Once strongly Catholic city allows Muslim call to prayer


Cologne has become the first major city in Germany to allow the “call to prayer” for Muslim worshipers.

Municipal officials in Cologne say after consulting representatives of the city’s 35 mosques, a two-year pilot project would be implemented. The project will then be re-evaluated and may be extended.

A few municipal rules have been developed to accompany the new provisions.

  • Muezzins may call the faithful to Friday prayers, the holiest day of the week for Muslims, between 12 p.m. and 3 p.m.
  • The call to prayer must not exceed five minutes.
  • All mosques will have to first request authorization from the city and then comply with sound level regulations.
  • Mosques must inform the inhabitants of the neighbourhood beforehand.
  • Each community must designate a person to respond to possible complaints.

Henriette Reker, Cologne’s mayor, says the project is a “sign of the mutual acceptance of religions”.

“We take into account the legitimate religious interests of the many Muslims in our cosmopolitan city,” said Reker who was attacked in 2015 by a knife-wielding, right-wing extremist.

“When we hear the call of the muezzin in addition to the bells of the churches in our city, it shows that diversity is valued and practiced in a real way in Cologne,” she says.

Cologne’s Catholic cathedral claims to house the bones of the Three Kings who attended Christ’s Nativity. It is considered the tallest cathedral in the world. Cologne – a former bastion of Christianity, is also the seat of Germany’s largest Catholic diocese.

Cologne is also home to 120,000 mainly Turkish Muslims, who make up 12 percent of the city’s population.

They are welcoming the decision to allow the call to prayer.

“This measure demonstrates the establishment of Muslims who have been living in Germany for generations,” says the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs.

Bülent Ucar, director of the Institute of Islamic Theology at Osnabrück University, believes allowing the call to prayer is “overdue”.

He’s urging Muslim leaders not to use loudspeakers “so as not to disturb the neighbourhood too much”.

Not everyone is on side with making the call to prayer public, however.

An ethnic Turkish CDU party MP says she “does not need the call to prayer to exercise her right to religion”.

A colleague from the Social Democratic Party sees it as a way for the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs to impose its views on opponents of the Turkish regime.

A Muslim psychologist says the experiment is a “naive, symbolic act” that “does not strengthen acceptance of Muslims, but leads to more divisions in society.

“In a secular society, it should not be a question of the presence of religion in the public sphere, but of freedom of belief,” he says.

Strong opposition to the call to prayer is coming from Germany’s far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD).

It claims the call to prayer “is an expression of a political demand for power, submission and Islamisation”.

In the German cities that already allow the call to prayer, regulation is left to local authorities.


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