Row over German mosque plan

Saturday, September 20, 2008
Row over German mosque plan

 Leftist protesters outnumbered nationalists on Cologne’s streets on Saturday [AFP]


German police have clashed with counter-demonstrato rs in Cologne while authorities have banned a nationalist group from staging a rally against plans to build a big mosque in the city.

At least one officer was injured in Saturday’s incident.

The rally’s organisers, Pro-Koeln (For Cologne), a nationalist group, had hoped to criticise plans to build a domed mosque – complete with two 177ft tall minarets – in Cologne’s Ehrenfeld district.

Some of the counter-demonstrato rs tried to grab officers’ pistols while others threw stones and firecrackers.

The injured officer was hit by a firecracker. Police said they detained about five people.

Police forced Pro-Koeln to call off the rally because there were fears that more serious violence would take place, Burkhard Rick, a police spokesman, said.

Two-day congress

Up to 3,000 policemen had been drafted in and part of the old city sealed off as authorities appealed for peaceful protests against a  two-day congress called by the Pro-Koeln (For Cologne) group.

Pro-Koeln activists oppose what they call ‘Islamification’ [AFP]

Pro-Koeln had hoped 1,500 people would attend Saturday’s rally in the city centre to oppose the mosque and an “immigrant invasion” of Europe.

Those attending the congress, including like-minded leaders from Belgium, Austria and Italy, were protesting against “Islamification, ” and voicing support for Europe’s “shared, thousand-year history” and “Western values and Christian traditions”.

Fritz Schramma, Cologne’s mayor whose city council gave the green light  for the construction of the mosques, criticised Pro-Koeln as “arsonists and racists” hiding under the cloak of a “citizens’ movement” in a speech earlier on Saturday.

An estimated 120,000 Muslims live in Cologne, widely viewed as one of Germany’s most tolerant and well-integrated major cities.

By midday just 30 Pro-Koeln supporters had managed to reach the rally site, a marketplace near the city centre, as thousands of counter-demonstrato rs blocked streets leading to the square.

Some 5,000 more counter-demonstrato rs attended a peaceful rally nearby.

Saturday was the second day of the Pro-Koeln conference.

Opening events on Friday were severely hampered when hundreds of largely peaceful protesters managed to prevent the group’s leaders from holding a news conference in a municipal building, forcing supporters of the groups to seek refuge on a rental boat cruising the Rhine River.

Eight people were arrested for throwing stones and paint balls at the boat.


Source: AFP

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