German Muslims demand greater protections for mosques

05 March 2015

Following the recent rise in hate crime against Muslim buildings and institutions, leading figures from Muslim organisations in Germany have demanded greater protection for mosques and other sites. The Secretary General of the Turkish-Islamic Union (DITIB) demanded “a partnership-based security concept for the protection of Muslim prayer rooms. And that as quickly as possible.” Similarly, the chairman of the (Arab-dominated) Central Council of Muslims (ZMD) asserted that “mosques are not protected enough in Germany. We need more police protection in order to build up an effective deterrent.” He compared this to the need to protect Jewish institutions.

Yet Michael Szentei-Heise, executive director of the Jewish congregation in Düsseldorf, with 7000 members Germany’s third-largest, was critical of this demand. He observed that whilst Jewish communities fear right-wing radicalism, they were “far more [concerned with] Islamic terrorism.” He asserted that “Muslims have lived very safely in Germany for years”, pointing to the fact that terrorists had been smuggled into Germany amongst the recently arrived refugees. Generally, Arab asylum-seekers “have been indoctrinated their whole lives, Israel is the enemy”, or so Szentei-Heise argued.

The potential of rise of anti-Semitism due to the arrival of immigrants from an Arab-Muslim background has been a prominent issue in recent German public debates. Judith Porath, coordinator of the Union of Counselling Centres for Victims of Right-wing, Racist and Anti-Semitic Violence (VBRG) observed that there was no compelling argument that Muslim immigrants were to be held primarily responsible for recent anti-Semitic crimes. According to her, racist agitation hits Muslims and Jews alike. The deputy head of the Union of Federal Police, Jörg Radek, was equally supportive of Muslim groups’ call for greater protection. This would only be possible, however, if funding and personnel of the police forces were strengthened, or so he argued.