More Debate About Cologne’s New Central Mosque

27.07.2011

A few months before completion of Cologne’s new central mosque early 2012, the public debate about the building continues, now focusing more on its architecture and location rather than political or social issues. In previous years, critics of the mosque, such as the right-wing group Pro Köln (Pro Cologne), had campaigned to stop the building’s construction, at times with xenophobic slogans; social commentator Ralph Giordano used it as an opportunity to comment on the failure to integrate the Turkish Islamic community. Paul Böhm, the mosque’s architect, counters, however, that “the mosque is itself an act of integration”. Its architecture has an “open”, “inviting”, and “light” characters, which communicates “a sense of openness and invitation”. These characteristics are in opposition to enduring criticisms about the mosque’s design, with complaints focusing about the height of its minarets and its alleged resemblance to nuclear reactors. In fact, the height of the mosques minarets, which were taller in the original plans, had been a problem in the past, as the threatened to overshadow Cologne’s famous Cathedral. Subsequently, their size had to be reduced to protect the Cathedral’s visual integrity.

Extremist Swede gives millions to German anti-Islam party

Patrik Brinkmann, a Swedish far-right businessman, has announced to donate €5 to Pro NRW, a Cologne-based anti-Islam populist party. In a report to air Sunday night on Germany’s public broadcaster WDR, Brinkmann says he fears Germany is becoming “too foreign” and that shari’a law will be introduced in the country.
Brinkmann, who moved to Berlin in 2007, claims that politicians do not share his fears. 



“That’s why I believe that a new right wing (in Germany) can not only succeed, but in five or ten years be as large as the FPÖ in Austria or the SVP in Switzerland,” he added, referring to Austria’s Freedom Party and the Swiss People’s Party, two far-right groups which have enjoyed a certain amount of electoral success. 


The millionaire, who reportedly already has ties to Germany’s extreme-right NPD and DVU parties, will finance a building for Pro NRW to be used as an anti-Islam center. Burkhard Freier, the deputy head of the North Rhine-Westphalian branch of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, the Verfassungsschutz, considers Pro NRW and a related group, Pro Köln (Pro Cologne), dangerous organizations. They are, however, insignificantly small and opposition to their supremacist world-view is strong.

Anti-Muslim Attitudes Rise in Europe

Winter 2008

Prejudice against Jews and Muslims is increasing in Europe amid heightened worries about globalization and immigration, according to a new international poll. Nearly half of Spanish respondents reported unfavorable attitudes toward Jews, followed by 36% of Poles, 34% of Russians, 25% of Germans and 20% of French people interviewed, according to a spring 2008 survey by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project. In all of those countries, the percentage of people with a poor opinion of Jews has risen since 2006. While much of the upswing in anti-Jewish sentiment has occurred in the past two years, the increase in anti-Muslim feeling has taken place over a longer period of time, according to the Pew report. In addition, anti-Muslim attitudes are far more pervasive than anti-Jewish attitudes in most of the countries surveyed. Fifty-two percent of Spanish people expressed a negative opinion of Muslims, a view shared by 50% of Germans, 46% of Poles, 38% of French people and 32% of Russians. “There may be some backlash toward minority groups going on in Europe as a consequence of the EU’s [European Union’s] expansion and globalization,” Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center, told the International Herald Tribune. The attitudes reflected in the Pew survey have found expression in such events as an anti-Islam conference that took place Sept. 19-20 in Cologne, Germany’s fourth-largest city. But that gathering did not come off as its organizers had planned. Backers of Pro-Cologne, which had set up the “Anti-Islamization Congress,” found themselves massively outnumbered by roughly 40,000 protesters, some of whom obstructed train lines and roads into the city. Although the protests were mostly nonviolent, a small group of demonstrators smashed the windows of a riverboat where Pro-Cologne had scheduled a press conference. Because skirmishes continued between members of both sides, police shut down the event about 45 minutes into the Sept. 20 Pro-Cologne rally, according to Der Spiegel.

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Anger at Europe’s far right ‘anti-Islam’ conference

A German far right group has stirred Muslim anger worldwide by holding a three-day “Anti-Islamisation Conference” to protest against the construction of mosques and Muslim immigration.

Prominent members of Europe’s far right, including French “Front National” leader Jean-Marie le Pen and Belgian far-right politician Filip Dewinter, have said they will attend the meeting in Cologne which is aimed at forging a European alliance against “Islamisation.” The conference will include a rally in the centre of Cologne tomorrow which police say could lead to clashes with left-wing groups that plan a counter-demonstration. Trade unions, churches and other groups have also announced plans to protest against the conference. The conference organiser is a local protest group called “Pro-Cologne” which campaigned against the city’s recent decision to allow the construction of a large new mosque with two 55-metre tall minarets. Around 330,000 immigrants live in Cologne, about a third of the city’s population. “Mosques are shooting out of the ground like mushrooms, the muezzin call and headscarves are flooding our streets,” Pro-Cologne said on its website. It said 150 “politicians and publicists” from all over Europe and 1,500 other participants will attend the conference at which it plans to launch a petition “against the Islamisation of our cities”. The meeting has drawn fierce criticism from German politicians and city leaders in Cologne. The premier of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Juergen Ruettgers, said: “Those who abuse the cosmopolitan and democratic city of Cologne as a meeting place for right-wing radicals are against tolerance, against reconciliation, against humanity.” David Crossland reports.

