Germany’s far-right AfD party stepped up criticism of Cologne’s mayor Henriette Reker for allowing mosques to broadcast call to prayer (Azan) on Fridays.
“This gives the impression that Germany is not a Christian country, but a Muslim one. This is not the case,” Matthias Buschges, the AfD’s deputy spokesman in Cologne, said in a statement.
Cologne is one of Germany’s biggest cities, and home to more than 120,000 Muslims, nearly 12% of the city’s entire population.
Its mayor Reker announced last week that nearly 30 mosques in the city will be allowed to broadcast muezzin’s call for Friday prayers over loudspeakers.
“Cologne is a city of religious diversity and freedoms. Allowing muezzin’s call to prayer is for me a sign of respect,” she stressed.
But Islamophobic movements and the far-right AfD party heavily criticized Reker for her decision, arguing that this was another sign of “Islamization of Germany”.
Beatrix von Storch, the deputy federal spokeswoman of the AfD, said her party strongly opposes this decision.
“The muezzin call is not an expression of religious freedom, and tolerance, and diversity. It is an expression of a political claim to rule, of submission and Islamization,” she said on Twitter.
According to an agreement between the city of Cologne and the local Muslim community, mosques now can broadcast call to prayer on Friday afternoons for up to five minutes.
Germany’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion, but broadcasting call to prayers from mosques have been controversial in some municipalities, due to different legislative frameworks.
A country of over 80 million people, Germany has the second-largest Muslim population in Western Europe after France. Among the country's nearly 4.7 million Muslims, 3 million are of Turkish origin.
The country has witnessed growing racism and Islamophobia in recent years, fueled by the propaganda of far-right groups and parties, which have attempted to stoke fear of Muslims and immigrants to win more votes./aa