Germany gradually reopens mosques as coronavirus restrictions ease
Germany’s federal and state governments agreed on April 30 to further lift COVID-19 restriction measures, allowing the re-opening of places of worship, playgrounds, parks, museums, galleries, zoos and monuments.
The Muslim Coordination Council (KRM), which represents the majority of mosque communities, welcomed the decision in a press release published on its website.
Following the government’s decision, KRM agreed to gradually open mosques, following clear guidelines and rules. The body counts Germany's four major Muslim religious communities as members: the Turkish-Islamic Union of Religious Institutions (DITIB), the Islam Council for the Federal Republic of Germany (IRD), the Central Council of Muslims (ZMD) and the Association of Islamic Cultural Centers (VIKZ).
Provided the communities can meet the requirements, KRM members and their mosque congregations can hold services starting May 9.
“We made this decision with our best knowledge and belief, and the religious and civil responsibility to protect health and human life. May Allah free our country, our society, and all humanity from the evil of this pandemic,” KRM spokesman Burhan Kesici said in the press release.
Initially, only three of the five daily prayers— fajr, dzuhr, and asr — can be carried out in strict compliance with the guidelines drawn up and examined by KRM and authorities, including Germany’s public health establishment, the Robert Koch Institute.
These requirements stipulate a maximum number of people inside the mosques, which will be size-dependent, and the ability to ensure the minimum 1.5 meters distance between worshippers.
Further, people must wear face masks and bring their own prayer rugs.
Mosque entries and exits must be regulated, visitor’s names have to be documented, and the rooms must be disinfected.
However, big congregational prayers such as Ramadan’s taraweeh, Friday and Eid al Fitr prayers still remain suspended.
"After the next federal-state conference on 6 May, we will review this decision and recommendations, and adjust if necessary," Kesici said.
Germany is home to around 5 million Muslims who make up around 6% of the population.
DÜSSELDORF ALLOWS PRAYER CALLS
As only a small group of worshippers will be able to visit the mosques once reopened, some German cities have allowed the adhan to be broadcasted publicly as a sign of unity and solidarity.
This includes Düsseldorf, the capital of North-Rhine-Westphalia that has a substantial Muslim population accounting for around seven to eight percent of the state’s nearly 18-million population, according to a state government publication.
As of Friday (May 1), four Düsseldorf mosques alternately broadcast the prayer calls.
“In these difficult times, people need encouragement, solidarity, and consolation. Jewish, Christian, and Muslim communities feel obliged to contribute,” said Redouan Aoulad-Ali, a board member of the Circle of Düsseldorf Muslims (KDDM), in a press statement.
However, the calls have been adjusted to encourage the communities to continue praying at home, and not in the mosque, to avoid crowds in front of the buildings.
The prayer calls must not exceed 70 decibels and usually last between two and three minutes.
In Germany, both the bell-ringing and the muezzin call are protected by Basic Law article 4, paragraph 2: "The undisturbed practice of religion is guaranteed."
However, the Federal Emissions Control Act, protecting against harmful environmental effects from air pollution, noise, shocks, and similar processes, can draw limits.
A mosque’s building permit will normally specify if and when the muezzin may broadcast the adhan. The adhan on smartphone apps replace the prayer call if public broadcasts cannot be made.
As of May 2, the Robert Koch Institute reported 161,703 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 6,575 deaths in Germany. 87% of deaths and 19% of all cases are people 70 years or older.
(Reporting by Petra Loho; Editing by Emmy Abdul Alim [email protected])
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