Nytt

Som et av flere land i Europa opplever Tyskland en økende motstand i befolkningen mot den storstilte oppføringen av moskèer og minareter. Motstanden skyldes ikke bare de «usual suspects», men også et økende antall venstreorienterte kritiserer den planlagte oppføringen av over 180 moskèer i Tyskland. De frykter multibyggene vil resultere i etablering av et komplett muslimsk parallellsamfunn i landet.

De planlagte 180 moskèene kommer i tillegg til allerede 163 eksisterende moskèer, samt 2.600 bederom i «sekulære» bygninger. Og det later til å bare være starten på den forventede byggeboomen av moskèer i det øvrige Europa. Det antas å være bosatt cirka 3 millioner muslimer i Tyskland. Bare landets Ahmadiyamuslimer har alene planlagt oppføring av 100 moskèer i Tyskland. Så langt er 25 prosent av disse prosjektene ferdigstilt.

Oftere enn før inkluderer byggeplanene minareter, hvilket ser ut til å øke den folkelige motviljen ytterligere. I tillegg mener flere at de islamske organisasjonenes åpenbare hensikt om å markere sitt nærvær på en så høyt profilert måte og på så mange steder som mulig, gjør den øvrige befolkningen ukomfortable.

– Eventuelle utsikter til bønnerop fra lokale moskèers minareter gjør at flere og flere tyskere ser på oppføringen av moskèer som et uttrykk for territoriell overtagelse, observerer professor i statsvitenskap ved universitetet i Giessen, Claus Leggewie. I følge Leggewie forsterkes dette inntrykket ikke bare av høyreorienterte agitatorer, men også av tankeløse eller bevisst provoserende uttalelser fra de muslimske byggherrene selv. Mange av de sistnevnte ser ut til å være motivert av samme type tankegang som Tyrkias statsminister Recep Tayyip Erdogan har gitt uttrykk for. I 1997 fremstilte Erdogan oppføring av moskèer som en del av en islamiseringsstrategi med ordene: «Mineratene er våre lanser, domene våre hjelmer og de troende vår hær.»

Navnene på noen av de nyoppførte moskèene harmonerer ikke akkurat med slagordet «islam er fredens religion» heller. Flere kritiserer det faktum at moskèene får navn etter krigsherrer som Fatih Sultan Mehmet, som erobret Konstantinopel.

– Saken gjaldt ikke oppføringen av en rakettbase eller et atomkraftverk, skriver Der Spiegel. Likevel rapporterte media om tumulter og et rasende publikum i auditoriet i Eherenfeld i den tyske byen Cologne. Stemningen var tilnærmet lik den som en gang i tiden kunne oppstå på protestmøter i forbindelse med atomvåpen eller – reaktorer:

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.

The anti-Islam protest movement has also begun to spill over into city politics. In Cologne, for example, the extreme right anti-mosque initiative Pro Cologne captured five local government seats in recent elections. Now the group is aspiring to enter the national scene as Pro Germany, together with other like-minded organizations, some from the far-right fringe. Their approach follows the example of populist Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn, whose anti-immigration party garnered a surprising degree of support before he was murdered in 2002.

In Germany there is also a market for these «single-issue parties,» suggests trend researcher Adjiedj Bakas, who himself emigrated from Surinam to the Netherlands. In the populous Ruhr Valley region of western Germany the Voter Initiative Recklinghausen (whose acronym «WIR» is the German word for «we») has found resonance with its message. The group claims it is fighting against «creeping Islamization,» and is allied in the local government with the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), one of Germany’s major political parties. WIR members say they aren’t alone in their opposition to Islam and their concern «that in 20 years in Recklinghausen, as in all large German cities, the majority of the residents under the age of 40 will be Muslims.» «Discomfort is already spreading in some parts of the city,» says Georg Schliehe, a WIR representative on the local city council, «but policy, public authorities and scholars downplay the problem.»

