The following article is the first of series on controversies caused by the closure of prayer rooms — de facto mini-mosques — at German universities. This one, from the University of Essen, is not current; it was published in February of this year.
The most chilling part of this piece is the university’s justification for the closure: the prayer room is no longer needed, since there are now so many mosques in the neighborhoods adjacent to the campus.
Many thanks to Egri Nök for translating this article from Der Westen:
Discrimination in the name of Allah — Essen University closes prayer room
Essen. Non-Muslim students in Essen complain about repression by Muslim students. Now, the university closes the prayer room.
The Islamic prayer room at the University of Essen will soon be closed, the university directorate responds in answer to an inquiry by this newspaper. “As there are a variety of religious sites close to campus, no prayer rooms used exclusively by a single religious group on the university property are necessary anymore,” the statement of the directorate says, referring to the many mosques close to the university.
Students complain: elevator is blocked
There are plans now to introduce a neutral “room of silence”.
According to this newspapers’ research, non-Muslim students are discriminated against by fundamentalist Muslim students. At Friday prayers, they are regularly hindered from using an elevator which leads to the prayer room on the fourth floor. But the University Directorate “clearly objects” to the impression that a “fundamentalist regime” was spreading in the prayer room’s vicinity.
The prayer room “R12 T04 E96” has been controversial for years. In 2007, the University tried in vain to close the room with reference to an acute shortage of rooms, hate preachers, and occupants foreign to the university. Talks with Muslim students led to a compromise.
Are students of the university Duisburg-Essen discriminated against by fundamentalist Muslim students, just because they are “infidels” from a Muslim perspective? As this newspaper learnt from a reliable source, during Friday prayers, disturbing restrictions were regularly enforced on the campus in Essen.
The accusation: Non-Muslim students are brusquely prevented by religious zealots from using the elevator in the building “T04” during Friday prayer. Lapidary justification: The elevator, which leads up to the Muslim prayer room on the fourth floor, is exclusively reserved for “brothers” during prayer time. Even female Muslim students are not allowed to use the elevator during that time. However, the “sisters” did not seem to mind this unusual form of segregation of the sexes. But it does not stop there: even toilets near the prayer room are not permitted to be used by “infidels” before, during, and after the Friday prayer.
University justifies closing with mosques near campus
“Open in thinking” — the university Duisburg-Essen casts their tolerant, cosmopolitan self-image into this slogan. But does this image of man, formed by the spirit of enlightenment, namely freedom of religion and equality of the sexes, also apply to Muslim students? Doubts appear justified, as it seems they created their own guidelines.
Outside of the important Friday prayer, a curtain separates the room which holds 50 to 60 people in two areas: one for women and one for men — as usual in a mosque. The internet page “moscheesuche.de” (“mosque search”) explicitly describes the specific characteristics of “R 12 T04 E96”. It says: “The mosque has got a separate entrance for women and for men. For Friday prayer, the prayer room is only open to men; for Asr [daily afternoon] prayer, the mosque then is open to all sisters again.”
Alleged restrictions in the Name of Allah under the roof of a public academy — this newspaper asked the university for a statement. But the University directorate “clearly objects” to the “subjective impression that a fundamentalist regime formed in the prayer room’s vicinity”.
The university justifies the closing with the many Mosques near campus. “Therefore, the prayer room will soon be closed in the course of extensive construction measures in this university building,” they say. At the same time, they stress that the university is an ideologically neutral establishment, “which principally does not prefer any religious group”. Now the management plans to support retreats for students and staff in neutral rooms. Such a “room of silence” would allow them to calm down or to pray. The university explicitly stresses that they see themselves as a “place of tolerance and peaceful coexistence”.
Muslim student destroyed a cartoon poster in 2013
In the past, the University of Essen was shown in an unfavorable light because of Islamic zealots and fundamentalists. Because she deemed her religious feelings hurt, in 2013 a Muslim student destroyed a cartoon poster with a pair of scissors. A full frontal attack on the freedom of opinion and art, to which the university reacted with self-censorship. The student exhibition “What Comics Can Do” in the library foyer had to be closed prematurely, and the district court later sentenced the picture-destroyer to a fine of €400 for property damage.
At one time the few Muslim students on the campus of Essen were viewed as exotic birds, but they have long since appeared to be numerous and self-confident. Moderate Muslim students complain about an atmosphere of intimidation by the fundamentalists, who arrogate to themselves to define what is Islamically correct.
At the last elections to the General Student Committee, with 30% the “United Students”, dominated by Muslims, became the strongest group in the student parliament. One of their central demands is: halal food in the canteen and a better prayer room at the Duisburg site.