Wednesday, February 13, 2013

German Church Becomes Mosque - "The New Normal"

(Gatestone Institute) Muslim plans to convert a former Lutheran church in the city of Hamburg into a mosque is generating controversy across Germany.

From Berlin to Dortmund to Mönchengladbach, the gradual proliferation of mosques housed in former churches reflects the rise of Islam as the fastest growing religion in post-Christian Germany. In the most recent case, the church would be the first converted into a mosque in the second-largest city in Germany.

The latest dust-up involves the former Kapernaumkirche (Capernaum Church), located in the Horn district in downtown Hamburg. The church, a cultural heritage site, was abandoned in 2002 for financial reasons due to declining membership.

The building and an adjacent 44 meter (144 foot) tower/steeple as well as the surrounding land was sold in December 2012 to the Al-Nour Islamic Center, which has approximately 600 members, mainly made up of Arab Muslim immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa.

The church is currently undergoing renovations at a cost of one million euros ($1.4 million) and is scheduled to be reopened as a mosque on October 3, the Day of German Unity [Tag der Deutschen Einheit], a public holiday commemorating the anniversary of German reunification in 1990. Muslims in Germany have also claimed October 3 as Open Mosque Day [Tag der offenen Moschee], a day when non-Muslims are allowed to visit mosques.

Major German newspapers have greeted the news with apparent resignation, and have published editorials with titles such as "When Mosques Replace Churches," "Tenant Allah," "Christian on the Outside, Muslim on the Inside," and "The New Normal."

But political and religious leaders have been more circumspect; many have responded to the situation with a sense of unease and foreboding.

Marcus Weinberg, the leader of the Christian Democratic Party (CDU) in Hamburg, said: "I am opposed to this. Even if the transaction is legally permissible, the conversion of a former church into a mosque will do little to improve cultural and religious coexistence in the area." He has appealed to city officials to meet with the Al-Nour Center to discuss "attractive building alternatives."

Helge Adolphsen, the former senior pastor of St. Michael's Church, the most iconic church in Hamburg, said: "This is the breaking of a dam."