Motstanden mot moskèer har utvilsomt blitt styrket av islamistenes myrderier og selvmordsangrep som har gjort sitt inntog i europeiske byer i de senere år. Noen muslimer, som direktør for et eiendomsutviklingsselskap som spesialiserer seg på moskèer, Imran Sagir, sier at de kan forstå den tyske befolkningens frykt. – Når du hører om de kriminelle handlingene som blir begått i islams navn, sier han, – hvem kan klandre folk for å ikke ville ha en moskè i nabolaget?

For lokalpolitikere kommer den økende motviljen som en overraskelse, til tross for at deres egen opptreden i byggesaker som gjelder oppføringen av moskèer ikke sjelden bidrar til den negative mottagelsen. Bortsett fra noen få unntak, mobiliserer vanligvis fremlagte byggeplaner for moskèer nabolaget med en hel haug med innvendinger og bekymringer. Lokalbefolkningen frykter mangel på parkeringsplasser, fallende eiendomspriser og støyforurensning. I håp om å opprettholde et skinn av politisk korrekthet underkjenner lokalpolitikere fra de tradisjonelle partiene befolkningens bekymringer. Men denne fremgangsmåten skaper bare enda mer plass for bevegelser som Pro Germany.

Statements made by intellectuals like Spuler-Stegemann, who has also said that, «Islam has a problem with violence,» underscore the fact that criticism of mosque construction is no longer exclusively the domain of mindless xenophobes. And it would be a mistake, offical representatives on immigration issues from Germany’s states warned a recent joint convention, to sweepingly dismiss mosque critics as being right-wing extremists.

In the case of the controversy over the mosque planned for Cologne’s Ehrenfeld neighborhood, the right-wing Pro protesters have indeed been pushed into the margins. Their complaints have been drowned out by more high-profile statements coming from prominent leftists and liberals including German Jewish journalist Ralph Giordano, women’s rights activist Alice Schwarzer and investigative reporter Günter Wallraff, who have all spoken out against the mosque. Representatives of Germany’s large churches have increasingly added their voices to the criticism as well. The «dishonest dialogue» with Islam described in SPIEGEL’s pages in December 2001 — in which church representatives simply ignored scandalous and unbearable aspects like persecution of Christians, discrimination against women, toleration of terror and «honor» killings for the sake of harmony — is now a thing of the past.

In place of the «fairy tale that we’re all ‘children of Abraham’,» in the words of Leggewie, the churches are now making an effort not to entangle themselves in finding contrived common ground with Islam. Instead they are trying to find areas in which they differ — and this applies particularly to the construction of mosques.

Lokalisering, størrelse og antall – minst en av disse faktorene ser ut til å være dratt fullstendig ute av proposjoner i noen av de planlagte 184 nye moskèprosjektene. Der finnes flere eksempler:

I Berlin insisterer den bare 200 medlemmer sterke Ahmadiyamenigheten på oppføring av en moskè til 1 million Euro i Berlins Heinersdorf, et distrikt der et fåtall muslimer er bosatt:

Feeling left out of the process by local politicians, furious residents quickly began to gather at numerous, often overflowing and sometimes tumultuous protest meetings. «No to the mosque» or, as in the time around the fall of the Berlin Wall in this former East German district, «We are the people.» They demanded that their quiet neighborhood not be allowed to be transformed into a «second Kreuzberg,» a reference to a downtown Berlin neighborhood known for its massive Turkish immigrant population. «Why?» one of the speakers asked, drawing applause, «Why would you build a mosque in an area where no Muslims live?»

Meanwhile, in populous Cologne in western Germany, the locally based Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB) — which has close ties to a sister institution in Ankara — has plans to build what it is describing as «Europe’s biggest mosque.»

The construction is designed for thousands of visitors and slated for Ehrenfeld, an overburdened neighborhood that already suffers from a serious parking shortage. It’s not just the mosque’s location that has local residents seething, though, it’s also its gigantic scale. Once built, the mosque will have a surface of 22,000 square meters (236,800 square feet) and 55-meter minarets standing as tall as an 18-story office tower. The enormous Ottoman style building, pronounces author Dieter Wellershoff, is as strange for some residents as it would be «if it were some object that suddenly landed there from another planet.»

