East Berliners Oppose First Mosque

Germans in a small East Berlin neighborhood are opposing the construction of the area's first mosque, saying they do not want Muslim neighbors despite an official approval from municipal officials.

East Berliners Oppose First Mosque

"They want to create a caliphate in Europe," a man in his fifties told Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Sunday, May 14, refusing to give his name.

"Even if it is not very big and they say they will not make a lot of noise, I don't want a mosque here," muttered his neighbor.

Burkhard Kleinert, the left-wing mayor of the district of Pankow, told AFP residents in the neighborhood of Pankow-Heinersdorf "fear an Islamaization of the area, a drop in property prices, and that there will be more traffic and even trouble."

Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries told the weekly Welt am Sonntag on May 7 that the Muslim minority in Germany was suffering a growing religious discrimination with many Germans wrongly associating Islam with terrorism.

The Interior Ministry is sponsoring a mobile exhibition touring the country to draw the line between Islam as a faith and the practices of some Muslims.

The exhibition would visit universities, schools, parliaments, municipalities and cultural centers in the different states.

In December 2004, some 40 Muslim youths, aged 18-30, set up a kiosk in central Hamburg, distributing illustrative materials on Islam and its message.

Threats

The local council has received threats to burn down the mosque, according to Kleinert.

He concedes that the council erred by not informing residents beforehand that the land would be sold to a small community of Muslims.

"Perhaps we should have told them earlier."

When the council finally called a public meeting about the mosque in late March it expected about 500 people to show up.

The meeting, attended by Muslim leaders, drew three times as many, including a large showing of members of the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party, and ended in a near-riot.

Shouts of "We are the People", a populist slogan that marked the fall of the communist regime, went up again but this time it had a different ring to it.

Residents subsequently created a committee to formally oppose the mosque, distancing themselves from the neo-Nazi protestors.

"Why Fear?"

Keen on communal harmony, the Muslim minority plans to put construction plans on hold for a while.

"We will wait for people to calm down before we start with the building," Imam Abdul Tariq, 58, told AFP.

The municipality has approved the building plans in April and the construction of the mosque can go ahead.

But no foundation stone has been laid.

Wondering about the reasons of such a fear, Tariq said Muslims plan to win over their fellow Germans.

"We will overcome this opposition by showing that we are loving and well-behaved people," he said, adding that the last thing he wanted was for police to have to stand guard at his mosque.

Muslim leaders said they have outgrown their mosque near the city's Tegel airport and have opted for this area purely because it was the only available piece of land in Berlin they could afford.

The plot sits tucked between a highway, apartment buildings and fast-food outlets.

Muslims bought it from a company handling the privatization of property that belonged to the former German Democratic Republic, as communist East Germany was known.

Though mosques are common in western Berlin with its big Turkish community, in the east only church towers peek out from between the apartment blocks.

Mosques, however, are by no means a new development in Germany.

As far back as the 16th century, Prussian king Frederick William I had the first mosque built in Potsdam for his Turkish soldiers.

In Berlin, the first mosque was constructed in 1924.

Now there are some 30 Muslim places of worship in the German capital, mostly in Neukölln and Kreuzberg.

There are some 3.4 million Muslims in Germany, two thirds of whom are of Turkish origin. Islam comes third in Germany after Protestant and Catholic Christianity.

 

Source: IslamOnline.net

Last Mod: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16
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