March 15 is the International Day against Islamophobia. Most of the roughly 5.5 million Muslims living in Germany say they face discrimination almost every day.
The blue sky of the eastern German city of Erfurt was clear. There was a chill in the air. That early March day was a day of celebration for Sulaiman Malik. A minaret has finally been built in the newly built Ahmadiyya Mosque in Marbach, Erfurt. This tower is nine meters high. The mosque is the first new Muslim religious building on the territory of the former socialist GDR.
Five large circular elements were used to construct the tower, which required a crane to be installed. Each of these spheres weighs several tons and is fitted together with extreme precision.
Sulmian Malik said it took months to hire a crane to lift such a heavy object on such muddy ground. He said that the construction companies were ready to work at first, but then backed away because of racism, right-wing radicalism and Islamophobia.
Malik said that the company that finally agreed to do the work, contacted him in the middle of the night before starting the work and asked for cash payment. The company also insisted that no filming or photography is allowed in the building during work.
Sulaiman Malik, 34, has been living in Germany for 18 years. He is from Pakistan and now speaks German fluently. He works as a personal consultant and is also the deputy mayor of the district of Erfurt Reith. However, the construction process of this mosque located in a small industrial park was hampered by many regulations.
Malik also found several dead pigs lying at the site of the building, which had been dumped there. He said that often the drivers of the cars abuse them from the window or use dirty words.
Protesters regularly gather across the street from the building site, where Catholic Christians gather for their prayers. Bodo Ramilo, the prime minister of the state of Thuringia, where Erfurt is located, has also often faced ridicule on social media for supporting the construction project.
Efforts to combat Islamophobia
On March 15, 2019, a white supremacist attacked two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 51 people and injuring about 50 others. Accordingly, the United Nations declared March 15 as the International Day to Combat Islamophobia.
Germany guarantees religious freedom under its constitution and basic law. However, according to a survey conducted last year by the German Council on Integration and Migration, almost a third of the 15,000 respondents expressed anti-Muslim and anti-Islam attitudes.
Almost every week in Germany there are reports of vandalism or graffiti in some mosque. In February 2020, a 43-year-old white man killed nine people in a glass bar in Hanau, then killed himself.
Abd al-Samad Al-Yazidi, secretary general of the Central Council of Muslims, a German Muslim organization, told DW that Islamophobia is “a form of misogyny that has entered the mainstream” and is accepted by society. It has gone and now it is “openly expressed.” Al-Yazidi, 47, said that for fascists, Islamophobia is a common thing in the German parliament as well as in the state assemblies. However, this is becoming common among the representatives of the so-called established democratic parties, who are fishing in muddy waters to get right-wing votes.
Al-Yazidi has long been involved in interfaith dialogue. He said that Muslims in Germany have been stigmatized to “discredit” them. He said that the central council has repeatedly asked the federal government to appoint a commissioner for Muslim life in the same way that there is a commissioner for Jewish life and a commissioner against anti-Semitism.
“There are many commissioners, about 35, who perform very important functions,” he said. But Muslims are barred from giving commissioners with hypocritical arguments. “People don’t want to admit that anti-Muslim racism is even a problem, when Muslims feel it every day,” he said.
Such authorities have also been appointed in other countries and institutions of the world. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed the first commissioner to combat Islamophobia in January. In 2015, the European Union also created the post of coordinator to deal with anti-Muslim sentiment.
A day to open the mosque for all
Sulaiman Malik said that he also admits that some Muslims in Germany have also committed hate crimes. Eighteen years ago, his father, a successful businessman, had fled Pakistan with his family to Germany.
Malik belongs to the Ahmadi sect, and is also a member of the Ahmadiyya Jamaat. This school of thought is banned in Pakistan and is considered an oppressed Islamic community. Tens of thousands of people from this community live in Germany.
It will take some more time to complete the mosque building in Erfurt, especially the exterior design. “October 3rd is Open Mosque Day in Germany and we already want to invite people here,” Malik said. , which indicates an Islamic place of worship.
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