And in Frankfurt’s village-like Hause district, already home to two mosques, a 300-member association wants to erect the third Muslim community center in a 400-meter radius at a cost of €3 million. Local residents are afraid the concentration of mosques might cause their area to «tip.» A typical statement made by local residents at protest meetings goes like this: «It wouldn’t feel like home anymore if more come here.»
The resentment fomenting amongst the mosque’s opponents, who have already collected well over 1,000 signatures, was further fueled when the local Green Party’s spokesperson on integration policies, Nargess Eskandari-Grünberg, pointed out that 40 percent of the city’s population are immigrants. «If that doesn’t suit you,» she said, «then you need to move somewhere else.»

Local mosque critics did manage to find support from the Protestant Church, whose leader in the local state of Hesse dismissed the Green Party politician’s statement as «tasteless.» Although state church leader Peter Steinacker says he has no personal objections to the construction project, he says the issue of whether a third mosque should be built in an area like Hausen is a «question of political prudence.»

Konfliktene rundt oppføringen av moskèer følger som regel det samme mønsteret: overbevist av argumentasjon om at Tysklands konstitusjonelle religionsfrihet krever at de godkjenner ethvert byggeforslag, ivrer den lokalpolitiske administrasjonen ofte etter å komme til enighet med byggherrene tidlig og bak låste dører – i håp om å kommer frem til en gjensidig akseptabel avtale.

Men med denne strategien, som professor Leggewie beskriver som paternatlistisk, har lokaladministrasjonen en tendens til å «ende opp med å gjøre moskè-byggernes krav til sine egne, og deretter informere offentligheten for lite og for sent». Og fordi det muslimske miljøet «sjelden utviser den nødvendige åpenhet når lokalbefolkningen blir klar over de noen ganger enorme prosjektene, føler folk at de blir presentert for et fait accompli og tatt for å være idioter».

vanligvis er det først da den lokale konflikten antar former av kulturkollisjon:

Often it is only then, when the local conflict is taking on traits of a clash of civilizations, that the fundamental questions avoided by city planners at the beginning of the process are discussed. They include, for example, topics such as how the organization behind the project deals with issues like terrorism and women’s rights, whether the project is aimed at integration or separation and whether plans that go to architectural extremes are really covered by the constitutionally protected right to freedom of religion.

And it is often in this phase that local media and local politicians raise the issue of how the planned mega-mosques differ from Christian or Jewish holy buildings. «Whether a mosque can even be called a house of worship at all,» says Middle East scholar Spuler-Stegemann, «is contested even within Islam.»

In Islam expert Leggewie’s opinion, mosques are «definitely not churches.» He says they can be better described as multipurpose buildings. In the same way, Islam itself is «not just a religion,» emphasizes Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a Green Party politician and long-term representative for multicultural affairs in Frankfurt. It is «also a theocratic vision,» in which politics and belief are inseparably bound and «democracy and human rights are subordinate and conditional values.» Islamic associations are not officially recognized religious communities, points out Necla Kelek, a Germany-based sociologist and feminist of Turkish descent. Granting building permits for mosques, she says, is «not a question of freedom of religion but a political question.» She says Germany’s laws governing construction and associations are ill-equipped for dealing with the issue.

The great dissimilarity between these mosque centers and churches is evident in the original plans for the Cologne mosque, in which only one-fifth of the 22,000 square meters was set aside as an area for prayer. The remaining space, according to a Turkish-language appeal for donations, was intended for a TV studio, pharmacy, doctor’s office, legal practice, bakery, hairdresser, supermarket, bank, preschool, library, restaurant and jewelry store. The mosque’s size was only later reduced as a result of public protest.

Store moskèer som den i Cologne tilbyr ofte enda mer: koranskoler, kickboksing-studioer, data- og TVrom, reise- og begravelsesbyråer – alle tjenester under samme tak eller i umiddelbar tilknytning. «Det er alt en muslim trenger utenfor egen leilighet», hevder sosiolog Kelek, «Hvis han vil, i tillegg til å be, tillater bygningen ham å unngå å ha kontakt med det tyske samfunnet.» Kelek beskriver disse moskèene som oppmuntring til segregering i parallellsamfunn og hindre for integreringsprosessen.

