Decline in Mosque and Church Attendance in the Netherlands

Mosque and church attendance in the Netherlands has dropped over the past ten years, according to a publication from the Central Statistics Bureau (CBS) outlining religion at the beginning of the 21st century. Last year 29% of the Netherlands’ 825,000 Muslims attended mosque at least once a month, a decline from 35% in 2004-2008 and 47% in 1998-1999. The study found analogous pattern in attendance at other religious institutions, noting that attendance at Catholic churches has also declined. Mosque and church attendance differed in terms of age demographics, as 40% of those attending mosques are under the age of 18.

Researchers attribute the decrease in mosque and church attendance to a “general shift towards individualization” in religious practice. However Emin Ates of the Turkish Islamic Cultural Federation has not noticed a decline in mosque attendance and reports that imams cannot complain about a lack of listeners: “For us it’s just not a matter for discussion.”

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.

10 Terrorist Suspects Arrested in France, Germany and the Netherlands

Instigated by French police, police sweeps in three countries netted 10 suspects accused of financing terrorist movements liked with al-Qaida. Eight suspects were detained in France, one in Germany and one in the Netherlands, suspected of collecting funds for the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a militant group said to have close ties with a Turkish Islamic extremist group and al-Qaida.

Who speaks for German Muslims?

Debate on which organisations represent German Muslims seen as key to integration dialogue. The German Islam Conference has achieved its first concrete result: Muslim religious education will be introduced as a subject in German schools from next year. The move was agreed upon by representatives of the state and its Muslim population – in spite of what was sometimes a bitter controversy. A number of Muslim participants wanted to see a different kind of religious education – the sort of neutral education about Islam which half the German states already offer. The Federal Interior Minister, Wolfgang Sch_uble, sees Muslim religious education as a clear signal to encourage Muslims to integrate into German society. But he quickly had to scale down his initiative after it became clear that there were many open questions and possible risks involved. He had to admit that the main preconditions for the introduction of Muslim religious education have not yet been fulfilled. Before Muslim religious education can be introduced, it will be necessary for there to be an organisation representing all Muslims in the country. This organisation will also have to be recognised by the state as a Corporation in Public Law. German churches and the Jewish community already enjoy such a status, which gives them certain semi-state rights and duties. The right to such an organisation is a central demand of the four largest, mainly conservative Muslim associations: the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, the Muslim Council, the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB) and the Association of Islamic Cultural Centres (VIKZ). Loay Mudhoon reports.

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.

31,800 Islamist Radicals In Germany: Schily

BERLIN – The number of mainly Turkish Islamist extremists based in Germany increased slightly last year, Interior Minister Otto Schily said on Tuesday at a news conference releasing the 2004 report by the country’s domestic security agency. There were 31,800 Islamist radicals resident in Germany at the end of 2004, up from 30,950 in 2003, said the report, which stressed that this was a mere one percent of the three million Muslims living in the country. Police and prosecutors are currently investigating 171 cases linked to Islamist terrorism, he said. The biggest group in Germany is the Turkish Islamic Community Milli Goerues, with 26,500 members, which wants to create an Islamic republic in Turkey. Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda network is present in Germany but the report admitted there were no concrete figures on the number of Al- Qaeda sleepers still present in the country. Several of the extremists responsible for the 11 September 2001 attacks on New York and Washington lived in Germany disguised as students before travelling to the US. The report said about 850 members of the radical Lebanese Islamist group Hezbollah are based in Germany, as well as 1,300 members of the Egyptian Muslim brotherhood and 350 member of various Algerian Islamist groups. Schily also reported that neo-Nazi crime in Germany increased last year, but that the overall number of rightists declined. There were 12,051 rightist crimes reported in 2004, up from 10,792 in 2003. Violent neo-Nazi crime was up slightly with 776 reported cases in 2004, compared to 759 cases in 2003. The biggest increase was in propaganda offences, such as display of banned Nazi symbols and giving the Nazi salute, which is prohibited under German law. There were 8,337 such offences last year, up from 7,551 in 2003. Germany’s leading right-wing extremist party, the National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD), is recruiting from the skinhead and neo-Nazi movement, said Schily. The NPD grew to 5,300 members, up from 5,000 in 2003, the report said. This, however, is still less than its previous high of 6,100 members in 2002. An attempt by Schily to ban the NPD was struck down by Germany’s highest court in 2003 – to the minister’s great anger. “The (NPD) party leader describes the super-criminal Hitler as a great statesman,” said Schily with a dismissive wave of his hand. Schily expressed alarm over growth of the neo-Nazi and skinhead movements. While the number remains small – 3,800 people – this is a 25 percent increase over the previous year. Overall, there was a decline in the number of Germans in right-wing extremist parties and movements. At the end of 2004 there was 40,700 people in such groups, down from 41,500 in 2003, the report said. Schily also expressed anger on Tuesday over repeated linking of his policies with those of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler by a Turkish newspaper. “I think it’s a scandal,” said Schily, who called on the Turkish government to take action against the radical Islamist newspaper, Vakit, adding that if Ankara lacked legal means to do so, it should consider creating them. Vakit was banned in Germany by Schily earlier this year owing to its anti-Semitic content. Since then, the paper has featured Schily and Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on its front page in photomontages with a swastika armband or a Nazi flag.