The controversy has exploded in Germany over the decision of the Cologne authorities to authorize all 35 city mosques, including the largest in the country, to broadcast the “song of the muezzin“. As a result of an agreement signed Monday by the Municipality and the local Muslim community, the speakers of the local Islamic places of worship will be able to broadcast the azan, that is the call of the faithful to obligatory prayers, from noon to three in the afternoon, warning however, in advance condominiums and commercial activities in the vicinity. Another limitation contained in that agreement concerns the “not excessive volume“which will be maintained by the songs broadcast by the mosque loudspeakers.
The major promoter of the agreement in question, which will last two years and which cancels most of the previous prohibitions on the subject of muezzin songs, was the mayor of Cologne Henriette Reker. She, elected in 2015 as an independent candidate, hailed the go-ahead for azan in the city as a sign of “respect“towards the large Islamic minority residing in the metropolis. For the first town, Cologne will be remembered from now on for the coexistence of the sound of the bells of the largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe and the appeals of the muezzins spread by the many urban mosques. Reker, the relaxation of the restrictions on the noise emissions of Muslim places of worship tends to revive the essence “inclusive“of Cologne and anyone who contests this turning point”questions the identity of the city and peaceful coexistence“.
The burgomaster’s decision has won the appreciation of Islamic residents, but has also provoked fierce criticism from German newspapers and commentators. Daniel Kremer, journalist for the newspaper image, in fact, condemned the choice of Reker denouncing the fact that the mosques of Cologne cannot be considered at all as a wish for tolerance, since most of them were financed by Erdogan’s Turkey, not inclined to promote democratic values and equality. Kremer then thundered: “It is wrong to equate the singing of the muezzin with the sound of bells. The bells are a signal that also helps to tell the time, while the muezzin shouts ‘Allah is great!’ and ‘I testify that there is no other God but Allah.’ This is a big difference“.
Ahmad Mansour, a scholar of ethnic integration processes, then further crushed Reker’s thesis that the diffusion of the song of the muezzin in Cologne would be a hymn to diversity. According to the expert, azan is actually a “show of strength“, later specifying to the journalists of the image: “This is not about ‘religious freedom’ or ‘diversity’, as mayor Reker argues. Those in charge of a mosque want visibility. They celebrate the muezzin as a show of power over their neighborhoods“. The CSU party then took a stand against the choice of the Municipality of Cologne, which, through the mouth of Deputy Secretary General Florian Hahn, affirmed that the songs of the muezzins”they are not part of our Western tradition“.
Cologne is not the only city in Germany, a country with an Islamic minority of about 4.5 million people, to authorize mosques to spread azan. Similar changes were made already in the 1990s by the authorities of Gelsenkirchen and Düren, cities located in North Rhine-Westphalia.