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.
Viel Diskussion wg des Modellprojekts #Muezzin-Ruf. Köln ist die Stadt der (religiösen) Freiheit & Vielfalt. Wer am Hbf ankommt, wird vom Dom begrüßt und von Kirchengeläut begleitet. Viele KölnerInnen sind Muslime. Den Muezzin-Ruf zu erlauben ist für mich ein Zeichen des Respekts
— Henriette Reker (@HenrietteReker) October 9, 2021
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.