Today’s NY Times reports that the Bavarian government and local citizens of Munich have organized to prevent the Turkish Muslim community from building a mosque on a square opposite an existing Roman Catholic church:
Mrs. [Helga] Schandl, a 67-year-old Bavarian, is leading a fierce campaign to halt plans to build a mosque in a working-class district here. “It is a provocation,” she said of the mosque, which would sit across a graceful square from her Roman Catholic church — its minarets an exotic counterpoint to the church’s neo-baroque steeples. “The mosque doesn’t have anything to do with religion,” she said. “It is a power play.”
Of the many ways that Christians and Muslims rub up against each other in this country, the construction of mosques has become one of the most contentious. Symbols of a foreign faith, rising in German cities, they are stoking anti-foreign sentiment and reinforcing fears that Christianity is under threat.
I’m always amazed when deeply frightened people like Schandl manage to completely turn reality on its head with a bizarre statement such as: “The mosque doesn’t have anything to do with religion.” What does she think Muslims intend to do there? Play pinochle? Of course, it’s a religious edifice with a religious purpose. And of course it is not a provocation, but rather a statement. That statement is that the 10% of Munich’s Muslim population deserves the same right as the city’s Christian denominations to have a place of worship in the heart of town. There is absolutely no reason why they should be forced to travel to mosques built outside the city in days when Muslims felt they needed to be more circumspect in their religious habits.
The reporter in one short passage refers to what I think should be the 800 lb elephant hovering over the issue (if an elephant may be said to “hover”) and that is Kristallnacht:
The mayor of Munich, Christian Ude [who supports the mosque], noted that Protestants had a tough time here, too, until two centuries ago. And then there was the burning of the Jewish synagogue by the Nazis in 1938. “The theme of houses of worship for religious minorities has a long history in Munich,” he said.
Actually, Schandl and her fellow frightened Muslim-haters should relieve themselves of their historical amnesia and review their city’s Nazi-era history. In the 1930s, there were Jewish synagogues in Munich. After Kristallnacht, there were none. This is the ‘welcoming embrace’ offered by Münchners to “foreign” religions. I hope that the Turkish community will see these images here and use them to shame citizens of Munich and Bavaria into reconsidering their anti-Muslim hysteria. They might want to call their campaign something like “Munich: 1,000 Years of Religious Intolerance.” It has a nice catchy ring to it. To Munich, I say: “You have already exterminated the adherents of one religion and mostly driven them from your midst. Don’t you think you might want to reconsider your hostility to another before it becomes as toxic as was your hatred of the Jewish religion in 1938?”
And if we went even farther back we could remind Munich of its bloody Crusades history (when the town was called Mayence) in which it perpetrated pogroms against its Jews. Thousands were burned in their homes and otherwise killed. Many commmitted suicide in order to observe the principle of kiddush hashem (“sanctifying God’s name” by not allowing yourself to be murdered by a Jew-hater). You’d think a city would remember such awful passions and try not to come even close to repeating them.
I should add that there are Munich residents supporting the mosque including the mayor and the very Roman Catholic church with which it will share the square. I hope these cool heads will prevail in the end.