Opinion: Proposed Erfurt mosque challenged by xenophobia | Opinion | DW | 17.05.2016
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Opinion: Proposed Erfurt mosque challenged by xenophobia

Muslims want to build the first dedicated mosque in the state of Thuringia. PEGIDA and Alternative for Germany are rallying opposition to the project. They cannot be allowed to succeed, DW's Naomi Conrad writes.

What exactly is the problem? A religious community wants to build a house of worship in an industrial park near Erfurt - miles from anywhere. The local press reports that the establishment's neighbors would be the Erfurt fire department, the Federal Agency for Technical Relief and the DEKRA technical inspection association. The 70 congregation members who would pray there would not likely cause traffic jams, take up public parking spaces or pick wildflowers from the farm field across the street.

Nevertheless, Björn Höcke, the state parliament party leader of Alternative for Germany (AfD) in Thuringia, suspects that the proposed building is simply a cover for a "long-term land grabbing project" and has ominously announced that he will present a "set of measures" to thwart the endeavor. Official opposition to the project will kick off with a concert this Wednesday. The motto is "Our Land, Our Culture, Our Decision." The event will feature a welcome speech by representatives of the anti-Islam PEGIDA movement.


DW's Naomi Conrad

When such illustrious xenophobes stand arm in arm, one knows that the house of worship in question is not a Christian church or a local headquarters for Scientologists. The proposed development in Erfurt is, in fact, a relatively small mosque with a minaret; according to information provided by the Muslims who intend to build it, their modest place of worship will be about the size of a two-family house.

The mosque would be the first constructed in Thuringia and, with the exception of Berlin, the third built in all of the former East Germany - the others being in Leipzig and Chemnitz. One should think that land-grabbing would look different.

Nonetheless, AfD, PEGIDA and similar organizations would prefer that Muslims in the east continue to pray in apartments or former office buildings. But the worshippers complain that such spaces are often overcrowded.

Part of Germany

Why are Muslims treated like they should be ashamed of their religion or need to apologize for it? Some Germans act as if they were guests here and not neighbors and fellow citizens.

One cannot prohibit people from being racists - or even from propagating the ridiculous prejudices against Islam and Muslims that often result in hate crimes and violence.

But, thankfully, we - and, above all, our politicians - do not have to listen to them. Islam, Muslims and their houses of worship are part of Germany. Let's not allow AfD and others to convince us that they do not. If we do, the country will soon be a lot less livable for everybody - and that would be the real problem.

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