Minaret Debate Moves to Germany

A photo of an artist's rendering of how the minaret on the mosque in Volklingen, Germany might look. The 26-foot tower has prompted an outcry that Turkish Muslims are "inflitrating" the country. (Photo: Spiegel)

Heated debate over the building of Muslim minarets has moved to a town in western Germany just months after construction of the towers was banned in Switzerland.

Plans to build a 26-foot minaret on top of a mosque in the city of Volklingen have drawn fire from locals, many of whom have seen the towers as a sign that Germany is being "infiltrated" by Turkish Muslims.

"This minaret should not be built. It symbolizes Islam's quest for power and is nothing less than a provocation," local newspaper Saarbrücker Zeitung wrote last month.

"In the course of the Muslim conquests, minarets were first used as watch towers and only subsequently as religious symbols. Following the violent seizure of new territories, minarets were built as manifestations of Muslim rule."

Klaus Lorig, the city's Mayor, has also made appeals to stop the minaret's construction.

In response, owners of the mosque, which belongs to the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs, say they will threaten legal action if their plans are rejected.

"This is our democratic right, to have our places of worship just like there are churches," Adnan Atakli, a leader in the Turkish-Muslim community, told the Times.

"Churches have a tower. I live here, we have a mosque and a mosque should have a minaret."

Volklingen's Muslim community makes up five percent of the city's 40,000-strong population.

It is estimated that there are nearly 4 million Muslims living in Germany, two thirds of them from Turkish descent.

Meanwhile, the right wing National Democratic Party has issued a referendum a la Switzerland that will make it illegal for the minaret to be erected.

Another group called Pro-NRW (an acronym for the German state North Rhine-Westphalia) have reportedly made plans to organize a Europe-wide ban of the tower's construction.

Such actions, beginning with Switzerland's minaret ban last November and moving to France's recent debate on banning the head scarf worn by Muslim women, has been seen by many as signs of growing anti-Islamic sentiment in Europe.

French officials have maintained that problems with the burqa are rather based on issues of giving women equal rights in the country and preserving its secularist nature.

Proposals are currently being considered in France to prohibit the full veil from being worn in public places such as hospitals, post offices, and on public transit.

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