Under dekke av religiøse privilegier har strategene i DITIB i Cologne i virkeligheten krevd rett til å oppføre et kommersielt bygg som tilfeldigvis også inkluderer muligheten til å be. Det muslimske miljøet i Berlin Neukölln-distrikt ville følge Colognes eksempel og oppføre et enormt kommersielt og kulturelt senter. Men i det minste var byggherrene ærlige nok til å kalle prosjektet en «semi-moskè».

Oppføringen av «semi-moskèen» ble imidlertid forhindret av den sterke opposisjonen fra viseborgermester og distriktsrådskvinne Stefanie Vogelsang fra det konservative partiet Kristendemokratene (CDU).

Her awareness of the issue had been heightened by a conflict with DITIB a few years earlier, when the organization deliberately violated its building permits during the construction of a new mosque in the same neighborhood.

By the time construction had been completed, the mosque’s two minarets rose 37 meters into the Berlin skyline rather than the approved 28 meters and the dome measured around 22 meters instead of the permitted 18. For Vogelsang that was cause enough to slap the Muslim congregation with the highest fine ever imposed in her district, €100,000. «Whoever lives here, whoever builds here, needs to follow our laws,» she said.

The local Berliner Kurier newspaper praised her as the «councilwoman who doesn’t let people walk all over her,» but the Muslim community had a totally different opinion. It would have been perfectly fine if the illegally erected minarets had been «a little bit bigger,» a reporter overheard in the mosque. Another congregation member complained that «every mosque in Turkey» is bigger. «They must be laughing themselves silly at us,» he grumbled.

Reactions like that reinforce the impression on the part of critics like Spuler-Stegemann that for some building associations mosque construction is, more than anything, a show of power and an effort to establish Muslim enclaves. «Where you can hear the call of the minaret,» she says, «from a certain Muslim perspective, that’s Islamic ground.»

Etter erfaringen med moskèen i Columbiadamm, bestemte Vogelsang seg for å aldri tillate seg selv å bli lurt igjen, og ikke tillate flere muslimske organisasjoner å med hensikt begå omfattende brudd på eksisterende byggelover. Senere hadde hun suksess med å stanse en organisasjon ved navn Inssan, som hadde planer om å bygge et stort moskè-senter i Neukölln som allerede har 15 moskèer og 31 øvrige bønnerom.

The 8,000-square-meter complex had been planned for a strictly residential area with no bus service or parking lots; and it would have been located near the Rütli School, which became infamous throughout Germany in 2006 for its high level of student violence. The building was designed to sit along the street on a strip of land 73 meters wide, rather than the prescribed 13 meters, with an area 40 percent greater than that permitted in the area.

Financing for the project also seemed dubious to Vogelsang. After the builders «almost snottily» rejected requests for disclosure of their sources of funding to district authorities. She eventually found out through the Berlin state government’s Interior Ministry that «Saudi and other Arab foundations» were behind the project — countries ranking at the bottom of the list on the global scale of religious freedom.

The building lot had been purchased by Ibrahim el-Zayat, a representative of the Islamic Community of Germany organization. The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, claims the group has connections to the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical groups. Vogelsang doesn’t believe the Inssan Association’s assertions that there are no strings attached to the donations from the Middle East. «You find someone who is willing to give me €15 to €20 million with no strings attached,» she says.

Vogelsang considers herself lucky «that the mosque could be rejected because of construction ordinances,» but the Inssan Association is already pursuing a new strategy. It now wants to build the mosque center in a commercial zone in western Berlin’s Charlottenburg neighborhood. The site first chosen in a residential part of Neukölln was zoned for chuches, but not meeting places of the mass scale of the mosque center.

The organization has also been taking great pains to publicly position itself as being moderate in its approach to Islam. It arranges PR training for its members, criticizes forced marriages and runs blood drives and environmental campaigns. In this, diehard opponents see less a sign of liberalization than a camouflage intended to deflect attention from the group’s dubious funding sources and Islamist backers.

