The Turkish Muslim community in the city of Volklingen celebrated the completion of the first minaret in the federal state of Saarland last week. The plans to build a minaret on top of the Selimiye Mosque, a former cinema, had divided Volklingen’s population last year. While the argument was reminiscent of the ban of minarets in Switzerland, opponents of the minaret in Volklingen could, however, not enforce a similar ban.
Last Tuesday, the local council in Meßkirch (Baden Württemberg) agreed to the plans of a local Turkish-Muslim association to build a mosque in their town. Many Muslims attended the council meeting, during which some local politicians expressed their sympathy for the associations’ desire to build an appropriate place for worship.
A Turkish-Islamic association in Messkirch (Baden-Württemberg) is looking for a new property for their mosque after the owner of their current place has given notice to end the lease. The head of the local Turkish-Muslim association, Bahtiyar Sahin, is concerned about the timing of things, as they need to find a new property or build a mosque rather quickly. However, previous attempts to find appropriate premises to build a mosque have proven difficult. Sahin is hopeful, though, that they will find a suitable alternative to their current mosque, which will also be accepted by non-Muslim residents.
A Turkish-Muslim community in Löhne/ North Rhine-Westphalia held an open day at their mosque to allow others to get to know their community life, culture, and customs. Through the event, the Muslim community demonstrated their willingness to engage in integration processes; at the same time, they highlighted the importance of integration conceptualized as a two-way process, which also requires action and acceptance from the non-Muslim community.
9 February 2011
A number of neighborhood anti-mosque initiatives in Vienna are coming together to create a new anti-Islam federation, the “Pro-Austria Movement” (BPÖ), also called the “Federation against Islamic Multipurpose Centers and the Islamicization of Austria.” The new federation brings together four separate citizens’ initiatives (Dammstraße, Trostgasse, Rappgasse, and the “Garten-Gallier”) which had been fighting against the construction of Islamic cultural centers in their neighborhoods.
While in many cases, the Islamic associations in question have already received permits for the construction of their respective centers, these associations still hold out hope that they may be able to stop the construction before it begins. “As long as there aren’t any construction machines showing up, I still have hope,” said Hannelore Schuster, spokesperson for the Dammstraße initiative.
In general, these citizens’ initiatives have protested against the noise and the traffic that these centers would supposedly bring with them, however on their web pages the main theme is Islam itself. According to Cengiz Günay, from the Austrian Institute for International Politics, there is a growing “ethnicization of everyday conflicts,” and that there would not be the same problems were non-Muslim groups to be interested in building such centers. He says the centers function merely as a “village square” for many immigrants who do in fact come from villages, and are simply seeking a place in which to meet. Nonetheless, he says he understands the feelings of the local residents involved in the anti-mosque initiatives, and regrets that the situation has now escalated to an “all or nothing” mindset on both sides.
Compromise is increasingly unlikely in many of these local conflicts. In the Dammstraße case, the local Turkish Muslim association ATIB is no longer speaking with the citizens’ initiative, though the latter would not accept the building of a smaller center as a compromise in any case.
Schuster continues to believe that with the new federation they will ultimately win. She points to positive signs from politicians, and not only the far-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ), who finance the federation’s website: following the Vienna elections, the Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ) has been increasingly “reasonable.”
A US-American talk show called “The Young Turks” discusses the Spiegel article featured earlier this month. It reveals the struggles of some Turkish Muslim girls in Germany who suffer from the double standards of their families when it comes to morality and “honour”.
Imams are sometimes stereotyped as agents of division or radicalization. But a new Germany-wide training program aims to exploit their potential to be forces for integration. Fifteen imams started coursework in mid-December as part of “Imams for Integration,” a four-month program designed to make them fluent in German culture as well as language.
Most of Germany’s imams grew up and received their religious training outside of Germany, often in Turkey. Turkey’s religious affairs office regularly sends theologians to over 800 German mosques, but few come with German language skills.
“Imams for Integration” is a joint initiative organized by the Goethe Institute, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), and the German association of Turkish Muslim congregations, DITIB. The program consists of 500 hours of German language instruction and 12 days of lessons about intercultural and German topics, such as the powers of the state, life in a pluralistic society, religious diversity, the educational system, migration, and community work.
A Mosque in Dorval, in Montreal’s West Island, has been vandalized for the fourth time this year. The mosque’s doors were spray painted with the words “Koran 511” in orange graffiti.
In June 2008 and April 2009, the same mosque, the Turkish Muslim Association of Montreal mosque in Dorval, was vandalized in a similar manner, with similar messages. In all of instances, the mosque was spray painted with the word “Koran 511”, which references verses of the Quran that are often taken out of their historical context and misinterpreted as implying that Islam teaches Muslims to wage wars against non-Muslims.
Hundreds of mosques throughout Germany opened their doors to the general public on Friday, allowing people from other faiths to get first-hand information about Islam, organizers said.
More than 50,000 visitors took advantage of the 12th ‘Day of Open Mosques’ to explore the houses of worship and pose questions about Islam, according to the Coordination Council of Muslims and the Turkish Muslim group DITIB. Around 2,500 mostly bigger mosques organized exhibitions, held round-table discussions on religion or briefings on integration and language courses. The annual event coincided this year with the end of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan. A heavy rush of visitors to mosques was reported in major German cities like Cologne, Mannheim and Berlin. The planned construction of numerous mosques across Germany has sparked an Islamophobic debate aimed at fanning anti-Muslim sentiments in the media. While most Germans view positively the building of mosques, a small but vocal minority has criticized it as a “display of Muslim power.”
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Berlin – A German extremist of Turkish origin was responsible for a suicide bomb attack in March on a US post in eastern Afghanistan, press reports said in Germany Saturday. The reports in the mass-circulation Bild newspaper and in the weekly news magazine Focus cited unnamed German security sources. German federal prosecutors could provide no information on the reports when contacted by Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa. The attack, which took place in Khost province on March 3, claimed the lives of two soldiers deployed with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and two Afghan workers. Six others were injured. The reports said the man was 28-years-old and had lived near Ansbach in the southern state of Bavaria with a wife and two children. One of the reports linked him to an Islamist terrorist cell uncovered in September last year. The plotters, who included two German converts to Islam and a Turkish Muslim, had allegedly been planning large bomb attacks on US facilities in Germany.