Protest Mars Opening of First Mosque in East Germany

Madeline Chambers and Josie Cox, Reuters, October 16, 2008

About 200 people chanting anti-Muslim slogans demonstrated on Thursday at the opening of the first mosque in the formerly communist eastern part of Germany.

Attacks on the site and protests by residents and the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) have dogged the mosque’s construction.

The demonstrators, many of them older people, held banners reading “Stop the Islamisation of Europe” and “Stop the Abuse of Religious Freedom.”

A few black-clad young men with shaved heads, a trademark right-wing style, joined the protest but the NPD called off a march.

The protest highlighted difficulties in integrating Germany’s 3.2 million Muslims into mainstream society, especially in the former communist east where few have settled.

Supporters say the mosque will foster better ties.

“The mosque will be a hub of social activity, not just for praying,” said Ijaz Ahmad, spokeswoman for the Ahmadiyya mosque.

“It will play a role in boosting integration and promoting dialogue with politicians and other religious groups.”

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Germany is home to about 2,500 mosque communities and has 2,250 active imams. Most of its Muslims are of Turkish origin.

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