Portrait: the Turkish Islamic Union for Social and Cultural Cooperation in Austria (ATIB)

During the numerous controversies that have occurred with regard to the construction of mosques in Austria, one association is frequently cited: the Turkish Islamic Union for Social and Cultural Cooperation in Austria (ATIB). This federation, linked with the Turkish Presidency of Religious Affairs (the Diyanet) and similar to the German DITIB, brings together 63 mosque association and comprises 80 000 members, of which 70% are Austrian citizens. The spokesperson for ATIB, Nihat Koca, emphasises that ATIB is a reliable and open partner, and is not influenced by the Turkish state.

Other than offering religious services by means of imams sent from Turkey, ATIB also offers after-school tutoring for students, musical activities and German language classes. The repatriation fund for burial in Turkey, which counts 25 000 registered families, is also an important activity for the association.

Integration expert Kenan Güngör criticises some of ATIB’s programmes, such as kindergarten classes, which he says encourages parallel societies: “it is especially children who need to be socialised in a mixed environment as early as possible.” While ATIB tries to be inclusive and not raise controversy, Güngör concludes that it needs to distance itself more clearly from the antidemocratic and backwards image that many people have of Islam, especially since the terror attacks of 9/11.

Despite Objections to Size, Cologne Approves Mosque

Cologne’s city council has approved building plans for what is slated to be Germany’s largest mosque. Politicians hope the structure’s glass design and bilingual program will help integrate the Islamic community. Cologne’s Social Democratic Party (SPD), the Greens, the Free Democratic Party (FDP) and the Left Party all voted for the construction of the mosque, which will include two minarets that stretch 55 meters (180 feet) into the sky, the Associated Press reported. Mayor Fritz Schramma was the only Christian Democratic Union (CDU) member to approve the plans. The rest of his party has criticized the mosque’s design as being “too imposing.” Builders from the Governing Body of the Turkish-Islamic Union (DiTiB) will construct the structure with a 37-meter high dome in the city district of Ehrenfeld.

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.

New Umbrella Group Founded

The leading Muslim organizations in Germany have joined forces to form an umbrella group. Now the German government will have a single negotiating partner on important issues affecting Muslims — that is, if the group succeeds in agreeing on a common position. Henry Kissinger once famously quipped: “Who do I call if I want to call Europe?” The German goverment has long had the same problem when it came to pursuing dialogue with its own Muslim community: Who to call? Now the four leading groups representing Muslims in Germany have banded together so that, at last, the government in Berlin can call that elusive phone number. The founding of the new umbrella group — the Coordination Council of Muslims in Germany (KRM) — was unveiled during a Muslim religious celebration in Cologne on Tuesday. The group will combine the Turkish-Islamic Union for Relgious Affairs (DITIB), the Islamic Council (IR), the Central Council of Muslims (ZMD) and the Association of Islamic Culture Centers (VIKZ). The new council will represent the interests of the estimated 3.2 million Muslims living in Germany to the government. Bekir Alboga, spokesman for the DITIB, made the announcement at the Cologne Arena in the presence of thousands of Muslims who had gathered to celebrate the birth of the prophet Muhammad.