ALLAH IN EHRENFELD – THE BUILDING OF THE MOSQUE OF COLOGNE

In a neighbourhood near the centre of Cologne, Germany's biggest mosque is about to be built. Construction has started in autumn 2008. Client and financier is the DITIB, the biggest Islamic organization in Germany, representing, according to its own sources, one million of the 2.5 million Muslims living in Germany. The contract for the building, which is expected to seat 3000, was awarded to the famous church architect Gottfried Böhm and his son Paul: a rectangular building will be crowned by an imposing semi-transparent, 27m high dome, whose glass elements will evoke the image of folded, protecting hands. The dome will be flanked by two 55m high minarets.

However, resistance to the project is rising in Ehrenfeld, a densely populated up-and-coming neighbourhood of Cologne. The citizens' movement ProKöln wants to collect 20,000 signatures to prevent the building going ahead. In the eyes of ProKöln the mosque will be the visual sign of an Islamic oriented parallel society that might harbour Islamic extremists. Also of concern is how to solve the certain traffic chaos around the time of the Friday prayers, when the Venloer Straße, a main traffic artery, is already at capacity.

The supporters of the project warn about evoking such panic scenarios. At the beginning of 2006, all parties represented in the city's senate agreed to the building of the mosque. Everyone was of one mind that this was a "chance for integration" of the Turkish Muslims into German society. The DITIB centre, already in place at the future building site, currently houses various organizations. Over the past 20 years, 17,000 people from 32 countries have been instructed here in the language of their host country, Germany. More than 40,000 people have come here for the many advisory services the centre offers. The new building will see an improvement and expansion of these services.

However, the thought of having a great mosque in Ehrenfeld is worrying even some of the liberal minded and those from the established left. They think that it could upset the precarious balance between the cultures in this multi-cultural neighbourhood.

The film observes this diverse and complex subject and is planned as a long-term study, to accompany the building process over the next 2 to 3 years.

Director: Birgit Schulz, Gerhard Schick
Photographer: Steffen Bohn
Production Manager: Monika Mack
Producer: Birgit Schulz
Commissioning Editor: Sabine Rollberg (WDR/ARTE), Jutta Krug (WDR)


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