Konrad Werner: Banning Muslims

Local politicians want to ban the organization that runs the Al-Nur mosque in Neukölln. It's a futile and helpless gesture that will only divide the district even more.

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Photo by Anna Agliardi

The Al-Nur mosque in Neukölln is definitely skating on thin ice when it comes to dodgy guest Islamists. Having already hosted anti-Semitic guest preachers, last month it made the front page again when another guest said women should never refuse their husbands sex. The mosque itself distanced themselves from the offensive preacher, while the Turkish association filed criminal charges against him. But that wasn’t enough for Neukölln’s local councillors, who have voted to try and get the society that operates the mosque banned, effectively shutting down the whole mosque.

Constitutional lawyers have already pointed out that this is a long shot, since religious freedom is protected in the German constitution – “Religious freedom is one of the most important rights of all,” one expert told the Berliner Zeitung. In other words, Nazis and biker gangs are easy to ban, but if you’re religious you’re free to spread all kinds of hateful shit. That’s the privilege of the pious.

But the reaction of the politicians and media is just as shortsighted. A lot of the German newspapers don’t seem to have noticed that saying ridiculous things like a woman should “turn the home into a flourishing garden for her husband, so that he does not flee from her like one flees a leper or a lion” is not the same as calling on someone to carry out terrorist attacks. The law makes a clear distinction here. One is illegal, the other isn’t. But on its title page yesterday, the Berliner Zeitung ran the Al-Nur mosque story under the headline “Terror danger grows in Germany,” segueing straight from intelligence agency’s terrifying warnings of imminent terrorist attacks in Germany to the views of these Saudi-funded bigots.

In the same article, Hans-Georg Maaßen, the head of the Verfassungsschutz, was quoted as saying, “We need to stop the drifting away of young Muslims.” The councillors’ idea of criminalizing one of Neukölln’s biggest mosques, that serves as a social club and a Saturday school for hundreds of people, is probably the best way of alienating even more young Muslims.

There is only one useful way of stopping young Muslims wanting to join the Islamic State, and that is supporting the handful of chronically underfunded and ignored organizations that try to prevent radicalization. Something else that could be done is to lobby the Merkel government to put more pressure on countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, who provide all the funding for the conservative groups like the organization that runs Al-Nur. But banning a whole mosque and treating anyone who goes there as a criminal is exactly the kind of thing that makes terrorist attacks more likely.