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The World from Berlin: ‘We Should take Pro Cologne Less Seriously’

Protesters and other citizens in Cologne worked en masse on Saturday to shut down their city and prevent a demonstration by Europe’s radical right. But have they given too much attention to the fringe group, Pro Cologne, which organized the rally? When radical-right activists from around Europe arrived in Cologne on Saturday for a rally, the city was ready. Thousands of protesters flooded the rally site, disrupted city transportation and even attacked a river boat where a press conference was supposed to be held.

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Anger at Europe’s far right ‘anti-Islam’ conference

A German far right group has stirred Muslim anger worldwide by holding a three-day “Anti-Islamisation Conference” to protest against the construction of mosques and Muslim immigration. Prominent members of Europe’s far right, including French “Front National” leader Jean-Marie le Pen and Belgian far-right politician Filip Dewinter, have said they will attend the meeting in Cologne which is aimed at forging a European alliance against “Islamisation.” The conference will include a rally in the centre of Cologne tomorrow which police say could lead to clashes with left-wing groups that plan a counter-demonstration. Trade unions, churches and other groups have also announced plans to protest against the conference. The conference organiser is a local protest group called “Pro-Cologne” which campaigned against the city’s recent decision to allow the construction of a large new mosque with two 55-metre tall minarets. Around 330,000 immigrants live in Cologne, about a third of the city’s population. “Mosques are shooting out of the ground like mushrooms, the muezzin call and headscarves are flooding our streets,” Pro-Cologne said on its website. It said 150 “politicians and publicists” from all over Europe and 1,500 other participants will attend the conference at which it plans to launch a petition “against the Islamisation of our cities”. The meeting has drawn fierce criticism from German politicians and city leaders in Cologne. The premier of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Juergen Ruettgers, said: “Those who abuse the cosmopolitan and democratic city of Cologne as a meeting place for right-wing radicals are against tolerance, against reconciliation, against humanity.” David Crossland reports.

Anti-Islamic Party Is Playing With Fear

Right-wing radicals in Cologne are gaining traction with Germany’s first anti-Islamic party. The German domestic intelligence agency is alarmed — but so are traditional neo-Nazis, whomay have to shift their tactics to compete. The so-called “Pro Cologne” pary has been watched with suspicion by the domestic intelligence agency — the Verfassungsschutz or Office for the Protection of the Constitution — for several months. They are gathering support in the otherwise liberal-minded and open city of Cologne to protest an enormous mosque slated for construction in the district of Ehrenfeld. Around 300 members of Pro Cologne have collected more than 20,000 signatures, and a few unsavory characters on the German far right hope to use their success as a way to win seats in state parliaments.With a new political party called “Pro NRW” (Pro North-Rhine Westphalia), stemming from the Pro Cologne movement, two leaders named Markus Beisicht and Manfred Rouhs want to win enough votes to enter the state parliament in 2010. About a dozen Pro Cologne spinoffs are already preparing local campaigns across the state — in Gelsenkirchen, Duisburg, D_sseldorf, Essen and Bottrop, among other places. Where no new mosques are being planned, Beisicht says, the party will just fight smaller existing mosques. The Rhinelanders also have their eyes on Berlin: Party functionaries sent mailouts last October to addresses in the capital to protest a planned mosque in the Berlin district of Charlottenburg. They’ve even established a citizens’ movement with an even more awkward name: “Pro Deutschland.” Officials at the Office for the Protection of the Constitution think it’s possible that Beisicht and his friends will gain resonance with voters and even overtake the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party (NPD) in western states. The NPD — which tends to line up with Israel-hating Muslim groups — has tried to block the new competition by mounting similar anti-mosque efforts. They’ve organized a group in M_nster called “Citizens’ Movement Pro M_nster” to hinder the Cologne party’s march to state power. Andrea Brandt and Guido Kleinhubbert report.

The politics of mosque-building : Constructing conflict

In many Western cities, plans to erect mosques often stir more passion than any other local issue-and politicians are leaping into the fray. NOT since Cologne was rebuilt half a century ago, out of the rubble of war, has a change in the urban landscape generated so much heat. A city whose main landmark is a medieval cathedral may soon share its skyline with another place of worship: a large mosque with minarets more than 50 metres (165 feet) high. While the city’s (mainly Turkish) Muslim population of over 120,000 is looking forward to the new building-a sign, perhaps, that it has finally put down roots in a country that long treated migrant workers as guests-Cologne as a whole is deeply divided. A poll found that 36% of residents were happy with the mosque plan, 29% wanted to see it scaled down and 31% were entirely against it. The no and yes camps are not just passionate, they are diverse. Those who approve the plan include many Roman Catholic clergy. But a far-right party, Pro Cologne, which holds five of the 90 seats in the city council, has done well by drumming up opposition to the mosque.

Euro Mosques Meet Opposition

PARIS – Though Islam is the continent’s second religion, Muslims across Europe are facing campaigns from far-right groups and some church leaders to have stately mosques. “The desire of Muslims to build a house of worship means they want to feel at home and live in harmony with their religion in a society they have accepted as theirs,” German Muslim leader Bekir Alboga told Reuters on Monday, August 6. Muslims across Europe, who have long prayed in garages and old factories, are aspiring to have grand mosques. In Germany, a plan by the Turkish Islamic Union (DITIB) to build a grand mosque in Cologne has met opposition on claims that it would be too big for a city housing one of the most imposing Gothic cathedrals in the Christian world. Leading the anti-mosque campaign is Pro Cologne, a far-right organization which has held five seats in Cologne’s city council since 2004. A mosque project in Pankow, an eastern Berlin area, sparked violent clashes with neo-Nazi groups with a truck being torched at the construction site.