque, will open in Duisburg’s industrial area.

Such new mosques –  referred to as  ‘confrontational architecture’ in come German media — continues to provide a ‘test of tolerance’ for Germans.

Editor’s note:  Comments from an individual informant in Germany, opposed to Mosque construction, were deleted from  this article at their request, on personal grounds, on 20.1.11. There was no challenge to the accuracy of the quotations.
Reference

Interviews for EUAustralia, with … and Mushead Al Freih.

Speigel News,http://www.spiegel.de/international/

Cologne Mayor Fritz Schramma, http://www.stadt-koeln.de/en/ob/index.html

Pictures

“Wir” protest group, (ejpress.org/)

Abdul Rahman mosque under construction,  (svetla.nomadlife.org/)

Pro-Cologne party leader Markus Wiener with protest sign, (npr.org/)

Women read from the Koran at the Mevlana Mosque, (minnesota.publicradio.org/ttp://)

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