Day of the Open Mosques in Germany

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••• Erin Porter

An unusual addition to the Day of German Unity on October 3rd is the Deutsche Islam Konferenz (DIK) or Day of the Open Mosques. Since 1997, this effort to embrace the Muslim population of Germany is part of an ongoing process to broaden Germany's understanding of its ever-changing population which now encompasses over 4 million Muslims. Picking the date of Germany Unity symbolizes the togetherness within German society - regardless of religion, ideology or color.

While Ramadan in Germany is more a religious celebration solely for followers, the Day of the Open Mosques is open to anyone interested in learning more about the Moschee (mosques) and the Muslim community. Over a 1,000 mosques (more than a third of all mosques in Germany) open their doors to thousands of visitors across the country with the largest events held in Cologne, Rostock and Berlin. It is estimated that 80 percent of the visitors during the Day of the Open Mosques are non-Muslims. In addition to introducing non-Muslims to Islamic society, this event encourages Muslims to take a more active role in German public life and politics.

Since 2007, the Koordinierungsrat der Muslime in Deutschland (Coordination Council of Muslims or KRM) has organized the event. Besides simply introducing people to these magnificent Islamic structures within their midst, the celebration seeks to further understanding of the culture.

Along with prayers, most mosques feature activities for children and adults and food from the community. There are guided tours of the mosques with explanations of Islamic life and panel discussions on topics that concern German citizens at large.

It was during one such Tag der Deutschen Einheit that I happened to wander by the Sehitlik Camii mosque north of Tempelhof Park.

I saw a buzz of activity and realized that it was open to the public. Despite having lived in Berlin for several years at this point, I had never in my life entered a German mosque. Clearly, I am not alone as many Germans also explore a mosque for the first time on this day.

We wandered through the delicately decorated interior and watched a prayer session and children's crafts. A member of the mosque was writing visitors' names in winding script and the atmosphere was more animated than that of the typical European church visit. The mosque was alive with both visitors and members in an air of celebration and collaboration.

We left the bright ambiance inside for an equally vibrant exterior and the chance to sample some of the Turkish food on offer. As we stood in line, we were surprised to be interviewed by a German media station with questions about how we had found out about the event, if we had been to a German mosque before and what was our opinion of Day of the Open Mosques. They seemed surprised that we were not German, though I think we are just another example of Germany's evolving populace.

German Mosques

To find a mosque in your area, our guide to Mosques in Germany points out some of the most notable Moschee in the country.

The website, salatomatic.com, also has a comprehensive guide to mosques and Islamic schools.