As we reported last week, the Technical University of Dortmund is one of the German educational institutions that closed its “silent room” after Muslims effectively turned it into a mosque. Following a protest by campus Muslims who objected to the closure, the university issued an official reply.
In careful, dry bureaucratic language, the university said basically the same thing as the AfD, Viktor Orbán, Miloš Zeman, and Robert Fico: Islam is incompatible with the rights and norms of a democratic society, as well as with the university’s own regulations.
Below is the full text of the letter sent by the university to the complainants and subsequently made public. Many thanks to JLH for the translation. (The original pdf of the letter [in German] is available on the website of the Ruhr Nachrichten.)
Technical University of Dortmund
Office of the President:
by e-mail to Messrs
Subject: “Quiet Room”
Messrs. Y., Y., M.
In re. your communication of 25 January of this year in which, speaking not in your own names but as representatives of a group of 408 students of Dortmund Technical University, i.e., in the names of circa 1.2% of our students, you comment on the closing of the “Quiet Room” in our physics building on campus and criticize that action.
We do expressly welcome your speaking out in your communication against discrimination directed at certain groups of students, for the closing of the room was necessary to avoid this very discrimination.
Therefore, we are pleased to explain the background of our decision somewhat more completely, as follows.
As you know, TU Dortmund is a government institution, regulated by public law and financed by taxes, which is obliged in accordance with Article 3 of our constitution to exercise neutrality and equality of treatment in matters of religion, denomination, religious persuasion, etc. For the sake of simplicity, we take the liberty of quoting the preamble word-for-word.
Article 3 says:
|(1)||All persons are equal before the law.|
|(2)||Men and women are equal. The state fosters the effective enforcement of equality of men and women and works toward elimination of existing obstacles.|
|(3)||No one may be disadvantaged or preferred because of his/her race, language, homeland or origins, religion, religious or political opinions. No one may be disadvantaged because of a handicap.
The requirement for a public university to be neutral and non-denominational is the reason that we are not in this situation entitled to accommodate the wishes of members of various religious group and factions for access to their own space on campus for the practice of their religions, and further, on grounds of availability of spatial resources. In consideration of the multiplicity of students and staff of those religions represented, we absolutely could not do it.
For that reason, the previous administration of TU Dortmund, under the leadership of Prof. Dr. Becker, on May 7, 2008, refused the request of a group of Muslim students for a prayer room. In this situation, as an example, the Catholic and Protestant student communities made facilities off-campus but in its vicinity available to their members at that time.
This proviso notwithstanding, however, we declared our readiness at the beginning of 2012, in consideration of — among other things — the diversity of existing religious beliefs among our students (especially the foreign students) who partly also because of their minority status, have no support locally, to experimentally supply equal access for all students at TU Dortmund to a space for prayer or meditation. It was also expected that with the possibility of utilization of this room by Muslim students as well, the then-as-now unacceptable practice of using stairwells by this student group as prayer spaces, which was in violation of fire prevention regulations, would be prevented.
The chosen space was given the neutral name “Quiet Room” and rendered to the administration of the AStA (General Students’ Committee) for a period of two years, upon which the AStA, in agreement with the university administration, issued an ordinance of use, which was intended to ensure the requisite philosophical neutrality and diversity of its utility. Selected citations therefrom are:
Use Ordinance for the Quiet Room at TU Dortmund
§ 1 Intended purpose
The Quiet Room has the sole purpose of making possible for the members of TU Dortmund a sanctuary for the undisturbed, individual practice of their religion (prayer) and/or meditation. Events or meetings of any kind shall not take place in the Room.
§ 2 Use of the space
In the interest of maintaining peace on the premises, behavior that is both considerate and amenable to compromise is indispensable…
Exercise of domiciliary rights are the province of the AStA of TU Dortmund. Its directives or those of its authorized personnel are to be obeyed.
§ 3 Maintaining tranquility
In the Quiet Room, calm is to be maintained and noise of any kind avoided.
§ 4 The appearance of the Room
The Quiet Room is to be kept philosophically and religiously neutral. Religious symbols, signs or the like must not be mounted or posted. It is not permitted to display, post or hang notices, brochures, flyers or the like with religious or philosophical reference within, or in the direct vicinity of, the Room…
When the utilization of the room in accordance with its stated purpose had proceeded without difficulty in the first months, and the many, early, highly critical voices which had warned against a “take-over by Muslim conversion of the Room into a prayer room and a concomitant expulsion of visitors of different beliefs” had been silenced, there followed unfortunately in the ensuing time period an initial, massive offense against the Room’s utilization ordinance and declared purpose.
Specifically, an inspection by the AStA revealed that, against the use ordinance for the Room, diverse prayer rugs and Korans were stored there, and further, flyers in Arabic and German-language lectures were laid out, containing, among other things, how women must dress and behave (e.g., wearing a head-scarf, eschewal of perfume, etc.). Moreover, it was established that there was utilization by third parties in group events, and, further that the room was divided during use into gender-specific sections.
All of the above prompted the AStA to temporarily close the facility and have a clarifying discussion with the responsible parties. After reinstatement of the ordinance and the prospect of a positive prognosis, the Room was once again opened. At the same time, to enhance comfort, the Room was furnished with two sofas, bookshelves and a ca. 2m X 2m painting on canvas.
Now new complaints by other students have reached us, concerning substantial offenses against the utilization ordinance, which have compelled us to unavoidable action, because of an offense — under no circumstances acceptable — against the above-cited Article 3 of our constitution (inter alia, equality of men and women).
According to these complaints, female visitors to the Room have several times been intercepted and informed that they had entry only to a smaller, optically and physically closed-off part of the room, while the larger part of the room was reserved for men.
Our own ensuing inspection of the space revealed that the sturdy, ceiling-high bookshelves had been converted into room dividers, beginning at the entrance, separating the room into a larger, brighter area and a smaller, darker one. Additionally, blankets had been hung over the bookcases, ensuring that there was no line-of-sight from one area to the other. Furthermore, the painting mounted on a 2 x 2 meter wooden frame, originally intended as decoration for the Room, now served as a “sliding door” to allow the complete optical and physical closure of the “room within a room”. Moreover, numerous prayer rugs and Korans were found in both areas.
In this context, unfortunately, we regard the attempt to establish a neutral “Quiet Room” accessible equitably to all faiths as having failed. Since the trial period of two years has expired and not been extended, the university no longer has any obligation to continue the project.
Your opinion therefore, that a “rigorous and unagreed-upon closure” is in prospect is therefore meaningless.
In future, the room will again be dedicated to teaching and research and thus directly serve those goals, which is in accordance with the state obligation of the university and contributes to relieving the scarcity of space resources. Currently, there is also a desire by a large group of members of the university, who would like to have — in this area of campus as in other areas of campus — a so-called “baby and relaxation room”. Consideration is being given to this desire for an undisturbed place of retreat. We will be happy to discuss this with the responsible university committees.
Your attribution of an alleged mocking, discrimination, anti-Islamic racism or a generalized suspicion, we reject in the strongest possible terms. We are happy to take up your remarks on the significance of integration and take the liberty of adding that knowledge and acceptance of the laws which apply in the Federal Republic of Germany, by which we are all bound, is a part of it. Equality under the law of men and women is an inviolable core of those laws.
On the basis of the public interest you have described in this affair, we are making our answer to your letter immediately available for publication.
Office of the President