Islam in Europe: An Interview With Arzu Toker on the Cologne Mosque

Islam in Europe: An Interview With Arzu Toker on the Cologne Mosque
The plans of an Islamic association to build an imposing "Central Mosque" in Cologne are the subject of ongoing controversy in Germany. The mosque design features a giant 35 meter high dome flanked by two 55 meter high minarets. Much of the initial public opposition to the mosque project was organized by "Pro Cologne": a political movement that local authorities have classified as "right-wing extremist" -- a common euphemism in Germany for neo-Nazi groups. Last May, however, the controversy over the Cologne mosque project took on a new dimension when the renowned German journalist and historian of the Third Reich, Ralph Giordano, joined the ranks of the mosque critics. Giordano argued that the mosque project sent the "wrong signal" and claimed that the integration of Muslims in Germany had "failed." As proof for his claim, he pointed to the presence of fully veiled women on the streets of Cologne, whom he described as resembling "human penguins." "I do not want to see women wearing burqas on German streets!" Giordano exclaimed.

Giordano's remarks provoked a wave of indignation and accusations that he was making common cause with Nazis and racists. These accusations were made all the more piquant by the fact that the 84-year-old Giordano's own first-hand experience of Nazi racial persecution as the son of a Jewish mother is the core theme of his writings. But according to the Turkish-born author and Cologne resident Arzu Toker, there are also many opponents of the mosque project to be found among the very people whom Germany's Islamic associations are presumed to represent: namely, the some 3 million or so residents of Germany, the majority of them of Turkish descent, who are commonly described as "Muslims," whether they practice Islam or not. Toker, a critic of the increasing influence of the Islamic associations in German public life, is the co-chair of the Central Council of Ex-Muslims of Germany. She spoke with the German monthly Konkret.


Konkret: Are you surprised that Ralph Giordano's remarks provoked such vehement reactions?

Toker: No. In the first place, Germans have a problem with Jews. When a well-known Jewish personality like Ralph Giordano says something, every word is placed under the microscope. If someone claims that they have found a problem, then there is a huge scandal. In the second place, Islamists have a problem with Jews. If you take a look in the Quran, you will find that there are maybe 30 anti-Christian verses, whereas there are hundreds of anti-Jewish verses. Animosity toward Jews is a central element of the Islamic faith. Then you add to this another factor: Although there are very few Jews in Germany, they are - as a result of the Holocaust - represented in all socially-relevant bodies. The Muslims in Germany, who are far more numerous, feel that they are not adequately represented, so they regard Jews with mistrust and envy.

Ralph Giordano on Talkshow "Streit im Turm", May 16, 2007

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