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ISLAM

German public pool bans the burqini

A public indoor swimming pool near Regensburg has issued a ban on the burqini, which some Muslim women choose to wear for modesty.

German public pool bans the burqini
A woman swimming in a burqini in Berlin. Photo: DPA.

The ban was imposed after the pool in Neutraubling held a women-only swim day, the Mittelbayerische Zeitung reported last week.

One young woman chose to swim and do water aerobics in a burqini, eliciting loud complaints from the other women there.

The complaints reached the town officials, who decided to place a ban on the burqini as ‘non-typical’ swim attire.

“Why the burqini as a full-body suit would be necessary to wear during a women’s swim day is for me incomprehensible,” town mayor Heinz Kiechle said.

The newspaper reports that the young woman, who witnesses described as a good swimmer, has not returned to the pool.

The mayor told the newspaper that the ban has to do with a policy that requires “only generally typical apparel” to be worn, giving no exceptions to Muslim women.

The burqini is designed to be a more modest swimsuit for women, covering most of the body, except for the face, and somewhat resembles a wetsuit.

Mayor Kiechle further said that because the pool is financed publicly for all citizens, it would not make sense to make special arrangements for individual religions that may adversely affect the general public.

“This also contradicts the fundamental ideas of integration and mutual understanding, which is always being discussed in many towns.”

He also said that another reason for the policy was because some refugees had reportedly tried to go swimming in only underwear, but the newspaper said the lifeguards could not confirm this.

The ban has since stirred up controversy, with some calling for its repeal, citing the German Basic Law of fundamental rights for religious freedom.

“We see this case not only as a clear violation of fundamental rights,” wrote the Green Youth party in a letter calling for an end to the ban, “but also as a blow to humanity and tolerance.”

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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