Issued by CEMO Center - Paris
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Internal disputes in Germany over monitoring mosques and pursuing funding sources

Wednesday 07/April/2021 - 05:57 PM
The Reference
Hani Daniel

In the framework of trying to stop foreign interference in mosques in Germany, a journalist started his project to improve the vision of Islamic prayer houses in Germany in order to increase transparency and the necessity of obligating mosques funded by foreign donors to provide sources of funding and their full size.

Die Welt newspaper focused on Constantin Schreiber's media experience on the ARD channel, especially as he visited a large number of mosques in recent years for his journalistic work and was repeatedly shocked that there was little public information about a large part of mosques in the country, including who is responsible for them and who are the imams who get paid.

The newspaper confirmed that there are no statistics on the number of religious buildings, and that only about 200 mosques can be identified through the representative glass and concrete architecture with the minaret and the dome, while the vast majority of them are called backyard mosques, with prayer rooms located in commercial buildings, former factories or private apartments. In order to facilitate access to the world of these places of worship, Schreiber has now launched his project to provide insight into hundreds of mosques, with images, information and translated sermons. The site was developed by scholars of Islam, including Muslims and non-Muslims.

Along with two fellow journalists who do not want to appear by name, they visited many German cities in search of mosques, took pictures and registered them on the site. The team visited nearly 550 mosques, 130 of which were recorded on an online platform.

“In many mosques we were present at Friday prayers, and we recorded the sermons that were held there and made them transparent and public. So, we invite Muslims and non-Muslims to participate,” Schreiber said of his project.

He added that 1,000 mosques will be documented on the platform by the end of the year, considering that the lack of transparency in many mosques is also a recurring issue in German federal policy.

Attempts to register mosques were mentioned before due to doubts about funding, especially the mosques supported by Turkey.

For her part, lawyer Maryam Kamel Abdel Salam, who is preparing a study for Bonn University on issues of security and constitutional law and is a member of the board of directors of the Muslim Women Alliance, said, “Mosque registration would be a strong interference in the freedom to practice one's religion that cannot be justified. Mosque-goers will feel watched, which could lead to them either not going to the mosque at all or feeling uncomfortable doing so at all, making it no longer possible to practice religion unobstructed and protected.”

“Of course, it is legitimate to pursue security interests,” Abdel Salam added. Nevertheless, she considers the available intelligence resources so far adequate, regardless of suspicion and without reason, noting that there is no justification for transparency, because “the practice of religion must be an area free from the state.”

This comes at a time when the Liberal Islamic Association, to which seven mosque communities belong to in the country, fears general suspicion that may lead to the marginalization of Muslims.

Odette Yilmaz, president of the union, believes that “the problem of Muslims and their societies in all areas is counterproductive, and one must bear in mind that a large part of it occurs outside mosque communities, especially in private places and on the Internet. Primary prevention must be strengthened within the framework of political education work.”