«To get in good with the Berlin elite, you meet with members of the dialogue industry and put on some politically correct events,» says Ian Johnson, an American author, Pulitzer Prize winner and Islam expert living in Berlin.

Instead of putting all their cards on the table when they meet with adjacent property owners, leaders of an association wanting to build will strike a deal with «the usual clique of politicians and officials in charge of immigrant issues,» says Johnson, and then put «a mosque right down in the middle of the neighborhood.» This approach carries the danger that «through the lack of a democratic outlet,» residents will be pushed into the arms of right-wing populists who reject the construction projects for «nationalistic or racist reasons.»

Offisielle meningsmålinger viser vanligvis at den generelle holdningen i Tysklands storbyer er at muslimer bør ha rett til bygninger for religiøse seremonier utover bønnerommene som er gjemt bak «sekulære» fasader – så lenge byggeplanene innordner seg eksisterende byggelover og passer inn i omgivelsene. På samme tid støtter et flertall journalist Giordanos holdning som tilsier «at det ikke eksisterer noen fundamental rett til å bygge en mega-moskè», spesielt ikke hvis den ødelegger den aktuelle byens utseende. Giordano mener at det må utarbeides en «balanse mellom den sentralt plasserte stormoskèen og bederommene i bakgården.»

The group that is dead set against the construction of any type of mosque is a relatively small minority. But in addition to affected residents and xenophobes whose views cannot be changed, this group of opponents also notably includes Islam experts from the Muslim world.

There are «more than enough mosques in Germany,» says Mina Ahadi, co-founder of Germany’s Central Council of Ex-Muslims. Ahadi has been under police protection since she publicly renounced Islam — a crime punishable by death according to radical interpretations of sharia law.»

«When a mosque is built,» Ahadi says, «the result is that greater pressure is placed on women, and even more children are forced to wear a headscarf to school, which leads to isolation.» She accuses German politicians of «boundless naiveté» in their dealings with Islamic organizations that, she argues, «ultimately want to instate sharia law.»

Meanwhile, among those local politicians who have no general objections to mosques being built, there is an increasing willingness to investigate the true ambitions and financial backers of the builders more fully than in the past. This is not always easy, however, given the complexity of the situation as well as the fact that imams’ sermons are mostly delivered in languages other than German. Moreover, some groups are adept at strategies for concealing intentions that run contrary to the German constitution, using what the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution calls «legality tactics» — in other words, using government means to get around government laws.

Even DITIB, the comparatively moderate organization behind the mosque project in Cologne, arouses mistrust. DITIB is the long arm of a religious institution in secular Turkey. «What will most likely happen,» ask the residents of Cologne who take part in the protests, «if the feared Islamization of Turkey happens? Will DITIB bring it over here?»

Cologne’s Archbishop Joachim Meisner is already warning people about of areas in Germany «where sharia law is increasingly spreading.» In the case of DITIB, this warning might be premature or simply inaccurate. At the same time, however, the association is remotely controlled from Ankara and has a reputation for being more concerned with helping to maintain the identity of Turkish immigrants than with helping them integrate in their new homes.

The worldview of Ahmadiyya, the organization that currently wants to build one of its planned 100 mosques in Berlin’s northern Pankow district, also causes some unease. Every now and then, rumors escape the mosque walls claiming that many of the group’s leaders consider not only women and Jews to be second-class citizens, but also homosexuals. In 2007, an Ahmadiyya Web site stated that the «increasing tendency toward homosexuality» could be traced to the consumption of pork.

Widespread protests against Ahmadiyya by residents of Schlüchtern in the western state of Hesse led the town to change its zoning laws so as to prevent a planned mosque that would have included minarets from being built. In other locations as well, politicians are becoming more and more inclined to use city-planning laws as a way of limiting or completely prohibiting dubious projects by questionable developers.

This is exactly what Bonn did when the city voted against the construction of a cultural center with minarets on the grounds that the project would further aggravate the «uncontested and ongoing formation of ghettos» in a specific Muslim-influenced neighborhood. In Munich, the city government rejected a proposed mosque project because its «disproportionate mass» would have allegedly impacted a square whose buildings are on historical-preservation lists.

