BONN After the attack on two mosques in Christchurch in New Zealand, Muslims in Germany are also worried about their safety. A visit to a place of worship in Bonn.
A roundish bright room lined with red carpet. This is the prayer room of the Al-Muhajirin Mosque on Brühler Strasse in Bonn. Two men kneel under the green-golden dome. Their hands are stretched out and their eyes are closed as they face Mecca. Community leader Mahmoud Kharrat climbs the steps to the prayer pulpit. From here he often speaks to his congregation. "Allahu Akbar," it sounds through the interior.
A peaceful place, a devout moment before Allah. But is the place still so peaceful? The attack on two mosques in New Zealand has left traces. The uncertainties in the communities have grown. How safe are Muslims still in Germany? How is the state reacting and what is being done against imitators?
Mayzek demands more protection
For Aiman Mazyek, the state has not done enough so far. The chairman of the Central Council of Muslims (ZMD) is alarmed and calls for more protection in an interview with the "Heilbronner Zeitung": "In the Muslim communities confidence in the work of the security authorities is now fading. Many have the feeling that their concerns and their understandable need for security are not being taken seriously.“
Horst Seehofer also admitted to the "Bild" newspaper after the attack on the two mosques in Christchurch that religious institutions could be the targets of terrorists. The Minister of the Interior promises increased security if there are indications of a possible danger. A step forward for the ZMD, which welcomes the words of the Federal Minister of the Interior on his website.
How much influence can Seehofer exert?
Looking at the police structures in Germany, however, the question arises as to how much influence Seehofer can have on regional security in the first place. A spokesman for the NRW Ministry of the Interior made it clear to the General-Anzeiger that the security of Muslim communities was the responsibility of the individual German states and that the protective measures were handled differently from authority to authority.
Every authority in NRW has a local contact official from Muslim institutions who is there as a police contact for the Muslim communities. "We have known for years that Germany is in the crosshairs of terrorism. Accordingly, the protection measures are at a high level.“
No indications of danger in Bonn
Responding to the recent events in New Zealand, the spokesman said that all police authorities had been immediately urged to be even more sensitive in Muslim communities and to check security there. The press officer of the Bonn police did not want to reveal exactly what the measures for Bonn would look like.
"The places in question are visited by us, and we include them increasingly when on patrol. However there is no concrete reference point for an endangerment in Bonn“, said the sppokesperson. "We have one responsible official per authority, who is interacts with the Muslim communities.“
"The mosque is open to all“
In the Al-Muhajirin mosque, community leader Kharrat sits behind his desk. The windows of the office have bars and small screens in the background. Not far from the desk is Sabri Shiref, a member of the board. Thoughtfully, he stirs his coffee. "The police has often visited the mosque," says Kharrat. They had good conversations. A few days ago, other policemen were there. "They asked about the prayer times and said that they would patrol in front of the mosque. There was also a new contact given to us, whom we can call.“
Kharrat puts the business card on the table and points to the screens: "Of course we are afraid of Salafists and do not allow radicals in our mosque, or generally people who want something bad. There are cameras everywhere on-site. There are three people watching and controlling strangers." Shiref agrees with him: "The mosque is open to everyone. We still have to be careful and always keep our eyes open." But since the opening of the church six years ago nothing has happened yet, Kharrat affirms.
Emotional question about the future
Both are emotional about the future of Muslims in Europe. Shiref raises his head: "Since 2001 we Muslims have been regarded as terrorists. Yet terror can hit anyone. When I hear what happens to Muslims on the street in Europe, I feel fear for my daughters. They wear headscarves. I always tell them, be careful! It is a pity that something can happen to them here.“
For Kharrat the matter is clear. The media are mainly to blame for Islamophobic violence: "There are radicals who are heated up by the media. Fears are being played with and people are told that there are too many Muslims in Germany. We simply want to live and let others live. The media pick out what they want and twist the facts." Shiref says it even clearer: "I am German and have no other citizenship. This is also my country. We have to be careful that things don't end up the way they did with the Jews back then." Kharrat, who has lived in Germany for 40 years and describes the country as his home, demands: "We must keep more together as a society.“
Fear for one's own children
Friday prayers are coming up. Little by little cars with families drive to the parking lot of the mosque. A man gets out with his two little daughters and walks to the entrance. The 38-year-old is afraid for his children. "Of course I’m thinking about the assassination, but it won't stop me from coming here." Also, a young woman doesn't want to be forbidden from praying: "I just live on normally," she says and disappears into the mosque. Two young people proudly show off their headscarves. They won't be afraid, and they didn’t have to experience violence yet, the 16-year-olds say.
(Original text: Niklas Schröder; Translation: Mareike Graepel)