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MIDDLE EAST

Ex-President: Germans right to fear Islam

Germany's former President Christian Wulff said on Tuesday that Germans were "right to be afraid of a series of developments among Muslims" - but his comments were immediately shot down by Muslim scholars.

Ex-President: Germans right to fear Islam
Former German President Christian Wulff. Photo: DPA

Wulff, who once famously stated that Islam is now also a part of German life, said that the Islamic world was gravely destabilized, with fundamentalism stretching from north Africa across the Middle East, the Frankfurter Rundschau reported on Wednesday.

He claimed that Muslims feared living through a "global military confrontation" between Sunnis and Shiites that could parallel the 30 Years' War between Protestants and Catholics that devastated Europe.

Everyone should do more to make this conflict smaller rather than bigger,” he said.

But Berlin-based Islam researcher Dr Ralph Ghadban told The Local that Wulff had misunderstood the conflicts going on in the Muslim world.

Of course there is a confessional conflict between Sunni and Shia in the Middle East, but in North Africa, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, it's a battle between traditional Islam and Salafism, and both are Sunni traditions,” he pointed out.

We can't expect Herr Wulff to have such specialized knowledge, but because it's lacking his analysis is very limited,” he added.

Wulff went on to suggest that moderate Muslims should break off contact with hate preachers and radicalized people in their communities.

But Ghadban responded that this was exactly the argument used by opponents of Islam, who often call on Muslims to choose between commitments to their faith and to democracy.

At the same time, Wulff called for a nuanced view of Islam, noting that democracy was more popular among Muslims than among people in former East Germany.

Again, for Ghadban this was a simplistic view, as he noted that the argument over democracy and human rights has been going on within Islam since at least the 1930s – and that for many, “If called upon to decide between democracy and their faith, many Muslims would choose their faith.”

Anyone criticizing Islam should look at their own religion first, Wulff – himself a Catholic – said, adding that the Church had “a few questions still to answer”.

Since my first years in the Catholic Church, I've always found that all social tasks are done by women and all decision-making tasks are done by men” – in defiance of the German Constitution's provision for equal rights for men and women.

Wulff resigned from the presidency in 2012 following accusations that he had received financial favours and that vacation costs for his family at Munich's Oktoberfest in 2008 were allegedly paid for by a film producer friend for whom he later helped promote a movie project.

He was later cleared of all corruption charges in 2014.

 

ISLAM

Mosques in Cologne to start broadcasting the call to prayer every Friday

The mayor of Cologne has announced a two-year pilot project that will allow mosques to broadcast the call to prayer on the Muslim day of rest each week.

Mosques in Cologne to start broadcasting the call to prayer every Friday
The DITIP mosque in Cologne. Photo: dpa | Henning Kaiser

Mosques in the city of the banks of the Rhine will be allowed to call worshippers to prayer on Fridays for five minutes between midday and 3pm.

“Many residents of Cologne are Muslims. In my view it is a mark of respect to allow the muezzin’s call,” city mayor Henriette Reker wrote on Twitter.

In Muslim-majority countries, a muezzin calls worshippers to prayer five times a day to remind people that one of the daily prayers is about to take place.

Traditionally the muezzins would call out from the minaret of the mosque but these days the call is generally broadcast over loudspeakers.

Cologne’s pilot project would permit such broadcasts to coincide with the main weekly prayer, which takes place on a Friday afternoon.

Reker pointed out that Christian calls to prayer were already a central feature of a city famous for its medieval cathedral.

“Whoever arrives at Cologne central station is welcomed by the cathedral and the sound of its church bells,” she said.

Reker said that the call of a muezzin filling the skies alongside church bells “shows that diversity is both appreciated and enacted in Cologne”.

Mosques that are interested in taking part will have to conform to guidelines on sound volume that are set depending on where the building is situated. Local residents will also be informed beforehand.

The pilot project has come in for criticism from some quarters.

Bild journalist Daniel Kremer said that several of the mosques in Cologne were financed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, “a man who opposes the liberal values of our democracy”, he said.

Kremer added that “it’s wrong to equate church bells with the call to prayer. The bells are a signal without words that also helps tell the time. But the muezzin calls out ‘Allah is great!’ and ‘I testify that there is no God but Allah.’ That is a big difference.”

Cologne is not the first city in North Rhine-Westphalia to allow mosques to broadcast the call to prayer.

In a region with a large Turkish immigrant community, mosques in Gelsenkirchen and Düren have been broadcasting the religious call since as long ago as the 1990s.

SEE ALSO: Imams ‘made in Germany’: country’s first Islamic training college opens its doors

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