From its height of 157 meters and having existed for just seven centuries, Cologne Cathedral cannot believe its ears: for the first time, the muezzin’s call to prayer resounded in the city which has one of the largest Muslim communities in Germany.
Flanked by two futuristic-style minarets – alluding to an alleged connection between Islam and modernity – the mosque in Germany's fourth-largest city sits on a busy road west of the city center.
Operated by the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs, or DITIB, the religious building was opened personally by the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in 2018. But the project dates back to the mid-1990s: at the time the conservative municipality (CDU) had already declared itself in favor of the construction of a mosque.
On October 14, 2022, at 1:24 p.m., a large crowd had gathered on the forecourt of the mosque in order to hear the voice of Imam Kader resound: for several minutes, the chahada – profession of Islamic faith – making his chant heard, but at limited volume, no more than 60 decibels, so as not to frighten non-Muslims living in the neighborhood too much.
But Islam – which claims between 4.5 and 6 million followers in Germany – can take advantage of a decision by the German constitutional court which now generally authorizes calls to prayer throughout the country.
In Cologne, Zekeriya Altug, one of the leaders of the Muslim community, makes reassurances: it is in no way a question of “being heard throughout the neighborhood or disrupting people's daily lives, but of simply allowing Muslims to live their religion,” he said.
An explanation that is not convincing on the ground: according to a poll by the newspaper Bonner General Anzeiger, two thirds of people reject the statement that “the call should be heard in the same way as the bells of Christian churches.”
For the mayor of Cologne, Henriette Reker, who defends the call to prayer, the objective is “to reflect the diversity of the city and to establish a dialogue”: an irenicism that makes the members Alternative Party for Germany cringe. They took up the subject on social networks in order to mobilize the 56% of Germans who are still opposed to the idea that “Islam is part of Germany.”
But the mobilization was practically non existent, as on October 14, there were only about 30 demonstrators expressing their disapproval with the cry “no call from the muezzin in Cologne,” who were soon joined by a group of women protesting against the current repressions in Iran.