I takt med at motstanden mot oppføring av moskèer har spredt seg over hele Tyskland, er byggherrene på sin side blitt mer og mer villige til å ekskludere mineratene fra de forskjellige prosjektene. De gir uttrykk for at de er klar over at folk som bor i nærheten av de allerede oppførte moskèene oppfatter minareter mindre som et symbol på integrasjon og mer som en maktdemonstrasjon.

When Leggewie gives out advice, he says that mosques should be built without the classic soaring towers — on practical grounds. «As soon as a mosque differs from the look of the city around it through its ‘foreign’ form,» Leggewie reasons, «you can count on greater resistance, which often necessitates more involved authorization procedures.»

«The traditional style underscores, even unintentionally,» Leggewie adds, «the orientation of Muslims toward the areas most important to Islam and toward their homelands.» And lastly, he points out, the Middle Eastern style of a mosque with minarets is «by no means compulsory.»

Indeed, a counterexample is the mosque of the Turkish parliament in Ankara, built in 1989, which doesn’t have minarets. And than there’s a «mosque for the future» planned for London’s East End. Plans for the mosque envision space for 70,000 worshippers in a high-tech structure with a glass roof instead of a dome and wind turbines instead of minarets.

For the proposed Ahmadiyya mosque in Hausen, near Frankfurt, architect Mubashra Ilyas has designed a simple building with «Bauhaus elements» and one symbolic minaret that people passing by can only see from a certain angle. As Ilyas explains it, this is «because it’s certainly easier for native Germans living in the area to live with it that way.»

In any case, minarets are no longer needed for the muezzin’s call. A call to prayer is redundant, according to Fazlur Rehman Anwar of the Ahmadiyya mosque in Eimsbüttel, Hamburg: «After all, there are watches.»

Når muslimske byggherrer med finansiering fra Midt-Østen insisterer på å oppføre enorme multi-sentere i tyrkisk eller arabisk stil, kan det være politisk risikabelt. De åpent Midt-Østeninspirerte prosjektene kan fort føre til en oppflamming av en allerede hardnet debatt om religionsfriheten i landene som finansierer disse prosjektene, da noen av dem er land der kristne blir voldelig forfulgt og forhindret fra å bygge kirker.

Representanter for både den katolske og protestantiske kirken i Tyskland fortsetter å understreke at de på ingen måte anser sin godvilje for oppføringer av moskèer i Europa som avhengig av hvorvidt kristne får bygge kirker i muslimske land, men samtidig har de gjort det kjent at de ikke kan akseptere den nåværende situasjonen på lengre sikt.

Mens den protestantiske biskop Huber etterlyser «muslimers ubetingede rett til å konvertere», appellerer hans katolske kollega, erkebiskob Meisner, DITIB – som bygger moskèen i Cologne – om å «støtte et prosjekt i Tyrkia». Som Meisner forklarer: «Paven har erklært 2008 som St. Pauls år, da vi feirer apostelen Pauls 2000 årsjubileum. Men på hans fødested i Tarsus har vi kristne ingenting… Vi har behov for en kampanje for å få tillatelse til å bygge et pilgrimssenter og en liten kirke der. Til gjengjeld ville det bli tatt med i beregningene her i Cologne.»

Noe mindre elegant enn kardinalens tilnærming – som forøvrig ikke ble noen suksess – var den direkte metoden noen lokale representanter for CDU i Castrop-Rauxel benyttet seg av. Mens representanter fra CDU`s søsterparti Christian Social Union (CSU) sa seg fornøyd med et vedtak i en byggesak om at den aktuelle minareten ikke fikk rage høyere enn byens kirketårn, ble gruppen CDU-medlemmer enige om en radikal løsning på området. Oppføring av moskèer skal selvsagt tillates, forklarte gruppen, men bruken av landeiendommer må reguleres strengt:

– Vi foreslår å anvende gjeldende standard for oppføring av nye kristne religiøse bygninger i Tyrkia.

Der Spiegel: Domes and Minarets? Not in My Backyard, Say an Increasing Number of Germans