The planned construction of over 180 mosques in Germany is mobilizing right-wing xenophobes but also an increasing number of leftist critics. They fear the Muslim places of worship will facilitate the establishment of a completely parallel society. The issue at hand wasn’t the construction of a missile base or a new nuclear power plant. Yet the media reported “turmoil” and an “enraged” audience in a school auditorium in Ehrenfeld, a district of the German city of Cologne. The mood was almost comparable to that of the protest gatherings once held against nuclear missiles or reactors. Instead the outrage was directed at a huge mosque planned for the area. Still, the words used by the project’s opponents called to mind the protests of earlier times. “The minarets even look like missiles,” railed one woman. A man said the mosque’s dome reminded him “of a nuclear plant.” Ill will over mosques like the one being built in Cologne is spreading rapidly throughout Germany, often to the surprise of local politicians. For a long time the establishment of Muslim prayer rooms provoked little protest, housed as they were mostly in residential buildings, shops and back courtyards. Recently, though, there has been an increasing number of acts of protest, some violent. Molotov cocktails were thrown through mosque windows in the Bavarian town of Lauingen; Christians set protest crosses inscribed with “Terra christiana est,” or this is Christian land, on the grounds of a mosque in Hanover; and construction trailers went up in flames in the Berlin district of Pankow. Jochen B_lsche reports.
Germany has so far been spared a bloody Islamist terror attack. But it only took two planned attacks in Germany to persuade a majority of the population to support a massive dismantling of civil rights. Jihad and Fritz. It would be hard to imagine two names much more different than these. Yet there is one thing these two young men with their thoroughly Muslim and German first names have in common. The media attention they attracted to themselves in 2006 and 2007 triggered shifts in German public opinion similar to those brought about by the series of murders perpetrated by the far-left terror group the Red Army Faction three decades ago. Lebanese student Jihad Hamad, 20, came to Cologne in the spring of 2006. On July 31 of the same year, he and a fellow Lebanese national took two suitcase bombs they had made and placed them on regional trains. Fortunately the bombs were not assembled correctly and failed to go off. However, the nation was shaken by press reports alleging ties to al-Qaida and evoking scenes that could have been reality if the attack had succeeded — huge balls of fire, wrecked trains, dozens of dead and injured. Then in September 2007, Fritz Gelowicz, a 28-year-old German who had converted to Islam while still in high school, was arrested in Oberschledorn, a small town in Germany’s Sauerland region, along with two fellow Muslims. The three men, known as the Sauerland cell, had purchased 12 barrels of hydrogen peroxide for the apparent purpose of making bombs. Once again the police, the press and the government speculated about connections to Osama bin Laden and the scale of the disaster an attack of this kind could have caused. Prior to the public alarm caused by the cases involving Jihad and Fritz, the danger of Islamist mass murder in Germany was thought to be as remote as the Hindu Kush mountain range in Afghanistan. In contrast to the United States (2,973 dead in 2001), Spain (191 dead in 2004), and the United Kingdom (56 dead in 2005), Germany has thus far been able to avoid an Islamist massacre on its territory. Jochen B_lsche reports.