• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3
No space for Allah as German unis close prayer rooms
Photo: DPA

No space for Allah as German unis close prayer rooms

The Local · 11 Mar 2016, 16:35

Published: 11 Mar 2016 16:35 GMT+01:00
Updated: 11 Mar 2016 16:35 GMT+01:00

"Practising Muslims will find a way to pray one way or another and they'll find a place," Ender Cetin, chairman at the Sehitlik Mosque in Berlin, told The Local.

If the mosque is too far away, they'll find a corner to do it in, he says.

"You easily feel discriminated against by people if they don’t talk to you and then say, 'you can’t practice your religion as you are used to'," Cetin warns.

"One doesn't need to be a prayer room only for Muslims. A common prayer room is a good idea for everyone's wellness."

But several leading universities see things differently and a spate of decisions to close prayer rooms has led to claims of discrimination.

'Security threat'

The Technical University in Dortmund has permanently closed down its prayer room - which was intended for people of all faiths - Die Welt reported in February.

The university says that Muslim men had tried to take it over by imposing gender segregation (with a prayer space for men larger than that for women) and storing prayer mats inside.

"The attempt to create a pan-religious meditation space has failed," said a spokesperson.

But Muslim students accuse the university of placing them under general suspicion and 400 names were gathered for a petition accusing the university administration of discriminating against them.

Particularly upsetting was the university’s explanation that the room was closed for "security reasons" - potentially leading people to believe the Muslims using it were practising radical forms of Islam such as Salafism.

'Not enough space'

At the university of Essen-Duisburg, a room for Muslim students that existed for more than 20 years has also been closed.

Officials stated in an official letter that the room had to be closed due to "matters of space for the students to study".

"With more than 130 nations at our university, we can’t offer a room for every religion or culture," the university said. "The room was installed in a time in which there were no places for Muslims to go nearby. This has changed in the past two decades."

But part of the reason could also be that the institution received complaints from non-Muslim students that during prayer times certain activities became taboo, such as using the lift and toilets in the vicinity.

The prayer area is now to be replaced by a neutral "room of silence".

At the Technical University in Berlin - an institution with 34,000 students - a Muslim prayer room which had been there for years has suddenly been closed.

Again, the argument seems to be one of space.

"The room was created in a time where the Muslim students had no place nearby to go for prayers," Christian Thomsen, president of the university, said to Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ).

"The next places for Muslim students to pray may be not in walking distance, but with a bus it’s just two or three stations away," he added.

Unis not allowed to record religion

Just how much demand there is for prayer rooms is difficult to quantify.

Story continues below…

German universities are not allowed to ask students about their religion, making it hard to know how many Muslims study at a particular institute.

"If we knew how many Muslim students there were here, we could use that to argue with the administrators," one TU Berlin student told the SZ.

But not every university is choosing to mark itself as a place where religion has no role.

The University of Cologne is set to open a new prayer space in the summer.

"As a university, we always face conflict between secularism and religious freedom," a spokesperson told the SZ.

But he said that many people of faith have certain necessities involved in praying "and they need a special room for these."

Reporting by Raphael Warnke

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Today's headlines
Munich pulls together after shopping mall shooting
Photo: DPA

In the chaos after the Munich mall shooting, city residents spontaneously offered shelter to strangers - a move that Chancellor Angela Merkel said showed that Germany's strength lies in its values.

Merkel deplores 'night of horror' in Munich
Photo: DPA

Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday said Munich had suffered a "night of horror" after a shooting spree in the southern German city left nine people dead.

Munich shooting
Munich attacker was shy video game fan
People laying flowers at the site of the shootings. Photo: DPA.

David Ali Sonboly was a quiet, helpful teenager who loved playing video games. His neighbours say there were no warning signs before his deadly rampage at a Munich shopping mall.

Munich shooting
Munich gunman inspired by rightwing Breivik: police
Photo: DPA

The lone teenager who shot dead nine people in a gun rampage in Munich was "obsessed" with mass killers such as Norwegian rightwing fanatic Anders Behring Breivik and had no links to the Islamic State group, police said Saturday.

Munich shooting
Turks, Kosovans and a Greek among shooting victims
Photo: DPA

Three Turkish citizens were among the nine people killed in Germany's Munich mall shooting. Three Kosovans were also among the nine victims.

Munich shooting
Munich gunman was likely not Isis terrorist: police
Flowers laid at the Olympia Shopping Centre underground station. Photo: DPA

According to initial investigations by Munich police, the young man who went on a shooting rampage in Munich on Friday evening was a lone gunman without motive, not a terrorist.

Munich shooting
'Lone' Munich shooter kills nine, commits suicide
Photo: DPA

A teenage German-Iranian gunman who killed nine people in a shooting spree at a busy Munich shopping centre and then committed suicide had likely acted alone, German police said Saturday.

As it happened
Nine dead in shooting rampage in Munich
File photo: DPA

Nine people are dead after "at least one person" went on a shooting spree in a Munich shopping centre on Friday evening. An attacker is believed to be among the dead.

German Turkish community split by unrest after coup plot
Pro-Erdogan protesters in Berlin. Photo: DPA

Hatred between supporters of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and those opposed to him has exploded on social media in Germany in the wake of a failed coup attempt last Friday.

Germany stresses defence of Baltics after Trump comments
Photo: DPA

Germany on Friday stressed its promise to protect its NATO allies after White House hopeful Donald Trump called the commitment into question.

Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Analysis & Opinion
Nice was an attack on France, not on Germany
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
National
Bavaria train attack: Were police right to shoot to kill?
National
How to get German citizenship (or just stay forever)
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
Technology
Brexit will turn Berlin into 'Europe’s startup capital'
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
Travel
Six soothing day trips to escape the bustle of Berlin
International
'Germany needs to make UK come to its senses'
Features
Six odd things Germans do in the summer
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Features
How two gay dads cut through German red tape to start a family
National
Five things to know about guns in Germany
Sponsored Article
Health insurance for expats in Germany: a quick guide
Culture
10 things you need to know before attending a German wedding
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
National
Eight weird habits you'll pick up living in Germany
Lifestyle
Six reasons 'super-cool' Berlin isn't all it's cracked up to be
Society
Only one country likes getting naked on the beach more than Germany
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
Lifestyle
23 ridiculously fascinating things you never knew about Berlin
Culture
8 German words that perfectly sum up your 20s
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Lifestyle
Can't make it past the door at Berlin's most famous club? Help is at hand
Business & Money
Why Frankfurt could steal London's crown as Europe's finance capital
Features
6 surprising things I learned about Germany while editing The Local
Culture
Five sure-fire ways to impress Germans with your manners
10,799
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd